A NEW ERA BEGINS - SPARTAK TURN THE PAGE WITH YAKIN AND THE OPENING OF OTKRITIE ARENA
Yakin at the official presentation.
Moscow and the red and white colors fuel the passion of large parts of the city. What more needs to be said? These are the two colors that bring the most passion across countries around the globe. It has been consistent across the past 50 years and it will continue the following season, no matter the results.
A year upon seriously following this team I sense a calmness that a change of manager has brought. These are interesting times and Yakin's arrival has signaled that the board might have turned the corner, but it's really hard to know as this was a World Cup year. With the World Cup gone key players for clubs across the world will not perform up to expectations in the first couple of months and that will lead to unpredictable events. This is a chance for Yakin to stamp his authority on the club rather quickly and build a style of play for players that are keen to improve and shine through the potential they have shown. The Spartak fans are mainly looking at Jano Ananidze and Artem Dzyuba both of which had good loan spells at Rostov.
The obvious issues Yakin will have to deal with besides the culture is the injury problems to last year's Spartak goal scorer Yura Movsisyan (out through winter) and energetic midfielder Aras Özbiliz. But, if there is one thing true in life and in football is that it moves on. Yakin has a good amount of wide options that will minimize Aras' absence while Yura's injury ensures a starting spot for Dzyuba who will likely replace Barrios as the team's leading striker. This will also give him a prolonged opportunity in the first 11, something that Spartak critics point to as a failure on the club's part.
At goalkeeper, Spartak had a torrid time last season. Sergey Pesyakov (25) was the undisputed number one up until two mistakes against Tom Tomsk left him without a starting spot about halfway through the campaign. This was right in line with the Bocchetti injury and it's around the time the campaign went into disarray. Artyom Rebrov (30) then came in and had an excellent game against Zenit St. Petersburg at home as the team stayed on course for a title challenge but then made a serious mistake against Lokomotiva Moskva in the penultimate game of the fall season. Ultimately, the club ended the season with young and Russian youth international Anton Mitryushkin who at age 18 is a serious prospect in between the posts. Throughout pre-season Mitryushkin has been the starter and it seems like Yakin is to prefer youth even though Rebrov has come in as a substitute during every match. The youngster has always managed to start with the same back four in front of him and given this fact he should be the undisputed number one come the start of the season. I, for one prefer this move. It is good for Russian football and Anton has shown signs of maturity. He will probably make mistakes but as long as the team is unified around him there is no reason he can't become Russia's No. 1 in the next five years. He's rated pretty highly by the Spartak goalkeeping coaches from the excerpts in the past couple of months.
Goalkeeper: 1. Anton Mitryushkin, 2. Artyom Rebrov, 3. Sergei Pesyakov
Bocchetti will be the heart of the defense and central to delivering an elusive trophy.
Throughout pre-season Yakin has followed a defensive formula that has ensured consistency amongst all top teams, a stable defensive structure upon which the attack is built. The back four of Parshivlyuk, Tasci, Bocchetti and Dmitry Kombarov seem a formality. At the outset of this season many, including myself believe this is where Spartak's challenge for the title will come to. If these four players can remain fit, especially Bocchetti who is a marshal, the title challenge will be there. The proof is in the pudding as in prior year when the Italian went down so did the results and form of the team. Kombarov is the captain of the side but defensively Bocchetti is the heart and he needs to have a great season for Spartak to truly challenge.
On the full back positions are Parshivlyuk and Kombarov, both of which had excellent seasons last year. Their energy to get up and down the flank to support the winger in the 4-2-3-1 was massive as both Dmitry and Sergei had most of the assists in the team last year which included the midfielders. Given proper support in midfield I'd venture to say these are two of the top five full backs in the country but a certain Capello disagrees on Parshivlyuk. Either way, after Parshivlyuk went through a serious knee injury two years ago he has rebounded massively. The only unknown factor in all of this is Serdar Tasci who despite showing promise a long time ago at Stuttgart did himself a disservice in the spring when things came crashing down against Anzhi. Given that he came injured last winter in 2014, this is his first full season at the club. All eyes will be on him to deliver in what is an other wise very talented back line. You also add João Carlos formerly of Anzhi (who deputized well for Bocchetti) and the second central back spot is an interesting one. In conclusion, as long as Bocchetti is motivated to prove himself again at the top level and Kombarov is not too fatigued after the World Cup this should be a stronger area of the team given how Yakin's Basel team was set up to play very compact as well as that it hasn't changed meaning team chemistry will be easy to find.
Right Back: 1. Sergei Parshivlyuk, 2. Yevgeny Makeev
Left Back: 1. Dmitry Kombarov, 2. Kirill Kombarov
Center Back: 1. Salvatore Bocchetti, 2. Serdar Tasci, 3. João Carlos, 4. Sergei Bryzgalov, 5. Juan Manuel Insaurralde
Yakin prefers the 4-2-3-1 just like his predecessors so from a tactical point of view the players shouldn't get too out of sorts in terms of offensive positioning. There are two main questions before the season starts in the next couple of months; 1) where does Shirokov fit into the puzzle? And 2) how does Glushakov recover after playing in each World Cup game?
