Rating the 2018-19 Panathinaikos squad
Giorgos Donis used a whopping 29 players in his first season at the helm of Panathinaikos. Clearly, this figure is way too high should a team have ambitions of winning silverware, however, given the circumstances at the club, his hands were tied.
Several young guns were given their first shot at men’s football and acquitted themselves nicely. An array of new signings were recruited to add depth and bolster the stocks, although some fared better than others. A bad run with injuries, coupled with inexperience and poor depth derailed the Greens’ great start, but overall it was acceptable as it could have been much worse since the club could only sign one foreigner over 23 and started the season on -6. If not for the total of 11 points deducted, the young team would have finished sixth.
Here is how the squad fared in season 2018-19.
With the departure of Odisseas Vlachodimos to Benfica, there was a reason to be worried. However, Dioudis regained the form that made him a Greek youth international and a highly sought after prospect, in fact it was career-best form. He single-handedly earnt points for the Trifylli at times with notable big saves and commanded his box very well. He was almost an ever-present featuring in 26 games (he received a nasty injury in the away derby against Olympiacos and was not used in the final game of the season).
The Swedish right back may not have started the season as first choice, but he ended up with a total of 19 appearances. Johansson was one of the most improved players at the club, especially his great form earlier in the season. He showcased his attacking skills too, by scoring four goals by November, despite operating as a fullback. At one point, he was the team’s highest scorer. Moving forward, he has a genuine chance to make the right back spot his own.
The Mali international right back was hit by injuries this season and only featured 17 times. He went in and out of the first team at times, mostly due to injury but form was also an issue. He registered assists with his crosses earlier in the season but faded away as time passed. Coulibaly has not signed a new deal and looks set to depart in the summer after a three year stay in Athens.
The centre back came of age this season at Panathinaikos. Similar to others, he drastically improved his game compared to last season and was dominant in the heart of defence. He featured in 28 out of the 30 matches - this is a testament to his consistency and solid performances. He lacked stability around him as the formation often changed and there was no clear-cut second centre back. Kolovetsios scored his first goal for Panathinaikos in January. This improvement saw him earn a call up into the Ethniki squad and sign a new contract with the Greens.
The 22 year old centre half was one of many players given his first opportunity to play at a senior level. He played in 20 out of the 30 games, despite it being his first shot at this level. There were several good moments, however, there were also many errors that cost the team. Overall, he held himself well and the only way is up after this learning curve of a season.
Poungouras moved south to Athens from PAOK, with his former club keeping a 40% resale fee. He found himself in and out of the first team, and the fact that he featured in 15 matches highlights this. There were some promising signs (towards the end of 2018) but overall, he has to show more next season. Donis turned to the 23 year old when he played with a back three. Despite being only 23, his experience compared to some teammates roughly the same age showed.
The veteran centre back was meant to offer a wealth of experience and lead the way in a young back line, but it did not pan out like that. He only made 9 appearances and will leave the club in the summer as Donis looks to entrench his influence in the squad (he was signed by former coach Marinos Ouzounidis).
Arguably one of the players of the season. The Argentine left back was the subject of intense transfer speculation last summer from Spain but Donis held firm, knowing he had a quality player at his disposal. He was ultra-reliable and got better in his 25 appearances. Insua can cover so much ground and this enabled him to showcase his attacking skills as he scored a world-class goal against Aris by looping the ball over the goalkeeper’s head. Earlier in the season, he scored after a delightful one-two. He is entering the prime of his career and can emerge as a real leader from his actions should he stay in Athens long-term.
Unknown to most Greek football fans, the tricky left back made a name for himself at Panathinaikos as he featured in 20 games. This was also his first taste of men’s football, however, it would be hard to tell, given his time at Brentford (a club that fosters attacking football) and the Arsenal Academy. Very much a modern day fullback, he can enjoys the attacking side of the game as much as the defensive side, and chipped in with 3 goals. His versatility is also something that stands out for Donis, since he can play higher up the pitch.
Where do you start? Kourbelis has been the teams’ best player, rock and talisman for the last couple of seasons. Now with the captain’s armband, he has taken his game to a new level. He excels in a deeper-lying role in midfield, either breaking up opposition attacks and expertly shielding the back line, or picking a pass for an attacker. He made 25 appearances this season and has now become a starter for the Ethniki. He also scored his first goals for the club this season in matches against Lamia and Apollon Smyrnis respectively. At 25, he is entering the prime of his career and should he stay, he can become a club legend.
It was always going to be a testing season for the coach’s son. There were highs and lows, the central midfielder lacks the talent and quality but he makes up for it with a strong mentality and determination. He featured in 25 matches and scored his one and only goal for the season against Aris at OAKA. A valuable squad member (he is the vice captain), but his skillset is limited.
