WITHOUT MIDDLE CLASS
I’ll start with a general observation – a huge difference in the class between the teams in the league. It has certainly been there before, but never so obvious. It is significant that four RPL teams at once gain an average of two points per match (Zenith, Rostov, CSKA and Krasnodar), while Spartak lacks only one point for this. This is quite a champion schedule. For comparison, last season, and after 10 rounds, and after 30, only Zenit withstood it.
At the same time, at the opposite pole, as many as five teams have fewer points than matches: Lokomotiv, Khimki, Fakel, Ural and Torpedo. A year ago, there were the same number of them at a similar distance, but only two reached the finish line of the season with less than 30 points (Rubin and Arsenal, who were eliminated). It is possible that the situation will level off this time as well, but there are too many teams in matches with which outsiders have nothing to count on.
The situation, in fact, is sad, because the density in the table and the approximate equality of most teams in the class were the last advantages of the RPL for the audience, because the very quality of football, as European cups emphasized, was extremely low even before all the troubles. And this situation also suggests that, contrary to expectations, problems with the acquisition of foreign players in the first place hit the poor second-tier teams, while the giants still find arguments in negotiations with foreigners.
CSKA AND ROSTOV WILL NOT KEEP IN THE RACE WITH ZENITH
It is also sad that the pursuers at Zenith are not expected. Pitertsy completely win in all significant matches. In one telegram channel, after the game with Dynamo, they seriously launched a poll: “Who looked better against the champions – Dynamo, Spartak or CSKA?” Although it’s like trying to find which defeat was less embarrassing than we did not so long ago in European competition.
The army team lacks too much stability to chase the blue-white-blues. In 10 matches, they only won twice in two games in a row, and in the last round they sensationally lost to Torpedo (0: 1), inflicting only one shot on target. To be fair, Hottabych probably helped the car manufacturers from the stands. How else to explain that out of 23 shots the guests hit the target only once, but once more – on the post and the crossbar, and Baktiyor Zainutdinov shot above the goal from a meter?! To all the troubles, Vladimir Fedotov lost a key central defender – Igor Diveev received a fracture of the tibia and was out before the end of the year.
Thanks to this misfire, Valery Karpin’s Rostov rose to the second line, having not suffered a single defeat in a third of the distance (6 wins and 4 draws). And yet, the strained victory over the “Wings of the Soviets” (2:1) showed that the mentor of the Russian national team in the club has a too short bench. Daniil Utkin and Nikolai Komlichenko had a mediocre match, and the yellow-blues looked no better than the Samarans, and for three points they have to thank the defender of the guests Glenn Bale, waving his arms in his penalty area like the blades of a mill.
ZAKHARYAN NEED “DYNAMO” IN ATTACK
Nevertheless, these two teams will certainly be in the top five at the end of the season, but for last year’s winners from Dynamo it’s alarming.
Many criticize the blue and white for the lack of a game with Zenit, but against the team of Sergei Semak, when she plays seriously, everyone looks rotten. The problem is rather that last year’s trio Fomin – Szymanski – Moro broke up. It was a unique mix of perfectly matched players and it would take a long time for their replacements, as cool as Matthias Normann was, to reach the same level of synergy.
I hope that Slavisha Jokanovic will take advantage of the pause in order to assemble the puzzle in the center of the field without the participation of Arsen Zakharyan, because the position in midfield simply levels out all his talents. He is forced to run back and forth a lot, losing the freshness, due to which in the past he was so bright in dribbling, and in general he is much less likely to be in the immediate vicinity of the penalty area, which is why he has not made a single (!) effective action in the last eight matches and has become even more away from moving to London.
SOCHI IS TOO DEPENDENT ON LEADERS
Sochi also has personnel difficulties, which is evidenced by a home draw with Fakel (1:1). The hosts were greatly crippled by the absence of the disqualified Artem Makarchuk against the backdrop of injuries to Victorien Angban and Ibragim Tsallagov (he first got into the application, but never entered the field).
The coaching staff of Vladimir Fedotov chose the position on the left between Sergei Terekhov and Nikita Burmistrov and miscalculated, since the transfer of the first to the left required Kirill Kravtsov to be released to the center. As a result, in the first half, the southerners did not have the usual advantage in the middle of the field (Alexander Tochilin confirmed this after the game), and only with the release of Vladislav Sarveli at half-time (Terekhov returned to the center, and Burmistrov went to the left), control improved.
It’s normal when coaches do not immediately solve a riddle that they have not yet encountered (Makarchuk has not missed a championship game so far), but it would be much easier for them if they had more options for performers. As the matches of the Cup of Russia showed, it is too early to blame young Sochi players like Kravtsov, Timofey Shipunov, Amir Batyrev and Daniil Martovoy for the result at the highest level, and the clip of experienced players is small.
WITHOUT BIKFALVI THERE IS NO URAL
Probably, it is impossible to ignore Lokomotiv, which ended up one point away from transitional matches after a third of the distance, but millions of words have been written about its problems, and I won’t add anything new here, so I’ll pay attention to its competitor in the struggle for survival Ural.
The Yekaterinburgers lost at home to Akhmat, who came to visit them without a head coach (Yuri Nagaitsev performed his duties) and with an experimental pair in the center of defense: Anton Shvets (nominal defensive midfielder) – Marat Bystrov (full defender). Still, the hosts conceded more than they scored.
This match showed that without Eric Bikfalvi, the Ural players are a gray mass. Due to damage, the Romanian asked for a replacement already in the 4th minute, and his partners were left at a loss. They have enough character (they equalized the score in the 83rd minute), but this exhausts their virtues, and how Viktor Goncharenko will save the situation if the main striker Alexei Kashtanov cannot punch the goalkeeper from five meters is unclear.
