Evading the press and breaking the lines

One of the first two things I try and observe during a game are, where is the opposition’s defensive line, and secondly, how high up the pitch are they prepared to press.

Generally during the save teams have played with a relatively high defensive line against me, as Anzhi remains one of the lesser sides in the division, leaving plenty of space in behind for me to exploit.

I play a flat 4141 and, when I think about how I would want any side I managed to actually defend, this is the shape I imagine. In possession, however, the shape is very different due to the roles and duties selected, especially the midfield four. My left-midfielder(a) is instructed to cut inside with the ball and dribble more, as well as get further forward by default. I’ve added get further forward to my box to box midfielder while my mezzala(a) and winger(s) are vanilla. All four of these roles will attack space in front of them fairly aggressively. Having a standard defensive midfielder behind them offers me great security should we lose the ball in advanced areas.

The midfield

The 4141DM starts deeper, inviting the opposition to push forward if that is their intention. By making very slight adjustments to team instructions we can exploit the space left in behind fairly well.

Towards the end of season three (catch up here if required), Anzhi faced a crucial game in our pursuit of champions league football. Lokomotiv Moscow were the opponents, sitting top of the league having lost only one game all season. I was fairly certain they would attack me. So before the game I instructed the side to ‘pass into space’ I also considered removing ‘play out of defence’ but I like the build-up play it encourages, and in my opinion, it helps to invite the opposition in. I also made a change in personnel in midfield opting to play Gordyushenko as my box-to-box midfielder, he is more dynamic than the ageing Glushakov and can also play as a striker so he can finish pretty well. In defence, Nazarov was changed from a centre-back to a ball playing defender, in the hope he had the vision to play a few risky passes forward into space.

While these changes to team instructions help, it is also important to make sure your base formation (including roles & duties) has sufficient movement to take advantage of the space teams like Lokomotiv leave in behind. All four of my midfielders have the potential to break through opposition defensive lines, add in some intelligent movement from my striker and you leave the AI with some very difficult decisions to make.

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We won the game 2-1, and our two goals illustrated this movement very well. In the first image from our goal-kick, you can see how pushed on Lokomotiv are. We are playing out of defence, and goalkeeper Kvaskhadvze has been instructed to take short kicks to our centre-backs, who have split to both sides of the penalty area. Anzhi’s left centre-back, Novoseltsev (25) is unmarked and offers an easy pass out.

Once Novoseltsev has the ball, he attracts the Lokomotiv no.9, Smolov, which leaves our wing back Sobol free. Novoseltsev could also have chosen to pass to my defensive midfielder Likhachtev (6).

Playing the ball to Sobol induces a press from no. 13 Gojak who leaves, eventual goalscorer, Gordyushenko unmarked. At no point during the rest of the move is Gojak goalside of Gordyushenko again.

My left midfielder, Puchkovskyi (24) works himself into a bit of space for a pass. Sobol elects to use him and he immediately plays a one-two with the now unmarked Gordyushenko.

This disruption leaves a huge gap in the centre of the Lokomotiv defence. Zhamaletdinov (no.22) attracts both centre-backs allowing Gordyushenko to attack the penalty area and score.


Our second goal again starts in our half with Lokomotiv applying pressure deep into our half. A simple aerial ball into space behind the midfield for complete forward Zhamaletdinov (22) easily evades the press. This one pass takes eight Lokomotiv players out of the game.

Once Zhamaletdinov picks the ball up he draws the right-sided centre-back, Kvirkvelia no. 33 out from his centre-back position. All four midfielders now make forward runs, and fairly easily get goalside of their midfield counterparts.

By the time right-winger, Matyushenko (32) has the ball, there is a huge space in behind Lokomotiv for a midfield runner to exploit. As Kvirkvelia has continued to follow Zhamaletdinov all the way across to the Lokomotiv left side actually crossing his centre-back partner. Gordyushenko is, once again, goalside of Gojak, and carries on his run to finish well.


One of the challenges, as we progress through the save, is making sure our tactic can also be effective against sides that don’t press us, sides that are happy to sit deep and hit us on the counter-attack I have noticed sides doing this more and more as we climb the league. We have had a few games during which we struggle to create much at all and end up losing a game we really should have won.