The Albanian international midfielder returned to Athens for another loan spell from PAOK and made a decent contribution in his 19 appearances. There were many times where he stepped up to the plate to take set pieces and acted as a leader, but he is too inconsistent for Donis’ liking to become a mainstay. The main issue is his large contract - he is currently earning 400,000 Euro. As a result, he is expected to leave for good in the summer. His breathtaking goal (a stunning volley) against Olympiacos in the away derby was one of the highlights of the season and it sparked wild celebrations.
A very interesting season for the 22 year old. After being elevated into the leadership group at the start of the season, big things were expected of the midfielder who made his debut way back in 2015. However, it did not happen. He only made 11 appearances and failed to break into the first team. Time is on his side and he needs to have a big summer in order to impress Donis.
He completed his second season at Panathinaikos but only featured 7 times. The quality is there, but he failed to earn the trust of Donis to become a regular. He is a good passer and can play box-to-box, but a move away is rumoured in the summer as he searches for more playing time.
Easily the pick of the young guns, the sky is the limit for Bouzoukis. Handed his debut in the opening game of the season at Xanthi, he never looked back. He scored the winning goal in that match (a thumping strike from distance). He then backed it up by scoring against Lamia a week later. Despite being his first season at the top, he made a total of 24 appearances in the League and chipped in with an array of goals and assists. There has been interest from PAOK and Benfica, but the Greek youth international has been valued at 5 million Euro.
The Israeli returned to action after the halfway point of the season, as he recovered from a horrible injury from last season. Upon his return, he offered fresh legs as the team began fading and featured 11 times. He scored his one and only goal of the season in a home win over Asteras Tripolis, which proved to be a match winner. It remains to be seen whether or not he is in Donis’ plans for the long haul.
An interesting season for the 21 year old winger. He started like a house on fire and at one point, was up there as one of the best players in the League this season. However, his performances were symbolic of those of the team, as he faded as time passed. Even though he is young, he has played at a high level for a while and is a key player. Goals and assists flowed freely to begin with as he dazzled with his trickery, creativity, direct running and confidence. He has the potential to be a key player for many years at the club, but even more will be expected of him next season. All in all, it was a decent season across his 27 appearances (a lot of action for someone still relatively young).
It was a stop-start season for the experienced French winger. He only made 11 appearances due to recurring injuries that have genuinely stalled his career. At full fitness, he would be one of the best players in the League but it is a shame injuries have curtailed him. In his second season at the club, he was supposed to offer stability and experience to a young squad. It is looking increasingly likely that he will depart this summer.
The Italian striker was the only foreigner signed by Panathinaikos this season as part of the transfer restrictions placed on the club. His arrival brought an air of excitement and it was clearly his last chance to resurrect his career. The former wonder-boy hit the ground running as he had to in order to endear himself to the fans. He did just that by scoring at will to begin with. Goals dried up against the likes of AEK, PAOK and Olympiacos but that will be the aim next season. Strikers are judged on goals and he finished the season with a respectable 11 in all competitions (10 in the League) - double digits would have been the target at the start of the season. Moving forward, he will be a key player for the Trifylli but it remains to be seen how he will be used. His excellent hold up play, awareness and ability to bring others into play could see him operate as a second striker, as Donis searches for a clinical finisher. He appeared on 26 ocassions this season.
It is tough to gauge the success of Kampetsis’ season. The move back to Greece enabled the 20 year old to play at a senior level for the first time. While he only scored twice in the League, his performances mirrored those of the team’s. He started brilliantly but fell away and inexperience and fatigue kicked in. He is still highly rated played and will be hoping to better his efforts next season. He featured 20 times this season.
Another boom rookie held in high regard. Emmanouilidis was another who was given a debut this season by Donis. He became the first ever player to score in the League that was born in the 21st century in a home win over Lamia. The forward had to wait until the last match of the season to get his next goal, in another home win over Panetolikos. He ended his first season on 11 appearances, courtesy of facing punishment by Donis for his demeanour at training and in some matches.
Epaminondas Pantelakis only made 4 appearances in the back line and looks set to go out on loan next season. Konstantinos Kotsaris featured on 5 occasions, one of which was that dramatic away derby against Olympiacos, in which his incredible saves earnt the Greens a point. He also kept a clean sheet in the final game of the season against Panetolikos.
Nikos Vergos only made 4 appearances this season. He arrived from arch-rivals Olympiacos with a point to prove as his career suffered multiple setbacks after an amazing introduction to top level football. However, it has not worked out for him at the Greens and a loan move away looks likely. He did not score in the League.
Teenager Kostas Apostolakis (son of Stratos Apostolakis) featured twice, meanwhile Greek-Australian Panos Armenakas played 3 games (one of which was a start in the final game of the season) after moving to the club in January. Andreas Athanasakopoulos featured twice, and Christos Sechou played the single game at men’s level (also his first). Mark Sifneos, who was the club’s first summer signing almost a year ago, did not feature at all in the League.