VICTORY OVER ANTWERP IS NOTHING BUT A QUICK FIX
OLYMPIACOS picked up an extremely crucial win over Royal Antwerp on Thursday at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in their first Europa League match of the season. The Greek champions succeeded in perhaps the one game they desperately needed to win, and those three points could indeed be the crucial factor that guarantees them a place in Europe at the turn of the year. That is about as far one can truthfully go in the endearment part as when it’s all said and done, this was merely a quick fix for the pride of Piraeus.
I regret not sharing my prediction publicly before the Europa League premiere with Antwerp, so here’s what it was: Either Olympiacos capture a very stressful win or the Belgians get a result, most probably a draw, and unfortunately I was right…
After the Greek Cup Final there was one glaring issue that needed to be addressed immediately during the summer transfer window. That was the lack of full-backs as no one was able to fill in for either Omar Elabdellaoui or Kostas Tsimikas at right-back and left-back respectively last term.
Seven, SEVEN, players tried – Rafinha, Ruben Vinagre, Mohamed Drager, Jose Holebas, Thanasis Androutsos, Oleg Reabciuk and Kenny Lala - and all of them came up short. Olympiacos’ hierarchy had three whole months to fix this problem that should have been a priority but wasn’t addressed until the last few days of the transfer market. A new centre-forward, goalkeeper, midfielder, winger(s) and centre-back all took precedent while the gap at full-back was so glaring it may have been the sole reason that cost Pedro Martins’ men a spot in the Champions League.
Speaking of quick fixes, Michal Karbownik – an admittedly bright prospect – arrived on loan from Brighton with an €8million release clause, which carried some ‘desperation move’ vibes. Karbownik looks like a very promising addition to the roster but even if he fires on all cylinders then Olympiacos are going to need all the luck in the world signing him on a permanent deal from the Seagulls, who aren’t known for selling exciting young talents under popular manager Graham Potter. And the 20-year-old Poland international can only cover one flank, so unless either Reabciuk, Androutsos or Lala don’t snap out of whatever slumber they have fallen into then Martins is in trouble. There simply are no runs down the flank, not enough quality crosses to Youssef El Arabi (who thrives on that) and there is a problem in the defensive part.
Based on what we’ve seen, Olympiacos are inevitably set to try out for at least one full-back in the January transfer window, a market notoriously difficult as no one sells their best players for a bargain price mid-season.
If/when the Piraeus giants fail to finally get their man then Groundhog Day will kick in next June when they almost definitely will be looking not for just one but two full-backs!
Some believe the victory over Antwerp will be the spark that lights a wildfire of momentum for Martins’ squad.
But unless Reabciuk, Lala, Androutsos and Karbownik, for that matter, don’t start showing Tsimikas/Elabdellaoui vibes (I don’t dare to compare them to the great Vasilis Torosidis and Grigoris Georgatos) then some serious trouble awaits both in Europe and Greece.
Based on what we saw, Antwerp are the kind of team that should be disposed easily, but Eintracht Frankfurt and Fenerbahce, especially away, are polar opposites. And I dare say the Belgians will like their chances in the return fixture at the Bosuilstadion. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe a serious Olympiacos can make it to the Europa League’s Last 16, but it really looks like the best case scenario is another dramatic qualification.
P.S: If Olympiacos know what’s good for them, they will terminate Ruben Semedo’s contract and sign Dimitris Siovas
(Note from Editor: The article was written on the transfer deadline day for free agents).