The secrets to Olympiacos’ success as Greek journalist gives tactical insight ahead of Arsenal tie
We caught up with Greek reporter Johnny Georgopoulos to discuss Olympiacos’ approach for their match against Arsenal
Arsenal and Olympiacos have met ten times since 2009 and they face eachother once again in the Europa League last-16.
The Gunners were knocked out of the competition last season by the Greek giants, and coach Pedro Martins will look to guide his side to another famous victory as they host Mikel Arteta’s side in Greece on Thursday night.
Former Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos is set to come up against his close friend and old team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in an exciting match-up.
We caught up with Johnny Georgopoulos, journalist at Gazzetta.gr, to get the lowdown on Olympiacos with added insight from our friends at Wyscout.
One of Olympiacos main power is their ability to play a high-tempo style of football with quick direct passing in order to take full advantage of attacking transitions and counter attacks. They have agile and quick players who can move through the opposition lines and cause troubles.
Also, they are a versatile team who can adjust in the different aspects of a game taking a lot of help from the bench with players who can come as substitutes and change the balances like Fortounis and Hassan did in the last match against PSV. The experienced French duo, Mathieu Valbuena and Yann M’Vila are guiding the rest of the team with their determination.
The biggest weakness for Olympiacos this season has been from set-pieces. Pedro Martins recently changed the system to zonal marking from corner kicks and in both games against PSV the striker Eran Zahavi scored in the same way. The same thing also happened in the recent match against Volos.
Another problem is the recent form of goalkeeper Jose Sa, whose concentration over the past few matches seems to be an issue – he was one of the main reasons PSV almost knocked Olympiacos out of Europe. The wingers are struggling to score too whilst the absence of Ruben Semedo at centre back is significant.
Olympiacos defenders leave a lot of space between the lines especially the gap between defence and midfield in organised defence situations, which the opposition can exploit. They are not comfortable when faced with pressure in their own third too.
Yann M’Vila is in top form. He is the best no.6 in the Greek Super League. He is a complete player, very smart, and superb tactically. Additionally in Olympiacos started to score. He wasn’t so much productive before landing in Piraeus. Olympiacos is a much different team with M’Vila on its ranks. The French star even plays as a central defender with big success against Aris and Lamia in Greece.
As we can see from the stats, he attempts 374 passes, the highest in his team with 90% accuracy, the highest from the midfield players. 49 of them are progressive pass attempts and 43 pass attempts to final third with accuracy 73% and 71% respectively.
He won 58% of his defensive duels, 50% of the offensive, 55% of the aerial and 47% of the loose ball duels. He attempted 30 interceptions and 6 clearances. He also provided 52 recoveries, and even he plays in a deep role the 23 of them were in the opponent’s half, (10 in final third).
Another big weapon for Olympiacos is Youssef El-Arabi . He was the striker who scored last season the crucial goal against Arsenal. He is an incredible, cold-blooded forward for Greek standards who never forgives the errors of the opponents. Although he managed to score only once in the last 8 games, the striker’s xG are 2.79 from a total of 8.87 of his team, (almost the 30%), which is the highest from the rest of the team, (the second is 1.52). He also had the most by far touches in penalty area, 17 in total while the second is 8. He also managed the most shots, 14, 5 of them were on target, 35.7%. He is the receiver of most crosses with 20.
His match-up is the Egyptian striker Ahmed Hassan. He is not of the same calibre as El-Arabi but he is very efficient. A great finisher who could score even with one touch. He did it with the last-minute goal against PSV in Holland. Add to them the Greek national team attacking midfielder Kostas Fortounis. A player with great technical abilities, good vision, pace noted for his free kicks. Also this season the Senegalese centre back Ousseynou Ba has made big progress. He is another class player. A rock in the Olympiacos defence.
The defensive line of Olympiacos has been changed in the few months. At the beginning of the season on the right flank was the former Bayern Munich player Rafinha and on the left the former Watford player, Holebas was a starter.
Rafinha terminated his contract and he was replaced by Lala, one of the most efficient right back in Ligue 1.
Also, the Moldova NT left-back Reabciuk came from Pacos Ferreira and his adaption was imminent. Sokratis also filled the gap of Senegal NT centre back Pape Abou Cissé who went on loan to Saint Ettiene.
Olympiacos has three new players in their defensive line. They need time to adapt and become solid. Individually they are technically good players but they haven’t met the expectations so far as a unit.
With 13 goals conceded and xG against 11.29 in the last 8 games, we can’t say that Olympiacos has a solid defensive line but a pretty much leaky one as it managed to keep a clean sheet only in one game. As it seems in the stats, Olympiacos defenders don’t have high percentages in their winning duels.
Formation and system
Olympiakos is expected to line up in a 1-4-2-3-1 formation as in the previous match against PSV with Papastathopoulos taking the place of injured Semedo in the centre back and probably Fortounis in the right wing instead of Valbuena in order to be more solid for the reason we explained before
They will go strong in the match trying to cause an upset in Arsenal exploiting the counter attacks, but this doesn’t mean that if they have the possession they will give it to Arsenal, in that case they will move organised forward with limited risks.
Sa, Lala, Sokratis, Ba, Reabciuk, Bouchalakis, M’Vila, Bruma, Fortounis, Camara, El-Arabi.
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