GENERICO.ruSportZenit was almost jinxed. Semak's team still has a lot of problems

Zenit was almost jinxed. Semak's team still has a lot of problems

An enchanting ending to the next RPL season made Zenit the champion for the sixth time in a row. Even half an hour before the end of the 30th round of matches, such a development of events did not look like something realistic, but Krasnodar first helped the St. Petersburg team, and then Sergei Semak’s team itself dealt with Rostov and secured another title.
From disappointment to insane happiness The main positive result of the championship that ended until the final whistle at the Gazprom Arena was the absence of matches at the end of the tournament in which teams without serious motivation gave points in advance to those who desperately needed them. “Rubin” and CSKA did not allow “Zenith” to celebrate their sixth consecutive championship ahead of schedule, and the Muscovites also sent six goals to the Nizhny Novgorod team and problems associated with maintaining a place in the RPL. If we talk about the rivals of St. Petersburg, then only Akhmat provided the most favored nation treatment. After all, Sergei Semak’s team could well have lost points in home matches with Baltika and Orenburg, playing to maintain a minimal advantage in the score. These games were a blast. With “Fakel” – no.

And in the final round, the Rostovites were definitely not going to help Zenit continue their championship streak at first. Already in the first half, Kirill Shchetinin and Daniil Utkin had good chances to score. The few threats of the still reigning champions were easily averted by Sergei Pesyakov, who decided to say goodbye to “Rostov” beautifully. And Ronaldo’s goal after the visitors went 3-on-2 completely sent the stadium into shock. And what’s interesting: an account was opened in Krasnodar literally immediately.

The penalty was preceded by a long VAR check, although the handball was seen even from the upper tiers. Once again VAR turned on after Mateo Cassierra's beautiful goal, although in this episode the offside at the beginning of the attack was also obvious. Naturally, having modern phones, everyone knew how the match was going in Krasnodar. Only the replacement of Cassierra with Rodrigao raised questions. How many times this season has Zenit lost a minimal lead in the score in the last minutes and even in stoppage time!
One could talk as much as one wants about the unpredictable outcome in the championship race, but a moment after the final whistle a printed “Winning Program” was brought into the press box. It included the joy of the team on the field, the opening of the “Thank you for the season” banner in the central circle, as well as numerous activities for fans on the street and even the lighting of the Rostral Columns. Apparently in St. Petersburg they knew for sure that Mumi Ngamale would not score in Krasnodar during stoppage time.

Previous Zenit dramas Although Zenit fans remembered very well how in the spring of 2015 the St. Petersburg team recruited their first championship star. It was enough for them to play away in a draw with Ufa in the 28th round. The team, which then made its debut in the RPL under the leadership of Igor Kolyvanov, due to the lack of a licensed arena, played home matches in Perm and Saransk. Surprisingly, fearing a violent outburst of emotions from St. Petersburg fans, the Perm police categorically refused to guarantee safety and the absence of destruction on the city streets. Although in September the visit of Spartak fans to the banks of the Kama River did not frighten law enforcement officers.

