Zenit Spring 2017 Review

I didn’t post here in quite a while. Due to a lack of time I didn’t watch much football lately. Normally I would watch each and every Zenit match but this spring I only occasionally watched them play. Anyway, this is what was happening with the team in the last 4 months or so:

Zenit got eliminated from the Europa League by Anderlecht. In the first leg away in Brussels the Petersburgers got beaten 0-2. The pitch was terrible and the team could not play their best football but still did not deserve to lose by two goals. Unfortunately Dzyuba was guilty of missing a couple of sitters. Things would have been different had he scored. In the return leg in St.Petersburg, Zenit played really well, scored three times and eliminated the deficit from the first leg, but just a few minutes before the end the visitors scored to make it 3-1 (3-3 on aggregate) and progressed on the away goal rule. Somewhat unlucky elimination for Zenit who overall are a much better team than Anderlecht.

In the domestic league, the crucial moment came in round 23 when Zenit travelled to Moscow to face Spartak on April 16. The Petersburgers were trailing their hosts in the standings by a few points, and needed a win. However Spartak won the game 2-1 and proceeded to become the Russian champions, teir first title in 16 years. Zenit completely fell apart at the end of the season and only managed to end the season in third place, behind not only Spartak, but also CSKA. The team didn’t qualify for the Champions League and will start the next European season in the Europa League qualification round.

So, in his first season with Zenit, Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu had his team eliminated both from the Russian Cup and the Europa League, and finished third in the domestic league, missing on the Champions League place for the next season. This was a total failure and Lucescu was promptly fired by the club at the end of the season. He reportedly got 2.5 million euro in compensation from Zenit. The club announced the signing of the new coach, Italian Roberto Mancini, on June 1, 2017. The Sampdoria legend in his time as a player, Mancini also became successful as a coach. He won the league title in Italy three times with Inter in 2005-2008, as well as in England with Mancester City once in 2011-2012.

Roberto Mancini

Another important piece of news is changes in the management team at Zenit. Sergey Fursenko returned as the president (formally director general) of the football club, replacing Aleksandr Dyukov who stays at the club in a different role. Fursenko had worked in this position before, in 2006-2008, and his name is associated with Zenit’s league title of 2007 (the first in post-Soviet era) and the UEFA Cup title of 2008, which is still the biggest success in club’s history.

Zenit made a significant numeber of new signings this summer. The following players have been signed by the time of this writing: defender Denis Terentyev (Rostov), midfielders Aleksandr Yerokhin (Rostov), Christian Noboa (Rostov), Daler Kuzyayev (Terek), Leandro Paredes (Roma), and forward Dmitry Poloz (Rostov). The signing of central defender Kostas Manolas from Roma was cancelled at the last minute, reportedly because the player declined to have his salary denominated in Russian roubles, insisting on hard currency. Other prospective signings include Argentinean forward Sebastian Driussi from River Plate and winger Cristian Pavon who is also from Argentina (Boca Juniors). Zenit’s long-serving Portuguese creative midfielder Danny is leaving the club to continue his career in Europe. Midfielder Artur Yusupov has also left, he went to Rostov. Some other players probably will be sold or loaned out. A big re-shuffle of the team is going on at Zenit.

After two seasons without any silverware, the message of all this early summer news couldn’t be more clear, and the message is: “We’re gonna start winning again!” Let’s see how it works out, will be interesting to watch.

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