Every Man Is The Hero Of His Own Story

Panathinaikos AO – 2023/24 Season Review

A disappointing end to an otherwise tremendous year.

Three wins from thirteen matches over the last six weeks of the season…form that, earlier in the year, would have had us on the verge of the sack.  All told, we met or exceeded all expectations.  Third in the League, and narrowly missing out on the finals of both the Europa Conference League and the Kýpello Ellados, while taking the first steps to rebuild the squad. 

Fortunately, the Board did not take the opportunity to adjust its expectations upwards.  We need time to finish reshaping and building the squad – ship out the dead wood, bring in the youth.  We may be in for rougher waters before we reach the promised land.

Bozidar is irate.  Despite investment by the Board, we’ve suffered a temporary setback in modernizing our training facilities – a massive rat infestation was discovered, leading the health inspector to shut down our post-season awards dinner and ban the players from training there until it is resolved. Fortunately, we have the summer to address it.

Bozidar’s solution?  Unorthodox, to say the least.

“Boss, is simples.  We unleash wave after the wave of venemuosse Chinese needle sneks.”

“But aren’t the snakes even worse than the rats?!”

“Yes, sneks much much to the worse than the rat.  But don’t worry, be happy.  Your Bozidar has thought of the this.  To prepare, I have lined up a shipment of fabulous gorillas that thrive on snek meat.”

“But then we’re stuck with gorillas, man!”

“No to the no, Boss.  This is beautiful part of plan.  When the winter come like cold grip of ice, the gorillas do be the freezing to death.”

“First of all, it doesn’t get that cold in Athens.  Second, and most importantly, that’s insane.  We’re not doing this.  No way.”

“Is too late, Boss.  The sneks is in charge now.”

Sounds like a job for Merle, Magnus and Taako.

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Putting aside Bozidar’s snake problem, it truly has been as good as year as we had every right to expect. We stumbled more in the last 2 months than I’m happy with, but that isn’t unexpected at this stage of Bur’s tenure in Athens. 

Nicolaj Bur has a PhD from the Homer J. Simpson School of Player Management.

Most of the older/established players just aren’t good enough, and the youth need time to develop and mature.  The focus this summer will be on continuing to ship out the dead weight, replacing them with talented youth prospects.

If you haven’t followed my threads before, I have some pretty simple guidelines when building a squad.  For our purposes today, the big rule is this: if you’re over the age of 25 and/or on a high wage, you have to be in the 1st XI or on the subs bench.  If you can’t make that 18-man squad, you’re almost certainly going to be put on the transfer list.  No sentiment allowed.  Of course, there will be exceptions here and there.  But the first year or two I’m at a club, I’m not the slightest bit worried about shipping a ton of players off. 

Arsenal legend Unai Emery is out at the Emirates. His replacement? The Special One, recently fired by Manchester City…who promptly turned around to hire Emery. #TheCircleOfLife

For Panathinaikos, this means a slew of players were shipped out before or during the season.  I’ve also targeted Clemenza, Rocha, Kourbelis, Junior and Schenkeveld for departures this summer – they’re either too old or blocking the progression of a younger, better players.  Insua and Sankhare are out of contract and will be leaving on free transfers.  One promising youth prospect, Gerakaris, declined to sign a new contract and is off to Augsberg. (He was promptly dropped to the U19s and hasn’t played with the first team since.)

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t say (again!) how much I love the Europa Conference League.  It is delightful in every possible respect.  I couldn’t be happier to be playing in it again next year, for two reasons: (1) the opponents are a beautiful jumble of “smaller” sides that you wouldn’t get to face in the Champions League; and (2) the extra games means that, even with a larger squad, I was able to get almost everyone “enough” games. 

Goals for 2024/25: In the SuperLeague, the question will be whether our reliance on youth hinders the battle to secure Champions League football for 2025/26 – that would require a top-two finish.  I think it is doable.  But I’d be content with repeating our 3rd place finish.  Anything less than that would be a disappointment, personally, even if the Board is only asking for a top-half finish.  Having narrowly missed the final this year, anything less than a romp in the knockout stages will be a disappointment.

European Review

Of course, before we can move on, we need to take a quick look around Europe to see how everyone else has done…

In the Champions League, Pep Guardiola’s Liverpool beat Frank Lampard’s Chelsea 2-1 (aet) in the Final, claiming their 3rd title in 5 years.  Thomas Tuchel’s PS-****ing-G reached the semifinals, with Napoli going out at the quarterfinal stage.

In the Europa League, Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan beat Nikos Kostenoglou’s Lyon 2-nil in the Final. 

The Europa Conference League saw Patrick Vieira’s Köln vanquish Abel Ferreira’s PAOK on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

And in the active leagues…Diego Simeone’s Barcelona claimed the title in Spain.  Carlo Ancelotti’s Tottenham won the Premier League.  Maurizio Sarri is not sorry for Juventus doing Juventus things.  Ernesto Valverde’s Bayern reclaimed their title in the Bundesliga.  Stanislav Genchev’s Genk won the Jupiler Pro League.  Dragan Stojkovic continued Crvena zvezda’s dominance in Serbia.  And, finally, Andreas Alm’s BK Häcken won their 3rd title in 4 years.

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Save/Challenge Overview

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series conceived and co-authored by Seattle Red and Oriole that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?


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