On Saturday, Spartak will host Sochi. Last season, the southerners were strong middle peasants, and a year earlier they were generally the second team in the Russian championship. However, now they are doing very poorly: their place in the table is among the outsiders of the RPL, and their current form is frankly depressing: seven defeats in the last eight games. This, of course, if we take into account the penalty miss in the cup match against CSKA. Let’s try to figure out why this cute team looks so bad now.
CSKA beat Sochi on penalties in Russian Cup match
The drop in the number of threats to other people’s targets is immediately noticeable. After all, if you don’t shoot on goal, how are you going to score? In the current season of the national championship, Sochi is only in the penultimate place among all participants in terms of the number of shots – 10.1 (15th place). Things were better in the previous two seasons, although for the second year in a row the downward trend in the number of shots was noted: 12.1 last year, 14.5 the year before.
Interestingly, in terms of ball possession, the team did not give up as much and in this indicator it is still in the top half of the RPL clubs: 50.4% (seventh place) versus 51.8% and 54, 5% in previous seasons (in both cases 4th place). It turns out that the team is still trying to dictate its conditions on the field, but possession of the ball becomes more and more sterile and less often leads to a threat to the other’s goal.
We also observe that the Sochi players have become less careful in their passes: 74.6% success rate in the current national championship, against 77.9% and 78.9% in the previous ones, when they were among the 5 best teams in this indicator.
The only thing Sochi has significantly improved on is horseback martial arts. In this sense, the club is currently the best in the Russian Premier League, although previously it did not exceed the league average.
Interestingly, when it comes to defensive play, the Sochi team did not seem to have given up much. They allow shots on goal with about the same frequency as in previous seasons. Specifically, in the past it was even a little worse than now: 13.1 compared to 12.9. The problem is that all the other clubs have improved in defense. And if before these numbers were enough to be among the 7 best in defense, now they are already among the 5 weakest.
Another problem can be considered that the club is having a hard time recovering the ball. 6.3 interceptions on average per game is only third from bottom in the RPL. Last year there was a very strong 13.1 (in the top 4 by indicator), so the drop in this case is especially strong and therefore notable.
At the same time, it is wrong to think that previously Sochi had much stronger players individually who would take over the game. This is usually done by the guys from the attacking group, but in terms of one-on-one victories, the team in recent years has been among the laggards, not surpassing the bottom four.
In terms of trends, it can be noted that Sochi are less likely to make short passes – a drop from 394 to 327 such passes on average per match. This could be attributed to the decrease in time on the ball, which we talked about before, but the truth is that the number of long passes has barely changed. Perhaps the team simply does not feel confident that it can beat the opponent with few hands, so it prefers to play with longer passes, in which the attackers will try to hold on to the balls or throw them to their teammates.
Among the players, it should be noted that Christian Noboa lost notably. Last season he scored 11 goals, scored in almost every other game, and now so far only has one goal to his name. And in general, the quality of the game is not as high as before. But this is one of the key players in Sochi. To some extent we can say that Martin Kramaric successfully replaced him, but these are players of different positions, so it is not entirely correct to say so.
Also in the previous season of the RPL, the club’s veterans performed well: Nikita Burmistrov became Sochi’s best assister with five assists, and Artur Yusupov, according to the “goal plus pass” system, was second after Noboa with three goals and four assists. In the current championship, both are still not particularly useful.
It turns out that Sochi has gotten a little worse on almost all indicators. Spartak will not be able to win with head-to-head combat alone, so this is an excellent opportunity for the red and white to relieve some of the pressure that has begun to be felt lately against the background of unsuccessful results. But Sochi will have to continue thinking about how to improve the situation.