Heat map shows how deep we are prepared to sit

I’m not convinced this tactic will be able to break those sides down on a regular basis, certainly not with the current personnel. Perhaps a move to a more positive mentality or moving my wide players up into the AM strata would help, I’ll have to experiment when the time comes.

If you have made it this far thanks very much for reading. If you haven’t a clue what is going on you can read earlier posts here.

You can find me on twitter here and I will also be providing sporadic updates about the save and various other things on my slack channel #fmeadster.

Over and out FMEadster!

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Something in the pipeline – the conclusion to Season 3

Ruslan always enjoyed his trips to Western Ukraine, he had been there many times before as a child, and during his adolescence. This trip was different though, he knew his actions would probably set in motion a series of events that he could neither fully predict, nor halt, once initiated. He was, however, sure this was the right thing to do for Russia, for his family, and for himself. He took a deep breath, and slowly disconnected the valve on the pipeline in front of him.

Ruslan disconnecting a pipeline

This wasn’t any pipeline, this pipeline supplied much of western Europe, through the geostrategically pivotal Ukraine (which Russia now controlled), with vital gas and oil. The EU was already in recession after Brexit, and there would, no doubt, be repercussions for Russia, but it was now or never for operation Yellow Hammer, and Ruslan knew it.

Western Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

At the winter break, Anzhi were sitting second in the league and had qualified for the Europa League Knockouts, you can re-read the story here.

During the winter break, there were no signings made by Anzhi although star player Doston Xamdamov had his release clause of £2.1m met by AEK Athens. The money was welcome, even if very little was made available to Ruslan.

February

European adventure over for another year.

Anzhi’s winter break was cut short for two legs against Ajax in the Europa League first knockout round. A very intensive training regime, similar to that during pre-season, had the desired effect with the majority of the squad ready for action. It did, however, come at a cost with both recognised right-wingers picking injuries. Coupled with the sale of Xamdamov it left Ruslan with a problem; a reshuffle was needed.

A delightful goal from Puchkovskyi after a long ball from defence.

Normal complete forward, Zhamaletdinov moved out to the right wing, Puchkovskyi moved to the main striker berth, and academy graduate Agalarov played the FMPressure left midfield role. Things got off to a bad start when Tadic fired home, after only eight minutes, from over 20 yards. Anzhi hit back through winger Zhamaletdinov with Agalarov grabbing an assist. On 62 minutes, the Caspian Lads were bouncing when a long ball from centre back Likhachev found Puchkovskyi, who had the pace to break the Ajax defensive line, and fire home confidently. It remained 2-1 until the last five minutes when Hassan Bandé headed home from a corner (again). Just as Ruslan was beginning to settle for a draw, disaster struck. A[nother] corner goal, this time Daley Blind was left free to head home from six yards out. A final score of 2-3 meant Ajax were big favourites to progress. But this is FM, and anything can happen.

A week later 50 Anzhi fans made their way to the Johan Cruyff Arena, needing to overcome a 3-2 deficit to progress. With the game finely posed at 0-0, on loan star left back, Eduard Sobol fired a delightful free-kick high into the Ajax net on 48 minutes to bring the tie level. Anzhi needed only one more goal to progress and, to be honest, it looked likely. That was until Ajax forced a corner two minutes later. Almost inevitably, Ajax scored after Ivanov somehow managed to put the ball into his own net at the back post (this is getting annoying). Ten minutes later Ajax won a free kick out wide. As it was fired across goal no Anzhi player reacted, and Joël Veltman headed home.

It would be Ajax’s sole effort on target in the 90 mins. A 5-3 defeat felt harsh over the two legs, our weakness was clear and it will need to be rectified.

March

Content

March saw the return the league action with Dinamo Moscow up first. Two goals from Zhamaletdinov gave Anzhi the three points. Thoughts turned to a possible title challenge with winnable games coming up. These thoughts did not last long, as Anzhi only managed to win one of their next five games across March and April. A 1-0 defeat to champions Spartak was no cause for concern, neither was a 1-1 away draw to relegation-threatened Rubin Kazan to finish the month.

