Who Should Depart from the Port?
At the end of every season and with the transfer window weeks away, news starts to trickle in of players who are linked to join the club and current members of the squad to get that move away from Olympiakos to bigger and better things. The likes of Jose Sa, Mady Camara, Ruben Semedo, and Ousseynou Ba are names possibly set to depart from the Greek champions this summer, but they are not who I am going to be talking about today because let’s be honest: very few supporters, if any, want to see such talents leave our beloved team. No, I am going to talk this week about the players that 'should' leave this at the end of the campaign on loan or sold.
Whether it be players who have just not worked out, fit the system, or are not quite good enough in my opinion to wear the red and white of Thrylos, I am going to be counting down my top five players whose days at the port are numbered, and for the betterment of their careers, should maybe seek pastures new. These players range from current members of the squad and a couple of players returning from loan. I will try my best not to make this a hugely negative blog, I promise.
The Tunisian international joined Olympiakos last summer for a fee of 900,000 Euros from Bundesliga side Freiburg as a backup to the first team right back Rafinha. He was seen as the long-term successor to the recently departed Omar Ellabdelaoui with the similarities of the Norwegian fullback, also arriving in Piraeus from the German top flight. After making his debut against Apollon Smyrni, Drager played every other game from then on before sustaining an adductor injury that ruled him out until the new year.
By the time he returned to the squad, the right back situation had changed drastically and Drager found himself third choice behind January signing Kenny Lala, who had been brought in to replace the outgoing Rafinha, and Thanasis Androutsos, with the versatile Greek making the right side of defence more or less his own. This meant that Drager suffered from coming back to full match fitness and struggled for consistent game time during the second half of the season, only being in the squad once between the end of January and the beginning of the playoffs.
Drager's case is more of an unlucky one than others on this list. He has not been given a long enough stretch of game time to truly show what he is capable of, having played just over 600 minutes in all competitions at the time of writing. With the Tunisian turning 25 in a matter of weeks, it’s hard to tell what his next step is; whether he stays another season and tries to fight for his place against two very capable players ahead of him, goes out on loan, or is seen as a complete failure by the club and is released at the end of the season. I would like to see him go out on loan if he does not stay as there is always the chance Androutsos plays more in midfield next season and he gets more of an opportunity, but it is whether Drager wants to take that risk and spend another campaign on the fringes.
As is the case every season recently and certainly since the acquisition of the Championship club by Evangelos Marinakis, a Nottingham Forest player joins Thrylos or vice versa, and this season it was Portuguese playmaker Tiago Silva. The 27 year old arrived without high expectations and was seen as more of a squad player to fill in for rested players before a European fixture. From what I gathered from Forest fans after he departed from the midlands, he was talented and showed flashes of brilliance in the Championship, but would also go missing in other games for them. This has more or less been the case, if not less so for his time with us.
Silva spent the first couple of months of his time at Olympiakos recovering from a muscular injury and did not make his debut until the 5th of December where he was brought on as a late substitute. During that short nine-minute cameo, we saw the diminutive midfielder set up the fourth and final goal of a game with an assist for El Arabi to make it 4-1 against Volos, a decent way to introduce yourself to the Thrylos faithful. After that Silva would see his game time increase throughout the season, getting four or five games at a time as a starter or as a substitute before not playing for a few games and staying on the bench. It would not be until the three most recent games in the playoffs against Asteras, AEK and Aris that Tiago Silva played three consecutive 90 minute league games in a row.
Overall Silva has amassed just over a thousand minutes of playing time in all competitions this campaign, with the vast majority of them playing more as a number eight instead of his more comfortable attacking midfield position. The biggest problem supporters have with the Portuguese playmaker is more or less what I have highlighted at the beginning of this segment. He has been more or less anonymous in matches and has failed to creatively impact games regularly. Some also feel that playing Tiago Silva has been to the detriment of youth players such as Vasilis Sourlis, who have barely featured this season, especially in games after the title was wrapped up mathematically. These opportunities were instead given to a player who is turning 28 in the summer and is yet to impress.
The biggest issue for me with Tiago Silva is he lacks the consistency to justify contending for a first team place over players such as Mady Camara or Bouchalakis. He also takes a spot that should either be filled by someone like Pepe out on loan, who has time on his side to become a decent player for the squad, or a youth prospect that needs that precious game time to develop. All in all, Silva has been a disappointment this season and a move away would probably be the best if he was to depart the club at the end of the season.