Crazy “ORENBURG” – EXAMPLE FOR MANY
It is worth praising the leadership of Orenburg, which demonstrates to everyone an example of what the phrase “trust the coach” means. Marcel Lichka puts crazy football on the team. So much so that in four out of 10 matches his players conceded at least four (!) goals: 2:4 from Krylia, 1:4 from Spartak, 1:5 from Lokomotiv and 0:8 (!) from “Zenith”. 26 goals conceded (that is, 2.6 per match!) – by a margin the worst figure in the league (Torpedo has 21).
In “Torpedo”, “Khimki” or “Ural” organizational conclusions would probably have followed, but in Orenburg they do not twitch and let the Czech entertain themselves and the fans. As a result, a victory in Nizhny Novgorod (2:0), 12 points (more than Krylia, Loko or Khimki) and 9th in the table, just a couple of points from its top half.
“SPARTAK” IS GOOD, BUT THE MARKET OF STRENGTH IS NOT VISIBLE
Probably, something needs to be said about Spartak, who won the first top match of the season. Even though Loko in its current form is not such a big threat, a derby is a derby. Perhaps, I will be banal here – the red-whites had a very good match, in which they had to win bigger. Of particular pleasure is their combination game, in which none of the players are greedy, not even Quincy Promes.
However, the final exhaust is confusing. Despite the quality of the game, Guillermo Abascal’s wards allowed disruptions in the games with Dynamo (0:1) and Rostov (2:4) and could well lose two points on Sunday, because Loko had two iron chances, in who were rescued by Alexander Selikhov. Spartacists seem to lack a margin of safety to resolve all issues in advance – low implementation in front and slight anxiety in the back.
I would like to believe that the reason for this is the high intensity of the game, which puts the Spanish coach. In the final stage of the attack, the players often run exhausted, hence the low quality of the shots and poor implementation. If so, the hope is that over time the players will adapt to the workload, become physically stronger and be able to keep up with the pace.
NOSTALGIA IN LUZHNIKI
Torpedo gave us a very nostalgic match in the last round – the Luzhniki stadium, the victory in the derby over CSKA, the first for the team in the RPL in 2667 days … But so far, black and white can offer nothing but a glorious past. As I said above, this time they frankly rebounded.
SPERTSYAN AND SOBOLEV – WOW!
Heroes of the tour: Andrey Mostovoy (Zenit), Eduard Spertsyan (Krasnodar) and Alexander Sobolev (Spartak).
I did not believe in the Zenit for a very long time. He looked good in Sochi, but upon his return to St. Petersburg, he was too clearly losing the competition to legionnaires. However, this season he suddenly learned to use his speed and began to better find promising positions in the penalty area. Mostovoy didn’t play the best match against Dynamo, but scored when he was in the right place at the right time and extended his streak of goals and assists to four games (3+1).
Along with Spertsyan and Sobolev, he demonstrates the best football in his career. And the last two are even more impressive. The Krasnodar player continues to drag a team that is not the loudest by name in every match – he scored or gave away in seven out of 10 rounds and scored 11 (8 + 3) performance points in total, and in total in 2022 Eduard scored 13 goals already.
Spartak learned to work brilliantly with the body, while demonstrating incredible coordination. He scored magnificently, turning around his axis, to Zenit, and in the game with Loko he did a great job hiding the ball from Nair Tiknizyan and accurately shot into the far corner. By the way, during the week in the Cup, he similarly “hid” the ball from the defender of the “Torch” in the Cup game, and then he also skillfully took advantage of the episode. That is, it is a systematic work, not an accident.
Sergey Pinyaev (Wings of the Soviets) and Batchi (Krasnodar) also deserved praise for playing on the tour. The first went to the base for the first time after recovery (and the second time in the RPL season) and scored a magnificent goal – he moved to the center and put the ball into the far top nine. The second one was remembered for his incredible persistence (and greed) in the match with Khimki (3:1). So far, the Angolan looks somewhat crazy, but it is clear that his technique is all right. It will definitely sparkle.
KHLUSEVICH IS A MORE DURABLE VERSION OF LOMOVITSKY
Anti-heroes of the tour: Daniil Khlusevich (Spartak) and Matvey Ivakhnov (Torch).
Spartacist looks like a foreign body in Abascal’s combination game. He is like a more enduring version of Alexander Lomovitsky – he runs fast and a lot, but he hits the ball like a stone, and it flies in any direction except the necessary one. Watching this is physically painful, especially after the technically smart Ayrton. The apotheosis of what was happening in the last round – when Khlusevich substituted himself for a very promising transfer from Quincy Promes to another partner and sent the ball to the front one in touch.
And the forward of “Fakel” “legendarily” came on as a substitute for “Fishte”, having received two yellow cards in 10 minutes. And this despite the fact that during this period there was a watering hole and a series of substitutions, which ate up a significant share of playing time.
JUMP LOMAEV, JERK BEZBORODOV
The two most memorable moments of the tour. First: Daniil Utkin’s kick from his half of the field to the collar of Ivan Lomaev, who came out of the gate. The goalkeeper rushed back and turned the ball into a corner in a beautiful jump. Commentator Dmitry Shnyakin called the episode “the most beautiful goal of the season that was not scored.”
I was also impressed by the fantastic spurt of referee Vladislav Bezborodov in the 80th minute of the Krasnodar-Khimki match. At 49 years old, the referee rushed through half the field faster than most of the defenders of the guests. Awesome shape!