April

Continued lack of goals against ‘weaker’ sides

It wasn’t until April that concerns were raised after a 1-0 home defeat to Krylja Sovetov during which Anzhi created very little and had, ‘only’ 51% possession compared to a season average of 55%, and three shots on target compared to an approximate average of six. Sovetov sat deep in a 4-2-2-2 and it seemed to nullify Anzhi’s attacking play. These stats were repeated away to Ural, who were only defeated courtesy of another great Sobol free kick, and also away to Rostov who held onto an early goal to take the win. Ruslan spent an afternoon spying and analysing these matches in a Starbucks when he recalled a motivational quote he had received from his great friend Mike According some months earlier.

Please excuse the lack of closing quotation marks.

Teams were now affording Anzhi some respect and sitting deep, limiting the space in behind which had been such a source of success for Ruslan so far.

With this in mind, he decided to become a little more attacking in his next two home games against Arsenal Tula and CSKA Moscow. A move to a positive mentality coupled with moving wide men into the AM strata was his solution. After 75 minutes, Anzhi were 4-0 to the good, and Ruslan decided to rest his best three players. On 90 minutes, panic spread throughout the team as Arsenal scored their third goal. Thankfully the boys held on for a massive 4-3 win. Once more, after 70 minutes against CSKA, Anzhi were 2-0 to the good. Ruslan felt secure enough to once again rest some players, a decision he regretted by the end as CSKA equalised in the 89th minute.

Table prior to crunch match with Lokomotiv

May

Going into May, Anzhi had Lokomotiv, Ufa, and Spartak to play. At this stage, Anzhi hoped to qualify for the Europa League, with Champions League qualification only an outside chance realistically. By the time Anzhi lined up against Lokomotiv the latter were already champions. A win for Anzhi would see them move into second (final champions league place) with two games remaining. Ruslan decided to revert back to his more defensive 4141 for these final games. A 2-1 win against Lokomotiv, only their third defeat, marked one of the best performances of the save (This game will be this edition’s Match in Focus, which I will release as a separate post in a couple of days time.). The 1-0 win against Ufa echoed earlier games in April were Anzhi struggled to create anything against an opponent who was happy to sit deeper. The goal finally coming from a rebound after Sobol missed a penalty. So, it was down to a one-game playoff for Champions League football next season against current champions Spartak Moscow.

Table prior to Champions League decider against Spartak

A draw was enough for Anzhi, and Ruslan channelled his inner Mourinho to record a shithousery 0-0. This game was duller than a TedRedwood premier and Ruslan couldn’t be happier.

‘Keeper MOTM says it all

A second-place finish represents Anzhi’s best ever finish in the league, and Ruslan was well on his way to becoming a club legend, along with another season of champions league football and all its riches. The grit and determination shown over the final three games, a particular highlight.

Final standings, best-ever finish for Anzhi.

End of Season

Konstantin Savichev was again named fans player of the year leading the assist charts with 14, a new club record. He plays right wing but isn’t particularly fast or a great dribbler, or crosser, but his output is good. Ruslan does sometimes ponder if he could improve this further by bringing in someone more dynamic. Zhamaletdinov finished his debut season as the club’s top goalscorer with an impressive 13 goals, although only eight were scored in the league. For the first time in this save three Anzhi players made the Russian Premier League team of the year. Eduard Sobol, Denis Glushakov, and Timur Zhamaletdinov; all three brought in by Ruslan last summer.


Back in his safe house somewhere in the outer city limits of Lyiv, Ruslan switched on the news. EU leaders were meeting to impose sanctions on the Russian government for closing off the supply of gas and oil. Queues were already growing outside petrol stations, and public unrest was almost inevitable. The plan was working, the EU and NATO were weakening. Brexit had finally been completed, and agent Corbyn was gaining traction in the UK polls.

Comrade! If you have made it this far thanks very much for reading. If you haven’t a clue what is going on you can read earlier posts here.

You can find me on twitter here and I will also be providing sporadic updates about the save and various other things on my slack channel #fmeadster.

You can also follow Ruslan Chepiga on twitter.

Over and out FMEadster!

First half of season three – United Republic of Russia & Ukraine

It’s New Year’s Eve, a cold wind was blowing from the north but Ruslan had a warm feeling in his belly. The UN Security Council had just recognised the legitimacy of the United Republic of Russia & Ukraine, his friends Mike According and Ángel Bastardo are safe and have sought refuge in Colombia following the collapse of the Republic of La Plata.

