Cutting a window into Europe - a Zenit St. Petersburg story


Feb 5, 2017
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Welcome to my story!


Peter the Great once cast his gaze across the Neva and the Baltic, seeking to settle a new city of enlightenment, of ideas and of culture. "The Bronze Horseman" sought to 'cut a window into Europe', in order to revolutionize a previously static culture. I now seek to take up that baton and reshape a Zenit side, currently well-backed but lacking direction!

Our long term aim is of course to achieve the highest honour in European football, namely the Champions League. On top of that though, I want to establish the club as a team that works in line with the great traditions of the city in which it is based. We will put great emphasis on developing youth players and . Whilst our financial backing dwarfs most teams in Russia, we are a long way from competing with the rest of Europe and for this reason we will seek to work as economically as possible.

So as a quick update for those who don't know much about the club...

We will begin the season playing at the Petrovsky stadium (21,110 capacity) on the banks of the River Neva. It's a legendary stadium but it's limited capacity (and the upcoming World Cup in 2018) has seen the club build a new stadium a little further out of town... We will move into the new 'Krestovsky Stadium' (50,000 capacity) midway through this season.

As for the side itself, the last couple of years has seen a bit of disappointment and the departure of reputable managers in Andre Vilas-Boas and Mircea Lucescu. The departure of Hulk and Axel Witsel was a sore blow but this summer they have invested in some new signings to restock the squad..

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These are the transfers brought into the club prior to my arrival. Certainly they bring with them a good amount of quality, but how difficult will it prove to integrate them into the club? And do their personalities fit the vision of the club I am trying to instill? Pre-season will be a good indication of that..

So, the club has clearly tried to fill these notable departures but these signings will need to hit the ground running if they are to help give us the lift that we need.. So the first step is to recapture our domestic crown and win the Russian Premier League! In the meantime we will develop our infrastructure and start to set the club deeper roots for a more prosperous future!

Do svidanya!

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Pre-Season on the Continent!


So pre-season has been and gone, and it has been pretty successful overall. I concluded, despite the large budget that the board provided me with, that the squad has mostly enough quality in it to fulfill our aims for the season and for that reason only invested lightly, bringing in the following players:

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Unhappy with the depth that Lunev provided (2 determination and a 'Fairly Sporting' personality), I decided to bring Djanaev from Rostov for a cut-price £2.5m. He has been a big part in Rostov's recent success and will provide excellent competition for Lodygin and will be an excellent character in the changing room. Igor and Nemanja are both good prospects in their respective positions and I hope to see them challenge for spots in the coming season.


Our pre-season saw us venture to central Europe, where we played teams from Slovakia, Austria and Switzerland. We also played Red Bull Salzburg, FC Schalke and Olympique Lyonnais at home. Our performances at home were much better than those on the road which provides me with some food for thought going into the campaign.

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Overall though, I think the squad is well set up for the campaign ahead. We start with a Super Cup match against CSKA Moscow next week!

Do Svidanya!

PS Please input any ideas for improvement or extra info you'd like to know ;) I will seek to continually improve throughout this series!
Following :)

A screenshot of your squad would be nice, just to put into context who the players are that you're referring to.
Following :)

A screenshot of your squad would be nice, just to put into context who the players are that you're referring to.

Thanks, much appreciated!

Yeah, at the end of the transfer window I will add a screenshot of the final first team! May still be transfers between now and then ;)
Super Kubok Rossii and the league begins..

Pre-season drew to a close mid-way through July, and so the season began in earnest. The last two weekends in July saw us play twice at the Lokomotiv Stadium - first for the domestic Super Cup final and then for an away trip to Lokomotiv Moscow for the first match of the Premier League season.



This match, in common with Super Cups across Europe, pits the league winners of the previous season and the domestic cup winners, which in this case meant we faced CSKA Moscow, also our most likely competitors in the league this season. It was a good chance to test our metal against a close rival for the season.
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Sadly we fell just short in the end. I decided to go with a 4-4-2 and play on the counter, which appeared to be working in the first half. We recovered from an early mistake by Hernani which gave Natcho the opportunity to slot home from the penalty spot after just 12 minutes, with an excellently worked equaliser by our stalwart Alexandr Kerzhakov.
Going into the second half, I was confident with our set up, and beside the early mistake we had defended resolutely during the game. Young Valencia loanee highlight the weakness of a lack of mobility in our back line to get in and slot underneath Yury Lodygin after an hour and we never really showed signs of recovering after that.
A dissapointing way to start the season, but I won't be reading too much into this.

Prem'er Liga 1st Matchday

We were back to the capital the following weekend after an excellent week's training. We went into the game with only Alexandr Anyukov nursing an injury, giving me the chance to pick a full-strength side. I stuck with the 4-4-2 that had looked so impressive during pre-season meaning that big money signing Giuliano would start on the bench.

