Vassilis Sambrakos compares “last year’s” and “this year’s” Panathinaikos in the first 5 matches.
At the end of the match against PAS Ioannina, with Leoforos celebrating the “5 on 5” and singing “we want you as a champion, Panathinaike”, Ivan Jovanovic stood in front of the television camera with his eyes fixed on the grass and the usual cool mind to express himself about his team dynamics. “We have practically achieved nothing” and “the schedule favored us and we played four matches at home, which you know how it is for us” were the key phrases to express his realism. With this trademark honesty, the 60-year-old coach gave the stamp of his mentality. “Yes, it’s fine what we’ve done so far and it’s not small, but it’s a start that was favorable for my team” was, roughly, his reasoning. In fact, he analyzed it more at the press conference when he mentioned the comparative advantage of Panathinaikos over the other teams (“the advantage we have is that our team is a continuation of last year’s way of playing. This helps us at this stage of the championship. We rely on the present to the players we had last year”). That’s why he put among his messages “I’m glad we managed 5 out of 5, but let’s not rush to talk about championship character”.
Jovanovic is not one to question his team’s potential or discount the momentum they have built after 5 wins. But he is aware. At the same time that he sees his team managing with more maturity, compared to last year’s beginning, the situations of the game, he also thinks about the fact that this year’s team has not yet raised its performance to the level that it was in the second half of last year. championship and especially in the playoffs.
A comparison between the data of the first 5 matches of this year’s championship with the data of the first 5 matches of last year, through the Comparisonator, creates a sense of progress. But last year, Panathinaikos played 3 matches away from home and in fact 2 of them were in “Vikelidis” and “Karaiskakis”, while this year it has only been to Heraklion. And if one overcomes the difference of +7 points and studies the performance data, one will come to the conclusion that Jovanovic is doing very well to “wait” for his team and does not express himself with big words.
At first glance, this year’s team excels in everything compared to last year’s with the exception of its performance in all the parameters of the duels. In the deeper reading, however, one finds that in the offensive part, this year’s team shoots more but with a lower accuracy rate, in other words, it does not find the target more often. And this year’s offensive tactical actions are fewer per game compared to last year (44-53), as are dribbles (26-33).
This year’s Panathinaikos is a team that keeps more of the ball, but with fewer complete passes in the attacking third of the field and fewer crosses. He makes more “quality passes” or “key passes”, but in successful quality passes the difference is small – one pass per match. The data confirms the feeling created by Panathinaikos at the beginning of this year, that it has not yet found a way to increase the rate of development of attacks to break down defenses and become more threatening.
In the defense phase, this year’s team looks improved. He concedes fewer goals and gives lower value chances compared to last year (xShot against: 0.49 – 1.12). This year is a team that takes fewer defensive actions per game, but has greatly reduced their mistakes. The difference in the loss of possession that led to a shot by the opponent is large (1.4 – 5.2) per match. And the improvement is also evident in the parameter of regaining possession of the ball in the opponent’s half of the field (11.4 – 8.2).
In terms of duels, this year’s team is at a disadvantage in general, but it “loses” significantly compared to last year in offensive duels (34 – 40) and in aerial duels (13.2 – 19.8).
In the oversimplification of this discussion, this year’s Panathinaikos is a team that scores as much as last year, but with the same goals it has accumulated +7 points compared to the first 5 games of last year’s championship. And this, if one removes the names of the opponents from the discussion, has happened because they have defended more effectively and conceded 2 goals less. If one considers that last year’s 2 goals he had conceded had cost him 6 points, he realizes the difference.
During last season, Jovanovic waited for the playoffs to judge whether or not his team has managed to build a winning character. That is, he expected, and stated it publicly, to see her in big games and put his footballers in front of this challenge – to answer whether they can win in big matches. Today, seeing his team defend more effectively and manage the matches with more maturity, he expects to see the improvement in their performance on the offensive side and to see the elements that the new players will bring to their game. If he sees what he plans, then he will speak with the same sincerity about the character of championship.