The last time we heard from General Chepiga, Georgia had fallen, and Russia had regained control over Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan had both since agreed to rejoin the Federation, but retain some degree of autonomy from the Kremlin, extending Russia’s influence back into Central Asia.
What Chepiga and Russia needed now, was access to ports, the Navy could no longer function holed up in the Black Sea, and in the small port of Kaliningrad. The Northern Fleet in the Arctic can only operate in summer, as bases are frozen for the rest of the year unless Climate Change gets its act together and sorts this out; Ruslan can but hope. In the meantime, it was time to expand into the Baltic states.
Europe was divided, the #Itexit and #Grexit movements were gathering pace. The US and Britain were no longer allies after a twitter exchange between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn, regarding Palestine, turned sour. Corbyn had already cancelled the Trident programme and ordered American bases in the UK be closed. Without the US/UK axis, NATO was significantly weakened. If Europe was to be invaded, now was the time.
The invasion of the Baltics did not take long, within 14 days The Red Army had annexed Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania defied the Russians for a further five days before succumbing during a massive offensive that later became known as, ‘the Baltic Terror’.
The Western allies sent forces to their NATO allies but not in the numbers required to adequately halt the Russian advance. Europe was becoming more insular, the desire to defend someone else’s borders had waned significantly.
By the third week, the US finally sent the USS America to the area, as it entered the Baltic Sea, the Kremlin declared any further incursion into Russian waters would be met with a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Stockholm (a clever move given Sweden was not part of NATO). Belarus was also ordered to surrender, or a similar fate would be bestowed upon Minsk.
Ruslan was content that this phase of the mission was progressing well, life was good. That was until he received some shocking news coming out of Makhachkala.
There was not a chance Ruslan could stand for this cowardly insubordination from the Chairman, at least tell me to my face like a man, he thought. A meeting was called immediately.
“Mr Osmanov, I think there has been a misunderstanding. Murta is not to be sold, I have singled him out since he was 15 as a potential leader of the new Russia, of the new Anzhi.” Ruslan’s voice was eerily soft.
“Ruslan, the offer is too good to turn down.” The Chairman was clearly nervous.
“Whatever they are offering you, your friends in the Kremlin will double it Mr Osmanov. Now reject the fucking bid!” Ruslan’s gazed pierced a hole deep into Osmanov’s soul.
“Remember Mr Chairman, this illusion of order you enjoy, it only holds as long as the men at arms allow it to. I am a man at arms, you would do well not to forget it again.” Ruslan pinched Osmanov’s cheek on his way out of the office.
The transfer was cancelled.
Last time we left Anzhi, the 2022 World Cup had started (won by France again, if you are interested.) meaning Anzhi took a long winter break that was interrupted for a dead rubber Europa League game and Kubok Rossii Quarter Final first leg. Both games were won comfortably and Anzhi properly returned to action on 28th January 2023, sitting 3rd in the league, but with games in hand on Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow.
Looking at Prem’yer Liga form, things couldn’t really be better, five games, four wins and a draw, eleven goals scored, and only two against. This form put us right in the title race. Two games a week throughout the month meant plenty of rotation was required.
I have a system for rotation, I identify matches as either 1) Full side required; 2) Rotation side required; 3) Send out the reserves (which I only use if I’m prepared to lose the match.). If I decide to rotate, I only ever rotate four players, the four players with the lowest condition – no exceptions. For this to be successful I obviously require a strong squad, which is key to long term success.
During the month, we played Southampton in the first knockout round of the Europa League. This would be a one-legged affair due to the truncated nature of the 2022/23 season after the World Cup. Surprisingly, we overcame the English side 3-1 despite only having 38% possession. All three goals coming from set pieces, and I’m not one bit ashamed about it!
Our run in the Kubok Rossii continued as rivals Akhmat were defeated 5-2 on aggregate. We drew Lokomotiv Moscow in the semi-finals and lost a tight first leg 1-0 at the Anzhi Arena. We would have it all to do in the return leg, in a months time.
March started off with some disheartening news regarding our Ukrainian goalkeeper, Maxim Koval. The day before we welcome #CalcioFM giants Lazio to the River Volga, for a one-legged last 16 tie in the Europa League, he pulled a hamstring, kicking a ball of all things.
As a rule, I don’t normally inject players, but I felt the drop to our young reserve ‘keeper was too great for such an important match. After much discussion in my slack channel (#fmeadster), Ruslan decided to contact his old friend Ángel Bastardo and requested some of his magic, Mongolian bull semen, to aid his ailing Goalkeeper. He also went out and bought some fake French Viagra from Lyon manager, Frank Larousse. Ruslan administered the concoction personally as no right-minded Physio would agree to do it.
Anzhi dominated Lazio and could’ve won by more, but it still took a late goal from Danii Utkin for us to secure the win. Koval was unavailable for the next three games but wasn’t missed as our good form continued, a 2-2 draw with Rostov the only blemish on an otherwise perfect month. We even overcame Lokomotiv in Moscow in the second leg of our Kubok Rossii semi-final, thanks to a dramatic penalty shoot-out, Polish youngster Fabian firing home the winning penalty. We would play CSKA Moscow in the final at the end of May.
