AGONAsport’s Ethniki contributor, Greg Gavalas, talks about the immediate need of Skibbe’s termination after two dreadful matches against Hungary and Finland, where the same repeated mistakes were exposed.
I have covered Michael Skibbe’s days at AGONAsport for some time now and have called out his many upon repeated mistakes time after time (The Delayed Transition, EPO fail Ethniki at time of need, What is needed in upcoming friendlies, Changes needed for Euro 2020, All the wrong moves). Believe it or not, I had to convince a fair portion of fans of AGONAsport that Skibbe was not taking the Ethniki to any heights, let alone any success as long as he is coach. I stood firm that he will be caught out for all to see during the UEFA Nations League and boy has it been a disaster.
Funny enough, we started off looking good. The first half against Estonia was very promising and despite a loss in Hungary, I thought we were ok for much of the game. Ironically, though, in both games, the more Skibbe influenced the game the worse Greece got. Taking the cake, though, to what I have been writing about (and what we all witnessed) are the last two games against Hungary in Athens and Finland in Tampere.
Any hope I had from some extended promising pay in the first two games, were all but erased by two disgraceful performances this week. Performances that are up there with the horrific Euro 2016 qualifying campaign when Greece lost to the “fisherman” of the Faroe Islands twice.
In 180 minutes of football, the Ethniki managed to score one goal and win one game. After only creating one other shot that was saved in Friday’s match at the OAKA, a few days later in Finland, one tame shot from Kostas Mitroglou was what Greece had to show for with one shot on target.
What I cannot understand about Skibbe is the constant mistakes, one after another, in regards to his squad selections. This obsession with players like Alexandros Tziolis and Georgios Tzavellas baffles me and many others, players that should have been replaced some time ago or at least after the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Next, is his persistence to play Tassos Bakasetas on the wing... Bakasetas has played for Greece 16 times, all on the wing and has done nothing of note, essentially taking him out of gameplay. He is simply not a winger! He is played out of position. What is the point of calling up wing players like Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Giannis Fetfatzidis, if between both players, they are played for 10–20 minutes whilst Bakasetas struggles in every game, out of position.
The front combination of Mitroglou, Dimitris Pelkas, Kostas Fortounis, and Bakasetas did not do anything in the game against Hungary and all four played most of Monday’s game. Why would Skibbe play the exact same four who are more fatigued only three days later after a disappointing display against Hungary?
What happened? All four were terrible! Pelkas had arguably his worst game for the Ethniki, Mitroglou gave possession away extremely easily (like he did with Hungary), and Fortounis looked like he has played himself out of form.
The four players are then supported by Carlos Zeca and an aging Tziolis. Zeca also had two very poor games, and Tziolis is Tziolis, past his prime. I know Bouchalakis has not played well for Olympiacos recently, but I would have given him a shot at least instead of the same old failed recipe Skibbe seems to try over and over.
Through both games we saw the Greek players go back to statue mode when they had the ball in attack, not moving and expecting a miracle to happen while the opposition set up their attack knowing most of Greek players cannot control the ball or play with quick, one-touch passes (but Fetfatzidis is left on the bench).
I saw horrible play from every single player on the pitch, including Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Arsenal’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos, the team’s two strongest players. We are talking about glaring mistakes you see in a Sunday football league, and on top of that, a loss of concentration, very slow throw-ins, nightmare set pieces (against Finland in particular), and a lack of urgency. At one stage with 20 minutes to go in Tampere, Fortounis did a Sunday walk to take a corner as Greece chased a goal. The lack of urgency was then capped off with his corner going out of play before the ball reached the box and the first defender. It was a summary of the Greek performance in Finland.
Not all blame is on Skibbe and the players need some accountability as well. Skibbe’s silly mistakes have allowed much complacency, but in the next game in November, Skibbe (if he is still the coach) will play the same guys up front, with Mantalos in Bakasetas’ place if he has returned from injury.
Another thing exposed when Greece chased a goal on Monday, was their inability to create chances on the attack. Skibbe was looking to sub off Mitroglou for Efthimis Koulouris... a striker for a striker with a similar playing style. This, of course, did not change anything in the Greek attack and in a time of need, aging players like Tziolis and Tzavellas were given the nod. Why call up younger more in-from players only for them to watch horrible performances from the bench?
Enough is enough. Skibbe needs to be terminated as soon as possible or another year of football will be lost with these ridiculous mistakes and selections. It does not help when the Greek reporters fail to ask any serious and much-needed questions to the coach and an equally clueless Federation who is as much to blame for resigning Skibbe after the last campaign... for less money.