(If you are interested in how this has been achieved see the slide show and timeline below. Some of this has already happened in your universe and some of it has yet to come to pass. Alternatively, if you don’t give a shit, move on to the update.).

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Timeline of events

Transfers

Despite a strong showing in the league last season, finishing 3rd, it was clear the squad needed significant improvements especially considering that European football was on the horizon.

More dynamism was needed in midfield, a box to box midfielder, and a mezzala are fairly demanding roles physically and mentally. Two important signings were made over the summer to address this weakness. Firstly, 23-year-old Astemir Gordyushenko comes in on a Bosman from CSKA Moscow. Secondly, much later in the window, Denis Glusakov approached the club and no time was wasted agreeing to a deal. He becomes Anzhi’s top earner on £10.5k/week.

Glushakov – mental!

The departure of South American strikers Juan Lescano and Andrés Ponce left a gaping hole up front. Two players were signed to provide adequate cover and competition. First up, Timur Zhamaletdinov arrived on a free, again from CSKA Moscow. A few weeks later, agents from Ukraine secured the signature of team leader Taras Puchkovskyiv from Poltava. Puchkovskyi became one of Ruslan’s key Ukrainian agent provocateurs.

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On deadline day the club managed to secure the loan, with an option to buy, model citizen, Eduard Sobol. Sobol became integral to the side in the Left Back position, so often a problem area for Anzhi. He was also the final Ukrainian piece in Ruslan’s puzzle, operation hammer and sickle was now in full swing.

July/August

Nice start

Nine matches across five weeks put a strain on the squad right from the start. A regulation win against Orenburg was followed by a regulation defeat to Krasnodar. Then we were drawn to play FC Zürich in the Champions League Best Placed Third Qualifying round. One fly in the ointment was the news that the Anzhi Arena could not be used for home European ties due to health and safety concerns. Anzhi would have to play their home games in the much smaller, but safer, Central Astrakhan Gazprom stadium, on the banks of the Volga River. Given Ruslan’s background in the Swiss league, confidence was high Anzhi could progress. It was not to be, Zürich scored two goals from corners while Anzhi offered nothing in return. Only one-half chance being created in the 90 minutes despite having 63% of the possession. The return leg wasn’t any better, another lacklustre performance and 1-0 defeat ended Anzhi’s champions league hopes before the Summer sun had set.

The remaining five matches in the League yielded five wins, five clean sheets, and seven goals scored. Anzhi were dominating the ball and taking their chances when they arrived.

September

Red circles

September saw the start of a little ‘wobble’ in form, a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Krylja Sovetov (a poor side who I have struggled to beat) was followed up in the league by a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal Tula. In between these games, Anzhi produced potentially the best performance of the save so far beating Sparta Prague 5-1 away from home, sending the 33 intrepid away supporters home happy. A hat trick of assists from right winger Konstantin Savichev a particular highlight. Onto the Kubok Rossii 5th round. The board expected the club to reach the 6th round, but after sacrificing the cup competitions during his tenure so far, Ruslan was aiming much higher this season. Drawing CSKA Moscow put a major dent in those aspirations,  a 4-4-1-1 was trialled and it performed fairly well. A penalty shoot-out defeat after a 1-1 draw was, however, ultimately disappointing. The final game of the month against Rostov was drifting towards a boring 0-0 until Ruslan pushed his wide midfielders up to the AM strata. Two late goals from Zhamaletdinov sealed a precious 2-0 win.

October

Traffic light month

The month started with a fantastic 2-0 win at the Central Astrakhan Gazprom stadium against Italian giants Roma. Two goals from corners and a red card for Lorenzo Pelligrini rather masked the backs to the wall nature of the game. Next up was a top of the table clash with unbeaten Lokomotiv Moscow. An early free-kick from Eduard Sobol was cancelled out late on by a fantastic bicycle kick from Oleg Shatov.

Thunderbastard

A draw was a fair result despite the lateness of the equaliser. Next up a trip to Moscow to take on CSKA, despite dominating proceedings Anzhi found themselves on the end of a 1-0 defeat thanks to a last minute goal from a corner. To add insult to injury Novoseltsev had just missed a penalty to put the Yellow-Greens ahead.

