PAOK welcomed Atromitos for the second matchday of the Greek Superleague. PAOK got an early penalty lead, but the visitors challenged them with their performance physicallya and mentally and held an aggressive approach in all phases of play that gave them a late (temporary) equaliser, despite playing with 10-men since the 80th minute. The home side took the lead again in the 6th minute of stoppage time. PAOK dominated the game with their qualities in possession and a high-pressing approach in 4-4-2. Against an intense opponent like Atromitos, the midfield trio of Tiago Dantas, Jasmin Kurtic and Douglas Augusto was catalytic.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, re-watch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Portuguese
- Age: 21
- Date of birth: 24/12/2000
- Club: PAOK Thessaloniki
- Career: Benfica, Bayern Munich, Tondela, PAOK Thessaloniki
- Position: Defensive Midfielder
- Preferred foot: Right
- Other Positions: Central Midfielder
Tiago Dantas, who joined PAOK at the summer on a loan (with option to buy) started a second game in row in the double pivot, with more deep lying midfielder responsibilities for a second game in a row. After being used as a #10 in his first appearances for the Europa Conference League qualifiers, against Atromitos he demonstrated why his skillset is better suited in a deeper position with more options ahead of the ball and with more touches to set the tempo for his sides’ attack.
PAOK lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with a #10 that possesses the skillset of a central midfielder at Douglas Augusto and could vary their positional structure and often turned into a 4-3-3 with a lone #6 and either CM in each halfspace. The position of each midfielder was flexible in that structure with relative freedom for them to drop deeper/push higher and the three midfielders had good communication to cover each space depending on the dynamic of each sequence. Despite the fluidity of the structure, Tiago Dantas was more often than not in the #6 position, ahead of the CBs providing support in the 2nd line, moving quickly from side to side to support the deep FBs or situationally pulling wide to be the one to break the opposition lines.
This role of Dantas speaks about his skillset: he has the positional awareness to create space for deeper players, but also a good sense of rhythm to assess when his team is ready to move more aggressively towards the opposition half. He had many touches, constantly making himself available, would receive in tight spaces and release the ball quickly to a free teammate. He didn’t showcase an impressive passing range, but he would receive efficiently, play in a variety of angles and would rarely play a pass to a teammate into pressure. He only made one clear mistake under pressure in a pass he received with his left foot from the GK close to the end of the first half. This might be a part of his game he will have to improve to become a more complete version of himself; taking a heavier first touch with his weak foot opposite to the direction of the pressure when there’s space around him. Overall he looked much more comfortable using his right foot to receive and connect than his left.
Carrying the ball into space isn’t his first instinct but when there is space in front of him he will drive for short distances with many touches to attract pressure before realising to a teammate nearby. He is quick in his decisions, but he is not quick to release himself from the responsibility of having the ball, holding it for as long as required by each situation.
Another impressive aspect of his performance was the leadership and guiding qualities he showcased in his second league game, in a foreign country and at a lineup packed with club veterans and international players like Ingi Ingason, Vieirinha, Jasmin Kurtic and Andrija Zivkovic. He was constantly guiding his teammates actions and positioning in build-up with hand gestures and would show and ask for the ball when in more advanced positions in the final third. He was also very quick to up the tempo on restarts, playing quickly when a foul was given. This is particularly noticeable, as the Greek League is one with the lowest percentage of effective playing time and the time lost from fouls is one of the biggest reasons why. The young Portuguese also captained Portugal’s under 21 side in his last appearance.
When required he showed that he has the technical qualities to become more aggressive as a passer in possession. He had a nice short-distance through ball into the penalty area in one of the situations he received in more advanced positions (though he had enough time and space to do so) and an impressive line breaking pass at the second half where he would move horizontally to the one side to attract the attention of the opposition block, before playing vertically in the opposite direction.
Rating – A2
This was as a complete defensive midfield performance at a possession-based side as one could imagine from Dantas. But it was also in a game-situation that fit perfectly his strengths; being the midfield metronome, constantly showing for the ball and being energetic and smart enough with his positioning to deny any transition opportunities. He is definitely one to keep an eye on this season at a league contender and the remaining boxes for him to fill are mainly his ability to overcome his lack of size (he stands at 1.70m) defensively against the other top teams in the league and how he might react and adjust in matches that things don’t work out as much for him and his team is put into more stressful situations.