Losing Sight of the Forest for the Trees
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, discusses the cause of Olympiacos’ downfall this season beginning with the administration’s decisions over the last year.
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So what if Oscar García has 3 wins in 9 Superleague matches? So what if Olympiacos has won only 1 derby out of 5 contested this season (2 out of 6 if you take into account the 0-3 decision awarded to the Reds in Toumba)? So what if the team has constantly appeared to play “flavorless” football with no creativity, no results and worse of all, no passion? The Olympiacos board has made it crystal-clear this year; they are pinpointing all their failures on the current system and the apparent “shaft” they have received at the hands of the officials.
Last Sunday’s game-tying derby goal should not have been a penalty. The foul was clearly committed outside the box by Björn Engels on Emanuel Insúa. Does any of that really change the fact that the Erythrolefki were ahead 1-0 for over 30 minutes with a man-advantage but were getting outplayed by the Greens?
The 2017-18 edition of Olympiacos will probably go down as the most disappointing in recent memory. The odds were stacked against them in an excessively difficult Champions League group, therefore no one really had any hopes going into this European campaign. What fans did have hope for, was another championship, the 8th consecutive one that would be a Greek League record.
Evangelos Marinakis and the entire administration’s concerns and criticism of refereeing this season might have some merit. Olympiacos has been on the wrong side of some questionable calls but the onus of this disastrous season needs to fall on the team’s board. If you really want to take a look back at how Olympiacos has been trending downwards, you need to go back to the summer of 2016. Marco Silva had guided the team to a dominating Superleague campaign, but he curiously left the team in early July when he was told that the roster would not be upgraded before the team’s Champions League qualifiers. The board replaced Silva with Víctor Sánchez, a coach who worried more about being a friend, rather than a coach to the players. Sánchez was let go after the embarrassing Champions League elimination at the hands of Hapoel Be'er Sheva. In early August, the board hired Paulo Bento who lasted until mid-March 2017. After voicing his displeasure at the club’s decisions to sell Brown Ideye and Luka Milivojević, Bento was on borrowed time at Piraeus. Vasilis Vouzas, who was a central-defender for the club between 1987 and 1992, was appointed as a temporary solution. In late March, fan-favorite, Takis Lemonis took charge and finished off the season.
In the off-season last summer, many rumors swirled around Rémi Garde, who was said to be a Christian Karembeu favorite. There was also a chance for Lemonis to become the permanent manager. Instead, the board settled on Besnik Hasi due to his successful Champions League qualifier track record. Hasi was let go after a poor start to the League and an awful home performance against Sporting Lisbon. The club announced that Lemonis would be back permanently. Upon arrival, Lemonis cited “We are 5 points behind AEK, but by January 1st, we will be in first place, where we belong”. Lemonis lost his first game back to Atromitos, but would win 8 of his next 9 contests. Despite making good on his first-place promise, Lemonis was released on January 6th of this year, and Oscar García was hired. The result, 8 managers in less than 18 months; possibly a world record.
Changing of the Guard
We, Olympiacos fans, have been very spoiled. We have been winning for over two decades and we don’t accept to lose. We also understand that we are blessed to have an owner like Marinakis and we don’t want to seem ungrateful. The ship-tycoon genuinely cares for the club and for its success. Marinakis’s biggest flaw is his surrounding. He has let the team become a feeder club for agents who have players to showcase and often love to do so on the biggest stage, the Champions League. Olympiacos is currently running a fiscally responsible operation. Unlike the days of Socrates Kokkalis, the current administration has made it a point of selling talented youngsters for large sums. The downside, of course, is that you are unable to maintain a core that is able to build together. It’s hard to imagine even the legendary captain, Predrag Djordjevic, having a long career here in Piraeus in today’s day and change. Different economic times, different setting, and definitely a different mentality from the current administration.
The last thing we want to hear is excuses about officiating. We have accused other clubs of complaining about officiating as a means to justify their inefficiencies. Olympiacos has consistently put together a better roster on the field and this is the reason why they have been crowned champions 19 of the past 21 seasons. This year, we can admit that the team simply is not good enough. The individuals are talented, but this team never meshed. Blame the poor pre-season training of Hasi, blame the lack of consistency with the coaches, or simply admit that PAOK and AEK have been much more consistent.
The Summer of the Rebuild
After this past Sunday’s tie, the administration is already in transfer season mode. Players, scouts, and members of the administration will be re-evaluated in what will probably be the biggest summer overhaul this club has seen in two decades. Oscar García, whose future in the club seemed secure, is also said to be under some heavy pressure. García is still the favorite to be the bench boss at the start of the 2018-19 season, nevertheless, Marinakis and company will need to see some improvements on the pitch in the next weeks to come in order to cement the Spaniard’s future. Many loanees will also be reassessed as this coming summer will certainly be on fire!
It’s not a shame to lose a championship once in a while. Many will argue that it’s good for the league, even good for the sport in Greece. What would be a shame is if Marinakis truly believes that this season went down the tubes because of officiating and not due to his poor structuring. He needs to stop letting all these player agents dictate the way his club is being built. Olympiacos got away with poor pre-season planning last season; they still went on to win the Superleague, but the cracks began to show. Marinakis needs to realize that the only person to blame is, ultimately, himself. If he makes the same mistakes he did in the summer of 2016 and 2017, the Reds will once again be in the same predicament, because as the old saying goes “those who forget the past, are destined to repeat it”.