Top dog in Greece but the bridge is still being built
As the European football schedule leans into an international break, I find this moment of domestic football silence rather refreshing and provides a quality chance to sit back and reflect on how things have transpired thus far for the team.
On the domestic front, the club are exactly where we as fans expect them to be. Leading the way in the league table on six victories, one draw, and zero losses. The plus twenty goal-differential is the prettiest and shiniest in the league. We have set the pace early. The rest of the Super League will have to be sharper should they have plans to catch up.
Ayoub El Kaabi is currently tied for the league lead in goals (5) alongside Loren Moron of Aris. Kostas Fortounis and Pep Biel are tied for the league lead in assists (3). The Stoiximan Player of the Month has been awarded to Giorgos Masouras and Ayoub El Kaabi for the months of August and September respectively. El Kaabi has a Stoiximan Best Goal of the Round under his belt (4th Round). Alexandros Paschalakis has earned five clean sheets. Not too shabby.
All seems fine at the top of the mountain, but this is no time for complacency. Much of the same is required when the league gets underway again on October 22 against our eternal rivals in Panathinaikos. What a great match to come back to.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the European journey has been rather uneasy.
Presently, the club find themselves in third position in Group A. The 3:2 loss to Freiburg on Matchday 1 was better than last season’s proceedings against the German side, but I found myself expecting more in front of a home crowd in Greece. Matchday 2 looked to be more fruitful until an Andreas Ntoi red card complicated matters down the stretch. After two matches in the Europa League group stage, I can say that I am thoroughly frustrated with our continuous shortcomings in Europe as of late. Not that I’m yelling at my television or anything, but I feel that I am getting close.
Four days after the derby match against Panathinaikos (October 26), the club will welcome group leaders West Ham to the Karaiskakis. My hope is that the adrenaline rush of the derby will spill over into this match, and we come out fighting against the Premier League side.
To say that Andreas Ntoi was the sole reason for the obscure result in northern Serbia would not entirely be true (in my opinion). I was a touch out of sorts by some of the substitution decisions made by Diego Martinez. My leash isn’t too short with Martinez, but there is a leash. As for Ntoi, let me remind readers that the young prospect is just 20 years of age. In addition to his age and lack of experience, Ntoi is more of a defensive midfielder rather than a true center-back. Ntoi is not a player who needs tons of action as this time in Europe. I would rather see Martinez use Andreas in Greece. I don’t feel he is ready for the European stage. The likes of TSC Backa Topola are a small stage and he fell off it.
Where there is a negative, there is sometimes a positive. I found the Sotiris Alexandropoulos injection into the match against TSC to be a fruitful move. Alexandropoulos provided quality bursts of energy going forward and was relentless on the defensive side of the ball when required.
If Ntoi needs monitored playing time, Alexandropoulos needs more time with little monitoring.
To compare the two players is not correct. It is apples and oranges. I feel as though Alexandropoulos consistently adds value to Olympiacos on the pitch. It also helps that he is a quality Greek prospect. At age 21, there is much more for him to give and if Martinez can work with Alexandropoulos to unlock more of his influential potential on the pitch, the investment in the Greek will pay dividends as time passes. Quality looks in both Greece and Europe are my prescription.
Enjoy the international break.