Friday Frappé: New manager, same problems?

Friday Frappé: New manager, same problems?

In this week’s Friday Frappé, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris reflects on the sacking of Michael Skibbe and the appointment of his replacement, Angelos Anastasiadis, and whether or not the Ethniki’s new man in charge is already setup for failure…

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It might not be an international break but that didn’t stop the EPO from making headlines on Thursday with the sacking of Michael Skibbe and appointment of Angelos Anastasiadis as his replacement hours later.

In a move that many people feel was a longtime coming, Skibbe was given his marching orders following a dreadful start to Greece’s UEFA Nations League campaign. Despite a win against Estonia on matchday one, Greece has dropped two of its last three fixtures against Hungary and Finland and sit six points off the pace set by the Finns in League C’s Group 1.

Greece’s performances as of later might not come as a surprise since the National Team, for the most part, has underwhelmed under Skibbe since the German coach took the helm in October 2015. The 53-year-old’s first game in charge of the Ethniki was a disaster as Greece conceded an injury-time winner to Luxembourg for a 1-0 defeat on a night that Greece were hoping for a fresh start.

After further disappointment, including the failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia following an embarrassing 4-1 aggregate defeat against Croatia, the Nations League was supposed to be a fresh start for Skibbe and the Ethniki.

A new initiative to help revive international football was supposed to double as Greece’s return to winning ways as Greece were supposed to excel after being paired with more ‘manageable’ opponents like Finland, Hungary, and Estonia.

Unfortunately, just a couple of months into Greece’s Nations League campaign, the Ethniki have reached rock-bottom, again. Lackluster performances have translated into disastrous results with Greece sporting a 2-0-2 record in a group they were tipped to top. With Finland seemingly running away with the group, an early chance to ensure that Greece don’t miss out on EURO 2020 appears to be all but gone.

With first place all-but mathematically out of the question, the EPO have pulled the trigger and sacked Skibbe nearly three years after labelling the German tactician as the answer to Greece’s problems.

Anastasiadis, who has experience at both club and international level, has been charged with the task of getting the Ethniki back on track – not just in the Nations League but more importantly in general as Greece look to qualify for EURO 2020 the traditional way starting in 2019.

Although there is no shortage of debate on whether or not the EPO picked the right man for the job, the main question that needs to be asked instead is: does it matter?

The obvious answer is yes, of course. We’ve seen on various levels of football that the right man for the job can do wonders for an international team or even a club. Greece, of course, is no exception to the rule. However, considering that the Ethniki has struggled for four years now, perhaps the problem is more than just the manager.

Four years since featuring at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Greece have failed to qualify for back-to-back tournaments all the while struggled to find an identity since Fernando Santos’ departure from the National Team in 2014.

In just four years, the EPO has appointed four managers – a stark contrast to the previous 14 years that featured just two managers during that span. While it could be argued that Otto Rehhagel was working on borrowed time before being replaced by Santos in 2010, nobody would’ve thought that the EPO would suddenly average a new manager per year once Santos himself left the Ethniki.

Following the footsteps of Claudio Ranieri, Kostas Tsanas (caretaker), Sergio Markarian, and of course Skibbe, Greece’s new manager needs to do what four previous men were unable to do: inspire the current crop of players.

For every player like Alexandros Tziolis and Georgios Tzavellas, two of Greece’s more heated call-ups nearly every international break, there are three-to-four times as many players who have not lived up to expectations for the Galanolefki.

With a history of appointments similar to some of the Super League club’s managerial merry-go-rounds, the EPO needs to stop giving players a so-called free pass and make sure that the pride in playing for the National Team is restored.

Time will tell if Anastasiadis is the man to get the job done, and with a relatively short-time contract (through to December 2019) the EPO has given itself enough wiggle room to make another important decision – if necessary – without being caught in a jam.

Here’s hoping Anastasiadis can get the job done and we can all go back to enjoying a competitive Greek National Team some time very, very soon.


by Peter Katsiris

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