Nine years ago, on the initiative of the leaders of Zenit, who have now become the leaders of the RFU, the home arena for Ufa became… the Petrovsky stadium in the northern capital. The nominal guests received all the proceeds from the game, as well as a point, which helped them avoid even the play-offs. Zenit clearly did not want to smash the opponent. It was more important to give the city a holiday; fortunately, the local police guaranteed order and even cleanliness on the streets and embankments.
In the recent history of Zenit, miracles have happened in the form of help from unmotivated opponents. In the fall of 2007, when Dick Advocaat's team was fighting on two fronts, fighting for the championship and for exiting the group in the UEFA Cup, its fate on the European stage was entirely in the hands of its rivals. Then the group tournament consisted of only four matches, two home and two away.
“Zenith” in the last round, which was held in December, was free from the game, and could get into the playoffs only if the Dutch AZ misfired in the home match with the English “Everton”, which with three victories had already secured first place by that time in Group. So what did you think? The Liverpool team, as if ordered, won in Alkmaar. Like the Croats at Wembley in the Euro 2008 qualifying round! Everyone remembers how that UEFA Cup ended. For those who have forgotten, let me remind you: with the performance of the Zenit anthem after the victory in the final in Manchester over Glasgow Rangers.
Only then it was a different Zenit: young, daring, hungry for victories and speaking Russian. A translator was needed only by the Advocate, the two Korean legionnaires he brought, and Fatih Tekke, who replaced the disqualified Pavel Pogrebnyak in Manchester. Even Alejandro Dominguez and Nicholas Lombaerts, at a minimum, perfectly understood our great and mighty, and Anatoly Timoshchuk, Ivica Krizanac and Radek Shirl could, if necessary, give the “St. Petersburg boys” the full program without any problems. At the current Zenit, we still need to reach the minds and hearts of the Brazilians. At just the right moment, Semak seemed to get through.

Faith in SemakThe decision of the Zenit management not only to extend the contract with Semak, but also to give him carte blanche for many, by coaching standards, years, I am convinced, is absolutely correct . Which of the current experts from the country's only specialized sports television channel can cope better with the work in St. Petersburg, which has its own specifics?

The only candidate that “ordinary fan” Alexey Miller can pay attention to is Andrei Sergeevich Arshavin. Only he does not have the minimum coaching experience, nor his own team, and the calmness in critical situations and diplomacy necessary for the head coach of Zenit – I would venture to say – too. Looking for a mentor for the Zenit Brazilians in their homeland is completely useless. They can’t find the national team coach there. Well, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho, who were released after this season, are unlikely to be interested in even a super financially profitable offer from Russia.
I do not agree with those who belittle the coaching merits of the current Zenit coach. Over the course of five championship seasons, Semak has grown into a top coach, at least by RPL standards. Let's remember how he revealed Artem Dzyuba, who was accustomed to the comfort regime with partners such as Hulk and Axel Witsel, and how he varied tactical schemes depending on the players at his disposal. And even Malcolm played for him in his fourth season at Zenit, showing his ability to decide the outcome of a meeting through individual skill.

What to do next I’ll risk expressing an even more paradoxical thought: Zenit’s management needs to give Semak broader powers to staff the roster and influence all aspects of club life. The St. Petersburg team has not had a sports director for a long time. Everything is decided collectively at meetings of the board, to which Sergei Bogdanovich was only recently introduced. So he has to work with those who were provided. After the end of the autumn part of the championship, I asked if his opinion was taken into account when forming the roster. As always diplomatically, Semak replied: “I would like to believe that it is taken into account.”

But this is not the first season that he has been forced to spend the winter off-season, if not patching up holes in the squad, then introducing new key players into it. Even Malcolm needed time to start playing in a new championship and in a new country. Meanwhile, the chairman of the club's board, Alexander Medvedev, has repeatedly emphasized his talents as a negotiator with his Brazilian partners. So the result is a bias towards Zenit from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, as Dzyuba ironically noted. This season, after the departure of Malcolm and Daler Kuzyaev, as well as Wendel’s demarche during the first round, it was simply difficult, and the points lost during this period might not have been enough for the sixth championship.
The campaign, the refrain of which, also played a negative role there was a phrase: “Zenit” will still become the champion, and it can only lose to itself.” So it lost to “Rubin”, “Dynamo” Moscow and CSKA, also missing two points in Voronezh. Surprisingly, a new campaign has already begun on the eve of the official 100th anniversary of Zenit. They demand from Semak: take out and put away the gold medals in May 2025. It is unlikely that this psychological pressure will contribute to the team’s victories. Maybe it’s better to start recruiting a balanced championship team, which will include motivated ones. legionnaires, and Russian football players who do not polish the “bench”, receiving a salary only for a passport.


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