Olympiacos Repeating Mistakes Of The Past
by George Tsitsonis
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis discusses Olympiacos’ inability to be fully prepared heading into preseason. A situation that could have a negative impact on the club for a second season in a row.
Olympiacos begin their preseason training today unable to shake off some of the same issues that plagued the team a year ago. Then, the club had to respond swiftly to the surprise departure of coach Marco Silva. His replacement, Victor Sanchez, lasted only two matches in charge however and was blamed by some for the team’s Champions’ League exit at the hands of Hapoel Beer Sheva.
Silva’s resignation has always been something of a gray zone. There are to this day, no clear reasons given for his departure. One major problem last summer however was the lack of signings heading into preseason. Whether this precipitated the Portuguese manager’s exit we simply don’t know. What we do know is that the inability of the club to bring in quality players at an early stage had an adverse effect on Olympiacos trying to qualify for the Champions’ League Group Stage.
The loss to Hapoel Beer Sheva was just the beginning last season. The club’s entire campaign was a roller-coaster ride that began from the bottom with the defeat to the Israelis, hit the heights with some good league form in the first half of the Super League season and then came crashing down in mid-winter and spring where the title was eventually secured, but in the most unconvincing fashion possible.
Steadiness. Organization. Solid planning. Quick, effective decision-making. Those were the noises the club was putting out to supporters ahead of the 2017/18 season with respect to selection of a new manager and new personnel being brought in.
And as Olympiacos begin training for the new campaign it’s safe to say the hierarchy have not followed through on their promises. The selection of Besnik Hasi as manager was a long-drawn out process. The 45-year-old Albanian was certainly not first-choice or second or third for that matter. In fact, his appointment smacked of panic as the days passed and supporters began to wonder when someone would finally be appointed as the new season was dangerously close. And his is not a name or a coaching career that will placate supporters or allow him time to grow into the gig.
As far as new signings go, the situation is worse. There are several question marks with regard to who is coming to the club and who is staying and going. Transfers can become complex and the rumors are so constant this time of year that a deal doesn’t seem to be done until the player is holding up the scarf or jersey. The window also goes to the end of August. So, perhaps judging Olympiacos at this early stage is too harsh?
Except that it’s not. If the main goal of the club to begin the season is to qualify for the Champions’ League and that first playoff leg of the 3rd qualifying round is at the end of July then Olympiacos are once again losing the race against time. While the national team players and a few select others on loan are being given some extra time to rest before joining the team’s preseason, there is real reason for worry when looking at the squad going to the first stage of preseason in Seefeld, Austria this weekend.
Simply put, there are real questions of whether that squad is strong enough to get through two sets of qualifiers. As the highest seeded team in the mix, Olympiacos will be favorites, but there is too much uncertainty about this roster, too many unknowns as to which players will be kept on and which will be offloaded.
Clearly, a club is not always able to go into preseason with the roster 100% set. Olympiacos though are nowhere close to that. And the worry is that panic buys will result in the coming weeks. Purchasing lower quality players for the whole sake of ‘getting guys in.’ The economic realities of Greek football, even for Olympiacos, mean that the ‘aerodromio’ signings of the past are probably not feasible this day and age. But, one would expect that a team like Olympiacos would have a better strategy in place, a stronger plan of who they are after. They may, though it’s not coming across to football observers and fans alike. From the outside looking in, it appears that the club are once again going about roster decisions in a haphazard manner.
Needless to say, fans are none too happy with the club’s work in the lead-up to this preseason. The mistakes of last season are being repeated. And there is a fear that a season similar to last year could develop. It would be a disaster if the club do not qualify for the Champions’ League for a second season in a row. The blow to pride, prestige, and to the financial situation of the team would be massive.
The new manager and the players, both existing and new to come, all deserve support and the opportunity to be judged on the results of their work. However, the club’s ownership is creating another summer where the dark clouds are beginning to gather. Another summer of uncertainty beckons and that could have a wide-ranging effect on the club’s European ambitions as well as their domestic dominance.