New AEK in the Mix
AGONAsport’s AEK contributor, Greg Gavalas, talks about what is needed in the “new” AEK roster after the departures of Lazaros and Araujo.
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It's being a turbulent off-season for AEK to say the least but new coach Marinos Ouzounidis has on his mind what many also have, the need for a forward, and the coach has specific needs in mind.
On the first day that Marinos Ouzounidis signed with AEK, he did not want to talk in front of the cameras. Consciously, and not naturally, because he had nothing to say. He wanted to first have a clear picture of s (pre) design of his “new” AEK as the Greek coach started to envision the future with Enosis.
At the official presentation, Ouzounidis did not hold closed ideas. Even for transcriptions he spoke in clear ways. The quote "we want a forward and a wide extreme player before the pre-season begins, " is not open to any misinterpretation. And of course, it is the result of the plan already in the mind of Ouzounidis for the new AEK. Not only does he want an urgent pick up, but he knows well and what kind of player he wants as well.
Ouzounidis' racing model in AEK's mind needs to add an attacker with an appeal to the goal but a player that is also quick and mobile. The Greek technician wants the impact line to work with a striker who can fit in a way that can move well inside and outside the box, for example, like Sergio Araujo did.
AEK do possess a good inside the box striker in Giorgios Giakoumakis. Indeed, Ouzounidis knows the Cretan well as they have collaborated at Ergotelis and he particularly appreciates his talent. Moreover, in January 2017, when Giakoumakis signed at AEK, Ouzounidis attempted to take him to Panathinaikos. This may be what the striker needs to ignite his career at AEK after a poor first season with just one goal and never really impressing in any game.
However, for the addition of an established and experienced striker, AEK are looking more for an aggressive version of Araujo. There is still a small chance AEK may retain the Argentine but the chances are small.
One does wonder though as AEK had these very good players in Sergio Araujo and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, but were unable to spend the price to keep the seasoned players at the club. Dimitris Melissanidis has done a great job stabilizing the foundations at AEK, however past financial management means AEK cannot go splashing out the Euros, making it difficult to work out the choices and priorities.
Take Lazaros for example. He was AEK's best player and it resulted in a Championship, the first in 24 years. When a player like Lazaros wins you a championship do you not make it a priority to sign that asset?
AEK did not give Lazaros what he wanted and Olympiacos did. As a result, Lazaros signed for the rivals at Piraeus and personally, that does not sit well with me at all. Whilst some believe Lazaros will not be able to repeat his form, I just don't buy it. He may be turning 32 at the halfway mark of next season, but I don't think he will regress like some think.
Sergio Araujo is another big loss even though AEK have resigned Marko Livaja. This was a good move, but the Argentine is what was needed. Araujo scored critical goals for AEK and with Lazaros, was key in stepping up when Jakob Johansson and Petros Mantalos injured themselves half way through the season.
The striker and winger AEK will look to pick up will be very important, because as of right now, the team is not as strong as the team that won the league, however the offseason is young. Will Melissanidis splash out some cash? Or will AEK depend on previous loan and minimum transfer models which has worked in the pas?
One thing is for sure, with Champions League qualifiers coming up, these signings will need to happen soon as the team adjusts to Marinos’ style.