God of War 4 – Superleague Return

Our first season back in the top flight of Greek football ends with a top 4 finish, securing European football for Aris in 2018 with a place in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round.

We were only five points off leaders Olympiakos come the end of the season, but bearing in mind that a top half finish was the target, we can be very happy with our progress. Finishing 2nd to 5th in the Greek Superleague qualifies you for the Superleague Euro Places Playoff; a mini league between the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th placed teams.

Finishing in the top five gurantees clubs European football next season, with the champions getting the Champions League spot of course. The playoffs determine who gets the other Champions League qualifying spot with the remaining teams getting staggered Europa League qualifying rounds. Third place in the playoffs puts us into the 3rd qualifying round draw of the Europa League.


Player Performances

This season saw the Talent of the Year award go to our midfield maestro – Michalis Chatzidimitriou, with Mason Bennett taking 2nd. Chatzidimitriou also features in the Superleague Team of the Year along with on-loan defender, Borja. Chatzidimitriou takes the Superleague Greek Player of the Year award too.

What a debut season it’s been for Michalis Chatzidimitriou. The box-to-box midfielder found the back of the net 12 times (11 of those in the Superleague), which include some absolute screamers. At just 22 our Greek Paul Scholes has already established himself as an indispensable member of the first team and one to watch next season. A poor return from our first choice striker, Mason Bennett, in the second half of the season means that Chatzidimitriou finishes as our top goalscorer, beating Bennett’ tally of 11.

See all 12 of Michalis Chatzidimitriou’s goals in the video below. Number eight is my pick of the bunch; a low drive into the bottom corner from distance:


New Signings

We’ve had a productive summer transfer window confirming some key signings. The pick of the bunch is our new star striker, Nikos Vergos, who joins from defending champions Olympiakos for £100,000 over 12 months. This is the first time I’ve spent money on a player due to our financial restraints. It was difficult to push this one over the line budget-wise but he’s a marque signing, I expect him to score 15+ goals for us this season. The remaining signings join on free transfers and include the once Barcelona youth prospect Moha El Ouariachi, previously of Stoke.

Losing Borja to Panathinaikos was a fairly big blow but we couldnt afford his wages. I’m happy with our replacement though – Manolis Fazos joins on a free transfer from Crete. He’s Greek and looks a quality prospect, I’ve had my eye on him for a while now. You can check out all 7 of our new recruits in the gallery below:


Our Progress to Date

We’re right on track with our targets so far having gained promtotion to the Superleague and finishing in a European spot, all whilst increasing the number of Greek players in the first team squad. We’re gradually getting there but it’s proving difficult with the lack of finances in Greece. Near empty stadiums are a typical sight at the moment, even in the Superleague.

Michalis Chatzidimitriou

Michalis Chatzidimitriou helped our cause with 12 goals in a magnificent season

We’ve made a lot of progress with a few of our other goals but not quite enough to tick them off. For example, we’ve cleared the debt a couple of times already but over the course of a season we usually slip back into the red. We’re definatley making progress though.

  1. Develop a traditional Greek style of football
  2. It’ll take time but we need to balance the books and rid the debt
  3. It’s imperative that we gain promotion as soon as possible, we need Superleague football to improve our stature, attendances and gate receipts
  4. Greece is a country that puts a high emphasis on developing homegrown talent. Match day squads must consist of two under 20’s, a maximum of 5 foreign players can be named in the starting 11 and a maximum of two non EU players are allowed at a club in the lower leagues. With these rules in mind it makes sense to sign and develop young Greek talent where possible and develop a unified squad of national players
  5. Gain promotion to the Superleague and push for European qualification
  6. Be competitive in both domestic and European competitions with a flourishing squad of homegrown talent
  7. Develop players for the Greek national side
  8. Become champions of the Greek Superleague

Finances

By the end of the season we had £1.8M worth of debt to clear. £870K for our final league position (4th), a £1.5M cash injection from the chairman, £1.5M for Superleague TV rights and £625K in a one year sponsorship deal sees that cleared with a little cash to spare.

The big issue we’re having at the moment is the lack of attendance at home games. Our average attendance last season was 8,239, way below our stadium capacity of 22,574 (that’s only 36.5% filled). Success and Eurpean football are our only ways to solve this problem. An improved attendance of 12,896 in our opening game of the season (our Europa League 3rd qualifying round first leg against Rostov) shows that we can hopefully better that percentage this season if we can somehow make it to the group stages. That’s a big if however, and a tale to be told in the next post.


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