Now for a player who has done a great service to our club in the past but is now in the twilight of his career, Avraam Papadopoulos. The veteran defender has not featured for much of the season, mostly starting in the cup with his role being more of a leader in the squad who understands the values of the club and is an example to the younger players.
Avraam has only played a total of three hundred minutes this campaign and has constantly suffered from abductor injuries that have kept him on the sidelines on numerous occasions including most recently. While his determination during his rare starts on the pitch has been admirable, his age has shown on a couple of occasions. With the combination of his age and injuries, it is hard to justify his place in the squad when fully fit and healthy players are required to come in to possibly replace members of the starting XI throughout a long season. While his leadership skills are so valuable to keep the heads of Olympiakos focused, it may be fair to say that we do have players in the team that have those same leadership skills in the squad now who can also play the minutes that Avraam can't, namely Sokratis and Holebas.
This is rather harsh on my part I know, but I do believe that the former Greek international’s playing days probably come to an end sooner rather than later. He deserves to go out on a high by helping the team secure another domestic double, and then he could join Torosidis as part of the backroom staff. Bringing back Cisse and or Markovic would fill the hole left by Avraam if he was to retire at the end of the season, with his contract up this summer. As said before, Sokratis, Holebas, and any other former player that has been linked with a return, would more than fill the leadership role in training and on the pitch that Papadopoulos will inevitably leave.
Now for the big one that is currently competing in the Olympiakos squad and a player that everyone seems to have a unanimous opinion of: Lazar Randjelovic. The Serbian winger has had a torrid time of it this season concerning his performances. After scoring the winning goal against AEK in last season's Greek Cup final to secure his side the domestic double, Lazar has been played more or less as an 'impact substitute' for the vast majority of the 2020/21 campaign.
He even started on occasion to give players ahead of him a rest ahead of a big game in Europe. The 23 year old’s season was halted towards the end of November after testing positive for Covid-19, but this was most likely due to his off-field antics where he and a couple of other players took it upon themselves to break lockdown rules in Greece and attend a party of over thirty people.
After recovering from his illness, Lazar's minutes going into the winter break remained inconsistent and regardless of where he began the match, he seemed to struggle a lot to make his mark on a game for the most part. The biggest problem supporters have with the Serbian international is the amount of support Pedro Martins gives the wide man with regards to his minutes played compared to his output. While it is evident that Lazar has a burst of acceleration and some technical ability, it seems unrefined and he is subject to poor decision making when it comes to the final pass, whether to take a shot or cross, or team build up play.
In just over 1,500 minutes at the time of writing Lazar has only assisted twice in all competition. That is the thirty-five matches he has played. Granted, his appearances have been inconsistent but when you compare him to other players in similar positions it is hard to justify why he is being played as much as he is. Examples range from Bruma, who only has 200 minutes more than Lazar but has so far scored nine and assisted three in all comps, and Marios Vrousai, who has played just over a thousand minutes and is more productive than the Serbian with three goals two assists.
While Lazar is still only 23 and still has time to iron out some of the habits in his game, I do believe a change of scene is necessary for him. The number of chances he has been given over this season, while not consistent, has been a lot more than others with better output. Perhaps a loan move would get him some more experience and we can see where we go from there, or perhaps he will leave the club permanently and start afresh in a different team where he can fit better and properly develop.
Technically this player is out on loan but I feel like he is still worth talking about: everybody's favourite Yassine Meriah. The Tunisian defender has spent the last 18 months in Turkey playing for Kasimpasa and Rizespor. From the beginning of the season all the way up until early March, the centre back played almost every game throughout the domestic season but has since been dropped and is no longer in the squad towards the latter stages for the mid-table side. Despite playing over two thousand minutes for his side this campaign, I for one would not like to see Meriah return to Olympiakos.
Playing domestically for a whole season is one thing, but we need players to step up on the European stage and stand toe-to-toe with better quality opposition, and the Tunisian International has failed to do so in the past and I do not believe he should be trusted with that responsibility again. He had a knack for making huge mistakes at crucial times and that is not something you can have in your teams especially for a defender. Shades of the 4-2 loss to Spurs still plagues his reputation at the club and I think it would be best for all parties involved if he was sold permanently and the end of the season.