Swiss giants Young Boys were welcomed to Russia on matchday 3 of the Europa League. A 32nd-minute red card for Young Boys Central Midfielder Sékou Sanogo, along with an Anzhi goal from the resulting free-kick, had the home fans in raptures. It wasn’t to last as Anzhi, for the third game running, conceded in the last minute from a set piece. Extra training was arranged immediately, while Ruslan studied set piece routines from world-renowned expert Keysie Rensie. The 6th and final game of the month was a 1-0 win against Ufa in a game nobody will remember.

November

Greens!

A great month yielding 4 wins out of 5. Starting with back to back 3-1 victories against Young Boys and Orenburg respectively. Zenit were defeated 1-0 in St Petersburg in a dominating performance during which Zenit only managed one solitary shot off target. Sparta Prague were dispatched 3-0 meaning Anzhi secured qualification from the group with a game to spare. The month finished off with a visit from Krasnodar, who had recently sacked Olé Gunnar Solskjær. What followed, can only be described as a disgraceful, and equally inexplicable, crushing 5-2 defeat during which Anzhi found themselves 5-0 down with two of the goals being own goals from goalkeeper Kvaskhvadze; something which was to become a theme.

one of four own goals by my ‘keeper

December

Lovely league form

The month started with two, now regulation wins against Ural and Akhmet. Anzhi’s last Europa league game was a shoot out for top spot against Roma. Given that head to head was the deciding factor between teams on equal points, Anzhi could afford a 2-0 defeat and still top the group. Ruslan decided to give some minutes to players who, as yet, had not really featured this season. This proved to be a disastrous decision. Already 1-0 down when Centre Back Stezhko was sent off, Anzhi proceeded to concede another four goals, one of which was another own goal from goalkeeper Kvaskhvadze. A final score of 5-1 consigned Anzhi to second place.

Europa League qualification

In the final game before the winter break, Tambov were dispatched 5-0 in a game that included a hattrick of long shots from Denis Glushakov. All in all a fantastic start to the season, sitting second in the league with European knock-out football to look forward to during the long Russian winter break. I don’t think we can mount a title challenge but the aim for the second half of the season is certainly to hold onto second spot and qualify for the champions league again (Russia lost a champions league place just this season so third won’t be enough.). As for the Europa League, Ajax await in the knockout rounds during our winter break. It will be a big ask of the players to be ready for such a difficult game.

Table at the break

During the winter break, Ruslan has been on operations and been generally very busy with all things dark. This has been documented on the brilliant FM Grasshopper blog. Please check it out. A match in focus was also completed against according to FM, of one more game podcast fame, and was analysed by FM Grasshopper, this will serve as this editions “match in focus”.

Comrade! If you have made it this far thanks very much for reading. If you haven’t a clue what is going on you can read earlier posts here.

You can find me on twitter here and I will also be providing sporadic updates about the save and various other things on my slack channel #fmeadster.

You can also follow Ruslan Chepiga on twitter.

Over and out FMEadster!

My Review of Season 2 – Long Runs the Fox

Planning for season two was well underway when the bombshell came. Star left-back and player of the season Evengy Gapon, along with goalkeeper Alexandr Budakov wanted out, both wanted to leave for Rostov. Neither believed Ruslan could take the club further,  while he found their lack of faith disturbing,  Ruslan also knew this was a battle he could not win, but he was confident he would win the war. “The fox runs long my friends”, he muttered under his breath, as he smiled and waved them off.

Ruslan recognised the club needed cash and needed it fast. The two million raised from these two sales would help the club immensely in the short-term. Eleven players, mainly youngsters, had already been released to reduce the clubs swollen wage bill. Replacements would be difficult to source, the transfer embargo had only recently been lifted and consequently relatively little scouting had been done.

Agents (aka scouts in FM parlance) were dispatched across Eastern Europe to find willing recruits to the cause.

Transfers In

Dmytro Nemchaninov, A Ukrainian national, was brought in on a free to replace Gapon having been released from Krylja Sovetov. Decent pace, crossing, tackling, and immense natural fitness, along with the trait of ‘hugs the line’ were all attractive qualities. Wages of £2k per week also represented a saving of around £3k per week. A serious hip injury would limit his action after a promising start at Anzhi.