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The first half was slow but we were clearly the better team. Young academy prospect Gasilin was linking up very well with his mentor Kerzhakov to fashion up opportunities for themselves and the central midfielders behind them but unfortunately we weren't making anything clear cut.
I said as much at half time and told the team to push a little higher up as I sensed Lokomtiv were on the ropes somewhat. Sure enough, 30 seconds after the restart, Kerzhakov held up the ball and draw out the two central defenders before laying off to Javi Garcia to smash home left-footed from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.
Sadly he would then almost instantly have to come off injured following a late challenge. Despite that set back we kept up the pressure and Kerzhakov scored a second in as many games to give us a healthier looking lead, tapping in Robert Mak's excellent centre.
The pacy Maicon looked like being Lokomotiv's only real threat and he highlighted the lack of mobility in the centre of our defence once more, losing the attentions of Lombaerts and Neto to come one-on-one with Lodygin who he beat with precision.
In truth though we looked good defensively on the whole and could play the final 25 minutes on the counter, where we were getting some real joy. Kokorin's inroduction for the impressive Gasilin stretched them even more and he combined with Yury Zhirkov to set Oleg Shatov loose to score an excellent individual goal to silence the home crowd!

So a long journey back to our city meant we could reflect on what has been a good start to the season. We still have a month to go until the transfer deadline passes but I have no real desire to add to the team. I feel we have good strength in the side (especially once the likes of Dzyuba, Danny, Faizulin and Mogilivets return from long-term injury) to cope with what we have to face this season whilst in the meantime our scouts will do a lot of hard work to prepare ourselves properly for next season.

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This man has been my man of the month and I think he has a big part to play this season in what is likely to be his final campaign. He has had an excellent career and it would be a great way for him to sign off. I will furthermore be looking at the possibility of taking him on in another capacity once he does retire. A true pro and an excellent character to have in the building.

So next month the league continues before we build up to the end of the transfer deadline!

Do svidanya!
The league continues, the Europa League draw is made and the transfer window closes.

Welcome back! A month has passed at Petrovsky and the season has started to take shape. Our backroom staff is set up (more on that shortly), we have played our first 5 games in the league, received our group for the Europa League and also made a new addition to the squad prior to the transfer window closing..

So firstly, I have brought in a number of new staff members. Two promising Russian coaches join the first team, whilst I have brought in a number of European scouts to get the ball rolling on that front. The most notable addition is the Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes, who will be joining me as an assistant manager on this journey. Paul's experience is vital and I think there is also a lot of potential for improvement as well. His personality will be very important to the squad.
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Have to say his Russian accent is.. unique.

Meanwhile in the Europa League, the board have a chance to go and see their mates down in the French riviera. We face Monaco (France), Zurich (Switzerland) and Cukaricki (Serbia). A tough group indeed, but I think we have the depth to cope. Hopefully it won't impact too much on our league form.

So onto the real stuff...

Prem'er Liga, Matchday 2

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This should have been a fairly straightforward game, coming off the back of our impressive victory in Moscow. It did indeed seem that way, as Alexandr Kokorin got his first goal of the season in just the first minute, smashing home expertly from 20 yards. He got his second just after the break before Neto received a second yellow for a clumsy tackle. We were picking up yellows all over the place, and after telling the players to step back a little and play on the counter, we saw out the victory.

Prem'er Liga Matchday 3
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Orenburg provided a slightly sterner challenge. We did dominate the match, as the stats will show, but they proved stern opposition. They scored a couple of good goals and it was only through a couple of exceptional goals by Kokorin and Kerzhakov that we got the victory. Funnily enough, A. Kerzhakov was up against his brother in goal for Orenburg, M. Kerzhakov. He was unable to stop him getting on the scoresheet, though.
Bad news from this match, we lost Lombaerts for 9 months. This may well be some of the last we saw of this great stalwart of the club.

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Our third home game in a row saw us come up against what has recently been one of the better teams in Russia. And so it proved. We were by far the better team for most of the game, creating chance after chance but struggling to put them away. Gatcan scored a screamer on his left foot to give them the lead and we were chasing from then on. Fortunately Oleg Shatov scored an exceptional individual goal in the last minute, dribbling past 3 men before slotting home, to unsure our unbeaten start continued.

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The final game of the month, and it was a poor one. We took the lead and started brightly but we then faded badly. Badly indeed. Ural pulled a goal back and from then on looked like the only team in the match.Dzyuba made his long expected return from injury but was able to contribute very little to proceedings.

So after a blistering start to the campaign, we dropped a little bit in the last couple of games. We now have an international break before the real season kicks in. Next month we have 6 games to play across all competitions and it will be a great test of the squads strength.

Finally as was mentioned, the transfer window slammed shut today. We managed to bring in the experienced defender Goran Popov from Vardar for just £140k. He will provide backup at left back and left centre back following the injury to Nicolas Lombaerts that sees him out for the season.

So, until next time.. Do svidanya.