The rise and fall of AEK in 2018
AGONAsport’s AEK contributor, Greg Gavalas, talks about the rise and fall of AEK in 2018 as the club sit seventh in the SuperLeague standings and with zero points in the Champions League.
Many suspected it to happen but did not expect to see it in fruition at the extent it is at today, the rise and fall of AEK in 2018.
The reigning Greek Champions are experiencing a month of hell, from record breaking bad results, public name and shame from Dimitris Melissanidis, to disgraceful behavior at the grandest stage of all, the UEFA Champions League. There is no denying it. Right now, AEK are in a world of bad form on and off the field.
On the field, the team has gone through the month of November with one win, one draw, and four losses. For the first time in a long while, the form on the pitch has been very disappointing and AEK are struggling to create chances on goal, something they had in abundance last season.
Coach Marinos Ouzounidis is starting to get criticized and I recall Panathinaikos fans saying, he lacks a plan B, which can now really be seen. The over reliance of Petros Mantalos and Tassos Bakasetas on the wings has been painful, no wonder, as neither is a winger and neither player has great pace. Both are central players, whilst natural wingers, Lucas Boye and Giannis Gianniotas, start on the bench. Gianniotas has hardly had decent game time and this AEK team really need a player with his playing style to cause opposing defenses more issues.
Adding to this, is the poor form of Marko Livaja. In the exodus of so many key players in the horror off-season, AEK paid £1.8 million to acquire the Croatian’s services but this move has not paid dividends, with consistent turnovers and a lazy attitude in games.
On the contrary, some positives in the club have been the form of Kostas Galanopoulos, Ezequiel Ponce, Alef, Niklas Hult, Michalis Bakakis, and the brief pieces of magic from Lucas Boye.
Owner Dimitris Melissanidis has come out and said Ouzounidis is safe as coach, but time is always ticking in Greece. With a much lighter schedule ahead in December, AEK will want to start turning the losses around for wins and salvage what is left from the season.
The next item, the Champions League... many knew AEK would struggle given the lack of funding to the squad, which is a considerable downgrade from last season. Whilst there were some courageous efforts, especially in the match against Benfica in Athens, AEK are on track for a horrible record of six games and six losses, unless something can be achieved in Lisbon against Benfica, however, on current form, that looks like a hard wish.
If that wasn’t bad enough, following the loss to Panetolikos, Melissanidis visited the team the next day, and proceeded to not only call out the poor performances but point out three players by name, those being Vasilis Lambropoulos, Andre Simoes, and Tassos Bakasetas - “If someone doesn’t want to be in the team, he can tell me and he can leave. Simoes, Lambropoulos, and Bakasetas who do not want to renew their contracts should bring me transfer offers from a club in January and leave.” Just the next day, Ouzounidis mentioned that all three will not feature for AEK for the rest of the season.
It is believed this is the ultimatum if they want to carry on, something that may have worked over 20 years ago, if that. It is an embarrassing situation and one wonders why so many key players left in the offseason. This type of management has no place in any workplace and it is not difficult for players to go somewhere else and be treated with the respect they deserve.
Squad depth and size right now is very thin. What happens in the winter transfer period remains to be seen, but there is plenty to make up if AEK are to even qualify for Europe next season.
To cap off the horrendous month, in the UEFA Champions League match with Ajax, there was embarrassing fan trouble that took place. It all started one day before kick off as Ajax and Panathinaikos fans clashed with AEK supporters in downtown Athens.
At the game, an ignorant fan simply ran onto the field and hurled a flare at the Ajax supporters, molotovs were then exposed and a raging fire emerged at one end of the stadium. Ajax fans were forced to sit in the bottom tier of the stadium, as the top tier of OAKA (where away fans usually sit) was deemed unsafe by UEFA. AEK can now expect a substantial penalty to come their way, meaning good ole Melissanidis will surely pay a hefty amount to UEFA from money saved over the summer on minimal player transfers.
The whole situation at the club is very sad for us supporters. From the proudest moments in 24 years by winning the Greek Championship, to a horrible offseason where the winning team was literally dismantled, to an ok start to the season which became tougher as the Champions League campaign ran its toll on an already thin squad, who are now struggling in the SuperLeague currently sitting in 7th.
It’s wonderful what Melissanidis is doing with the new AEK stadium but it seems as all the eggs have gone to just that basket. Was there no business plan in the meantime, did management not account for what AEK were in for this season? When the squad is so thin, is it really a good time to call out and embarrass three players who gave their all for the Kitrinomavri jersey?
It is all a big fail right now. Melissanidis and his key stakeholders in the club are very much responsible for the mess this great club is in now. Worse yet, the things happening now are putting a horrible image on the AEK “brand” so hopefully quick action is taken, because AEK have come too far to fall further.