While he didn't dazzle for Russia at the World Cup (almost no one did) Denis Glushakov had an excellent first season with the red and white. While he did get injured after the first 20 games and was out his absence was clearly seen. He seamlessly developed as the season wore on and his distribution from the back was one of the most beautiful things to watch every weekend. His composure as he drops between the two central defenders to build attacks illustrated his experience to the style the coach was trying to develop. The other options outside of Glushakov and Shirokov are namely the highly touted Brazilian in Rômulo, his compatriot Rafael Carioca, and the Swedish international fresh from an Arsenal loan and injury as well Kim Källström. Yakin surely has to be licking his chops at the central midfield options available to him.
Glushakov will once again be critical to any success Spartak have.
Throughout pre-season Källström and Rômulo have been regulars with Rafael Carioca relegated to the bench. However, as Glushakov just came back from holiday and Shirokov signed on July 18th the starting spots are far from finalized. Plus with Shirokov coming in Yakin might be tempted to try the 4-3-3 given his box to box ability. These are all tough questions made even more complicated given that both the Russian captain and Rômulo are coming off of injuries from the previous season meaning their form can be questioned. Currently there is depth and if there is something Yakin will be grateful for is that it's there for him to have an array of plans before the season starts. Currently I edge the spots to Glushakov and Shirokov with Källström rotating frequently on away trips as we look to play with one less winger or we replace Tino Costa with Roman.
Defensive Midfield: 1. Glushakov, 2. Shirokov, 3. Källström, 4. Rômulo, 5. Rafael Carioca.
With the absence of Özbiliz it is practically on Patrick Ebert to make that right wing spot his. After impressing for Valladoid in La Liga last season his spring move to Spartak ended in bitter circumstances as neither Aras nor Patrick were sure who the starter was. Added to the fold is on loan returnee Jano Ananidze who can play across all front three midfield positions and things remain uncertain. On the left Jurado is a sure starter with Yakovlev certain to be the backup unless he looks for a much rumored loan move. Jurado was one of the few players alongside Glushakov and Dimitry Kombarov who started nearly every game last season.
Centrally will be Tino Costa who will look to regain command of the creative strings and build upon the notable chemistry he had with Jurado and Kombarov down the left hand side. The main issue Tino had last season was sometimes being too passive with his passing when things weren't going well. As such, I expect Yakin to pick up the pace of the transition play as well as when Spartak look to counter as the wingers are quite quick for Russian league standards. If Tino can release the ball more quickly in key areas this year Spartak will have a lot more depth to their attack. It also must be mentioned that it's nice having both Tino and Jurado there who can shoot from long distance. Both scored some marvelous shots last season, most notably against Dynamo Moscow.
Currently in pre-season Jano Ananidze has started on the right wing, Tino Costa centrally and Jurado on the left which spells trouble for Ebert. Yakovlev and the German have tended to come onto their opposite wings so maybe the Swiss technician sees Ebert as the left wing back up to Jurado while Yakovlev is there for the Georgian. In addition there is Diniyar Bilyaletdinov who is fresh from a loan spell at Anzhi. I don't see him getting significant playing time but he has featured in a couple of the friendlies thus far.
Overall the attacking portion of the team is pretty good. When Jurado and Tino Costa are on song they are the best midfield duo in Russia. However, it is against the lesser sides when things aren't clicking that they run into serious issues. Given the sale of McGeady last winter and the introduction of Ebert given the Özbiliz injury it will be interesting to see who emerges with the last questionable spot within the starting eleven. From reports Jano has carried on from where he left off at Rostov and I for one am pretty excited that the kid might be getting to the potential that was expected of him at age 18. If Jano or Ebert can establish a good relationship with Parshivlyuk then things will work well but that remains to be seen given the inexperience of Ebert within the Russian league and Jano's youth.
Right Wing: 1. Jano Ananidze, 2. Patrick Ebert, 3. Aras Özbiliz (injured)
Central Roaming Mid: 1. Tino Costa, 2. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov
Left Wing: 1. Jose Manuel Jurado, 2. Pavel Yakovlev
The great Yura Movsisyan is out with an injury through winter so it is really up to the current crop of strikers to find a way of getting to the starting 11. All indicators point towards the infallible Artem Dzyuba to be the starter as he had his break out season on loan at Rostov with 17 goals in 28 league matches. This was one shy of top league goal scorer Seydou Doumbia of CSKA Moscow and level with Hulk of Zenit St. Petersburg. However, it remains to be seen if he can do it at a bigger club with more pressure on him. That is the big question that will be asked of Dzyuba this season.
Next to him are three players whose futures' are uncertain. Lucas Barrios did little to inspire confidence after coming last winter, while Majeed Waris of Ghana is being courted by many French clubs. He is looking certain to leave. Lastly, the forgotten top Spartak forward of the past decade, the Brazilian Welliton has come back from an unfruitful loan spell at Luis Enrique's Celta de Vigo where he only managed one appearance. Currently with Movsisyan out this is the weakest part of the team. If Yakin prefers to go with one striker which seems to be the case given his formations he might be content with Dzyuba and Barrios through the fall. This is an area where Spartak might add before the season starts and I wouldn't blame them. Throughout pre-season Dzyuba has started every game with Barrios usually coming in around the 60th. As such, Artem will be given serious responsibility this upcoming season and it's up to him, much like Jano to fulfill the potential everyone but Spartak fans have seen.
Striker: 1. Artem Dzyuba, 2. Lucas Barrios, 3. Majeed Waris, 4. Yura Movsisyan (injured), 5. Welliton
Parshivlyuk Tasci Bocchetti Kombarov
Anandize Costa Jurado
- Set to be presented on September 5th, 2014 as Spartak Moscow host brother club Red Star Belgrade of Serbia.