Rumors about the change of the Zenit head coach, which intensified after the failure in the Champions League, have calmed down. The successful ending of the first part of the RPL season strengthened the position of Sergei Semak, who is going to the third consecutive champion title. Nevertheless, there are no guarantees that the next blue-white-blue championship will begin under the leadership of Semak, because if the fight for gold is lost, the club’s management will recognize the 2020/2021 season as unsuccessful and may make drastic personnel decisions. If a Russian specialist is shown the door, his place will be taken (there is no doubt about it!) A high-status and highly paid foreign coach. True, the candidacy of Mauricio Pochettino has already disappeared, since the Argentinean headed PSG, but he is free, for example, Maurizio Sarri, who received an invitation to Zenit even before Semak. A new broom will sweep in a new way. Here are five players who, in the event of the arrival of a top foreign coach, are likely to drop out of the main cage of the St. Petersburg team and will be sold or leased to other clubs.
This season, Kerzhakov played the most in Zenit – 2070 minutes. The 33-year-old goalkeeper seems to have no complaints. When Andrei Lunev was injured, Mikhail used his chance. But although Kerzhakov did not make obvious blunders, statistics from InStat prove that he did not help much. Even in the RPL, he has only 76% of strikes repulsed – less than Igor Akinfeev, Alexander Maksimenko, Matvey Safonov, Anton Shunin and Sergei Ryzhikov. Moreover, the numbers of close and medium strikes repulsed are very weak: only 60% and 56%, respectively. As for the Champions League, in Europe Kerzhakov parried 61% of the shots (for comparison: Guilherme – 75%, Safonov – 76%). The new coach will probably ask for a more reliable goalkeeper.
“Sorry to play badly,” – these are the words of Rakitsky himself, written by the defender in November in the comments of the St. Petersburg club’s instagram. What is there to argue about, even if Yaroslav himself admitted: the level of his play in the first part of the season did not meet Zenit’s requirements? From the outside, it seemed that the 31-year-old Ukrainian was overweight, hindering the already not the fastest player. And Rakitsky’s mistakes on the « second floor » did not disappear. However, Semak continues to believe in Yaroslav, appreciate his smart first pass and his ability to join the attack. The defender thanked the coach with a goal for Spartak, but this, of course, is not enough.
Ozdoev had an amazing 2019, when from a deep reserve, which many fans and specialists demanded to be put on the transfer, he turned into a solid base player. But, apparently, there are no miracles in football. Magomed squeezed the maximum out of himself, and it is hard for him to maintain a high level. The Champions League lacks technical and speed qualities. Ozdoev played the group stage of the current Champions League with only 79% of successful TTDs, earned a rather low average score from InStat – only 263 points. Zenit needs a central midfielder who can provide better ball movement when moving from defense to attack. Perhaps Semak will play the Barrios-Wendel pairing in the winter.
However, questions arose to the Colombian himself. If in the RPL Barrios is still the king, he covers the support zone well and gnaws all the balls, then he is lost at the Champions League level. In European competition, Wilmar is often beaten one-on-one, but the main problem is Barrios on the ball. He gives either unnecessary passes back or across the field, or simply inaccurate, substituting partners for the loss. It is convenient for the opponents to put pressure on Zenit when Wilmar receives the ball. This is a problem for the coach. For example, the same Sarri simply does not have a place on the field for pure “midfielders”: the Italian prefers to put a deep playmaker in the center, first of all, his favorite Jorginho from Chelsea.
And, finally, the most controversial figure – the captain of the Russian national team! In the RPL, Dziuba, as usual, makes the difference, remains the most productive player in the championship (11 goals and five assists). However, building the game around Artyom, the coach is forced to simplify football. In our league, this passes, but in Europe the disadvantages of playing with an almost two-meter center forward, unfortunately, outweigh the advantages. Dziuba falls out of pressure, since he is increasingly lacking movement, and due to his physical characteristics, he is unable to open behind the backs of defenders and run away at speed. A coach like Sarri, who prefers fast forwards, will first refuse Artyom. Moreover, Dziuba in reserve is, obviously, a time bomb. The striker even reacted to some substitutions in such a way that it became uncomfortable, and he would definitely never put up with the role of a bench-man. It would be detrimental to the atmosphere in the team. Although Dziuba must understand that he was able to fully realize himself in Zenit only thanks to the trust from Semak.
Let Sarri and any other highly paid status foreign coach keep dusting in Europe, and we must let our domestic coaches work, grow, develop and improve. And under Sam, a new team can and should be gradually formed. Age players and those who do not meet the requirements for their playing characteristics will leave the club. Some will leave at the end of the contract, and some will be rented or put up for transfer.
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