April of season five was undoubtedly the most challenging of this save so far. Meier got injured halfway through the month and was out for the rest of the season, the squad was tired, and almost every game saw me rotate my maximum of four players. After defeating Dinamo 3-1, we had our Europa League semi-final with Tottenham Hotspur. The first leg in London was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve had so far in #FM19.
We went with our strongest eleven. Tottenham looked strong, with Bruno Fernandes, and Christian Eriksen in midfield. I did notice Wanyama was playing Centre Back and hoped Petr Blazek could cause him some issues. Tottenham started brightly and took the lead on eleven minutes when Hairy Kane latched onto a Danny Rose through ball, between our two Centre Backs, Bondarenko and Murta. His early shot beating Koval at his near post. Somewhat against the run of play, we were level just two minutes later. Hugo Lloris dropping a Meier corner right at the feet of Artem Davydov, who fired home from close range.
After the frantic start, we started to get a hold of the game and had a few good opportunities. But, on 42 minutes Kane once again ran onto a through ball, this time from Lucas Moura, Kane’s shot hit the post and rebounded off Koval’s back and dribbled into the net – we’ve all seen it.
One thing I had noticed during the first half was the positioning of English Wonderkid, Scott Orr. He was staying very high, and very wide on Tottenham’s right-hand side, even when they were defending. He was always open and free for a direct ball in behind our attacking wing back. While he hadn’t actually produced anything, I felt it was only a matter of time before he did. So, at half time I moved my wing back to support, told him to tackle harder, and set opposition instructions on Orr to be shown onto his weaker foot, marked tighter, and tackled harder. It proved successful, below shows his touches in the first 45mins compared to his touches in the second 45mins, when he barely saw the ball, before being substituted in the 80th minute.
In the second half, we really took the game to Tottenham, but Blazek was struggling to get involved. I replaced him on 59 minutes with Fabian, and the impact was immediate. Fabian scoring a beautiful equaliser on 64 minutes. He has the player trait ‘comes deep to get the ball’, and I think it helped us in the final 30 minutes to control the game better.
Despite putting Tottenham under considerable pressure, in the final 25 minutes, we couldn’t find a winner and the game finished 2-2. I’m very hopeful we can progress with the home leg still to come.
In between the first and second leg, we trounced Ural 5-0 at home, this was particularly pleasing, as I sent the reserves out ahead of the crucial second leg with Spurs. Unfortunately, the second leg was a drab affair, we struggled to gain a foothold in the game and were dominated throughout. We eventually fell to a Dele Alli header. I feel we missed our chance to progress in the first leg when we were the better side.
Subsequent draws against Akhmat and Zenit, plus a scrappy, but vital, 1-0 win against Ufa, left the league very tight. I was starting to feel the long season had taken its toll on the squad. Watching the matches our passing wasn’t sharp, our closing down seemed slower, and chances weren’t coming around as easily as they had earlier in the season. The next game against Lokomotiv was crucial, it was our game in hand to Spartak Moscow. Win, and we’d go top, draw and it would be all square, lose and Lokomotiv would be right up our arse.
I decided to sit deep and wait for Lokomotiv to come at us, I would take a draw as we had the better head to head record on Spartak. I also knew Spartak were due to play Lokomotiv in a couple of weeks time. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier with the awful 0-0 that followed, there was barely a highlight in the whole game and we finished on 42% possession.
Now the run in really began, three games left each amongst the three protagonists. (+ excuse the table, I don’t get that nice news item in Russia)
|Anzhi Makhachkala (63 pts)||Spartak Moscow (63 pts)||Lokomotiv Moscow (59 pts)|
|Zenit (H)||Arsenal Tula (A)||Krasnodar (H)|
|Sovetov (A)||Lokomotiv (H)||Spartak (A)|
|Krasnodar (H)||Rostov (A)||Rubin Kazan (H)|
Spartak drew 0-0 with Arsenal Tula, while we defeated Zenit 2-1. After taking an early lead I again sat deep and let them come to us, we finished on a pleasing 37% possession. Lokomotiv easily defeated Krasnodar 3-1 the next day.
Next up was the big match in Moscow between Spartak and Lokomotiv. Any slip up by Spartak would mean a victory against Kyrlja Sovetov in our next match would see us crowned champions.
A perfect result for Anzhi, a win against perennial bogey team Kyrlja Sovetov, would now see the Prem’yer Liga title head to Makhachkala for the first time in our history, and out of Moscow for the first time in this save.
Don’t forget we also end the season with the final of the Kubok Rossii against CSKA Moscow. So, in an FM_SAMO style cliffhanger, join me next time to see if we managed to actually win anything.
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 also follow Ruslan Chepiga on twitter.
Over and out