Interpreting the strategy of AEK’s Spanish coach is all but impossible

If there’s one Greek soccer club whose status is tough to assess based on its performances in friendly games, then this club is AEK. The reason behind this concerns the unorthodox methods applied by Spanish coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer. Figuring out what he has in mind is not easy. Throughout the previous season, predicting his team’s starting lineup was virtually impossible. Of course, many of the changes were forced by injuries. But even when this wasn’t the case, anticipating AEK’s starting 11 was hardly predictable. I would say that when the club’s entire roster is at Ferrer’s disposal, predicting his selections is impossible, mainly because the Spanish coach’s preferences often change. Last season, Ferrer did not even declare Leonidas Kampantais among the 25-man squad registered by the club for Champions League competition. Later on, however, after having assessed the player’s progress, Ferrer promoted him to an irreplaceable striking partner alongside Nikos Lymberopoulos, last season’s Super League top scorer. Ferrer selected Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Manduca for his first Super League game in a vital clash against Panathinaikos. Ferrer also ordered the player to strike the penalty kick with which AEK opened the scoring. The Spanish coach began the season with Vladan Ivic as his key midfielder before dropping him. Andrija Delibasic, another player who eventually fell out of favor, was sacked midway through the season. For the clash against eventual league champions Olympiakos in the season’s second half – a game that more or less determined the title race – Ferrer started with Panayiotis Kone and Vassilis Pliatsikas, both peripheral in the pre-season. Last season, Ferrer used a total of 30 players, or every player he had. Not a single player was deprived of a chance, even though Ferrer’s willingness to experiment with certain players often failed to make sense. Few AEK players were given the luxury of feeling that they had secured a place in the team’s starting lineup. The continual changes mirrored AEK’s condition at training in the leadup to the games. This is how it will also be in the new season. Judging AEK’s current state, then, is impossible. Neither the club’s win over a second-rate Brugge 10 days ago nor the recent 3-1 loss against lowly Italian club Livorno serve as indicators.