Gapon’s replacement

Roin Kvaskhvadze, a Georgian international, was brought in, also on a free, to replace Budakov. His request for the number 99 shirt was granted wholeheartedly. It wasn’t long before his performances in the first team would led to him requesting a new deal. Ruslan managed to put this off until the end of the season saving the club around £1.5K per week.

Budakov replacement

While happy with these replacements  neither would represent an improvement on the previous season’s squad. He needed a midfield maestro, someone with vision, flair and the technical quality to unlock defences. He was delighted when the opportunity to sign the Yenisey reject Yegor Ivanov was presented to him by his agent during a vodka fuelled party.

Ivanov the creator

Ruslan still had three more cards to play. Three ‘aces in the pack’ if you will. Musalov (DR), Karasev (CM), and Lescano (SC).

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All three had been on loan with a view to moving away from Anzhi permanently. All three would be first team players if Ruslan could ‘persuade’ them to stay.

Musalov had a young family so following an unannounced midnight visit to his family home, he was the first, and easiest to turn. Lescano was an Argentine national who Ruslan ultimately wanted out of the club. Between them they agreed to play out the season with Lescano free to leave in June 2020. Karasev was a different matter, he wanted out. Ruslan struggled to find his pressure point, this sort of strong-willed individual would have to be dealt with differently. After agreeing to accept any bid over £300k Ruslan went to work. He contacted every manager in Russia and after a gentle word or two with each, no bids were ever made despite several clubs reportedly being ‘interested’. Karasev would eventually fall in line.

Summer / Autumn

Following on from the successful end to season one Ruslan stuck with his 4231DM Wide. Initially this appeared to be a good decision with four wins and one draw in the first five games. But Ruslan found himself having to tweak the tactic in-game, more than he would like. In almost every match he had to pull his wide men back to make a flat 4411 and reduce the teams overall mentality from positive to balanced.

Undefeated in first five games – nice

Over the next four games Ruslan’s 4231/4411 combo was horribly exposed. Not only were Anzhi win-less across a month, they were significantly outplayed in every game, in every department. Foul counts were high and Anzhi conceded a penalty in five consecutive matches. This was indicative of players being caught out of position and scrambling too much.

Four consecutive defeats – not so nice

Ruslan decided to remove the AMC and use a DM to better protect the defence and help to retain possession. The evolution from 4231 – 4141 was complete. The results and performance improved immediately, and Anzhi would not lose another match before the winter break.

10 matches unbeaten; an Anzhi record

During this run of matches the form of striker Lescano really picked up, putting his terrible loan spell with Diego Mendoza’s Tobol behind him. He seemed to thrive in the freedom Ruslan had given him as a Complete forward on support. He would finish the season with 13 goals and 3 assists in 23 matches, with an average rating of 7.23. Uzbekistan international Xamdamov continued to impress every week in training and his performances cutting in from the left were vital to Anzhi’s attacking play. He also learnt the trait of switching the play, this along with his high vision led to some lovely cross-field passes to Savichev in space on the opposite wing. Savichev himself scored and assisted 8 goals with an average rating of 7.23 and had teams across Russia interested in him. Powerful Venezuelan CB Chancellor was marshalling the defence fantastically well. Strangely, Chancellor’s contract was set to expire during the winter break, and Ruslan knew he had to let the foreigner go and start scouting for his replacement immediately.

Table at the winter break – nice

All this left the table looking like this. Incredibly Ruslan’s Anzhi were second in the table heading into the winter break. Could a champions league charge really happen? The Moscow based sides would surely improve after faltering early in the season. Krasnodar, somewhat surprisingly, led the way managed by the world-class Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.


Winter Break

Stezhko a more than adequate replacement with room to improve.

Not too much business was done during the winter. Chancellor left at the end of his contract and the Anzhi agents highly recommended the transfer listed Stezhko as his replacement. A bid of £87k secured the young CB from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Krasnodar. Wages of just £2k per week represented a significant saving of £3k per week for Anzhi.

The winter break in Russia is almost three months long. Players go off on holidays and come back for, what essentially is, another pre-season. In both seasons of this save I haven’t been able to increase match sharpness ahead of the first league game back. This is despite playing many friendlies, similar to how I manage a normal pre-season. Anzhi went into their first game back with match sharpness across the squad averaging around 60% and I believe it showed. Is there something else I need to do?


Spring

After the winter break a really lifeless draw against local rivals Akhamt was followed up by a great 2-1 victory, in the snow, against CSKA Moscow, with Lescano getting both goals after crosses from Savichev.

Next up was Krasnodar, amazingly this was 1st versus 2nd and will be this posts Match In Focus (click the image below to be taken to the match report. This picture was lovingly prepared by FMGrasshopper).


 

Click the image to be taken to the match in focus.

 


 

A 3-2 reverse was still a commendable performance and Ruslan was pleased with his side’s battling qualities. A comfortable win against Krylja Sovetov, who had beaten Anzhi earlier in the season rounded off a good month.

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Onto April and another defeat to Zenit was followed up by a regulation win against strugglers Yenisey before Ruslan’s men met CSKA again only three weeks after their first meeting. Another victory provided proof Anzhi were the real deal this season and looking at the fixtures ahead Ruslan started to believe Champions League qualification could actually happen.

Successive draws to Lokomotiv and Orenburg as well as a late Spartak Moscow charge meant Anzhi dropped to third but there was still plenty of breathing room between them and Rostov in fourth. A Friday night victory against Ufa, in the penultimate match week, meant if Rostov failed to beat Dinamo Moscow the following afternoon, Anzhi would secure Champions League football.

“the fox runs long my friend”

Ruslan hadn’t forgiven Gapon or Budakov for leaving Anzhi in favour of Rostov. Sure players will leave, but to leave because they didn’t believe in him, in his message, this can not be tolerated.

At the final whistle with a 3-1 defeat for Rostov confirmed, the Fox showed himself. Ruslan, his face concealed, scaled the touch-line fence and made straight for Gapon. There was confusion and panic amongst stewards and officals. Ruslan walked purposely forward, undeterred, his face emotionless and steadfast. He smiled, kissed Gapon on the cheek, grasped the back of his neck and whispered, “your girlfriend squealed my name tonight”, he grabbed Gapon’s hand, and from his mouth spat a delicate, well manicured, ladies finger. As the police rushed in to gain control of the ensuing melee, a dark, solitary figure walked calmly from the pitch, and disappeared into the shadows; grinning.

Third placed finish for Anzhi and Champions League football secured for 2020.

End of season

Player of the season was right-winger Konstanin Savichev with average rating of 7.23, 8 assists and 8 goals. Worth noting that Ruslan’s three ‘aces in the pack’ all made the team of the season and were integral to the sides success. The Battle is on to keep Karasev who still wants a move and Lescano has already been allowed to leave on a free. There are still significant gaps that need filling ahead of the champions league campaign.

While Ruslan was pleased at his team’s performance what pleased him more was being award Manager of the Year in Russia. An honour bestowed to only the very best managers. He managed to see off a challenge from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which was pleasing in itself.

Comrade! If you have made it this far thanks very much for reading. If you haven’t a clue what is going on you can read earlier posts here.

You can find me on twitter here and I will also be providing sporadic updates about the save and various other things on my slack channel #fmeadster.

You can also follow Ruslan Chepiga on twitter.

 

My first days at Anzhi #FM19

Service station FM

It’s Friday 8 June, Ruslan has been formally appointed the manager of Anzhi Makhachkala.  He has met the board, who were equally keen to meet the man appointed by the Kremlin to take over their club. In the distance, a car bomb explodes killing nine and injuring twenty more, mainly police.  It would prove to be the largest attack in months. Ruslan knew it was happening, but a government double agent was involved, so he advised against any intervention. Besides, a Russian government think-tank recently concluded that a top-notch club, loyal to the Kremlin, could change attitudes in the region. Another bomb attack would help strengthen this view amongst key decision makers. Forcibly installing Ruslan as manager, along with an 80 million Ruble sweetener, was a small price to pay for a shot at stability in the Caucasus.

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My Manager

Ruslan Chepiga. “It’s the dose that makes it poison.”

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Ruslan Chepiga walked through the dusty streets of Kaspiysk, it was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Just five years ago promises were made to turn his beloved Anzhi into a footballing powerhouse. Now all that is left is a shell of the club he loved as a boy, and it is his mission to revive this dream.

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