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Find a replacement for Lovren and ensure Claudinho’s loyalty. Tasks from “Zenith” for the winter.

Date: May 31, 2023 Time: 06:23:20

The champions of recent years, of course, have the most complete squad in Russia, with practically no weak points. However, during the winter break they will also have to solve several problems to continue their next campaign for the gold and the Cup of the country in the second part of the season.


Sergei Semak has three goalkeepers at his disposal: the experienced Mikhail Kerzhakov, the promising Daniil Odoevsky and the solid reservist Alexander Vasyutin. The latter has just joined the team to replace Iván Quarezma. He, upon returning to Corinthians, went on loan for a year to Vasco da Gama.

If we look at the composition of Zenit’s outfield players and goalkeepers, it’s easy to see that the latter trio have far less status. Kerzhakov is a high-quality goalkeeper, but not one of the best (takes its toll, but rarely saves) and age (35), 19-year-old Odoevsky was not bad in the fall (3 of 4 RPL matches defended dry), but it is still difficult to assess their reliability. But of the two, Semak will have to choose.

Photo source: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / FC Zenit

I don’t think a regular shakeup in this position (Kerzhakov had 14 RPL games in the fall, Odoevsky had 4) will benefit the players. So Semak must decide whether to work for the future with Odoevsky, taking into account the risk of his mistake (it must be compensated by the team’s margin of safety), or to solve problems here and now (then an experienced Kerzhakov is suitable ).

The acquisition of an outside goalkeeper is hardly considered now, otherwise Vasyutin would not have been removed from Djurgården. Yes, and there can be only one candidate, but Krasnodar clearly does not intend to let Matvey Safonov go.


As much as the Croatian defender was criticized for playing for the club, he was the most experienced player on the team and a great professional with not only mental but also physical skills that are important for a central defender: Dejan is excellent in fighting, especially on the second floor.

With his departure, Dmitry Chistyakov becomes the main candidate for a place in the base – a quality player, but he has lost a lot while sitting on the bench. As evidenced by that depressing home game with Akhmat, after which he was nearly accused of deliberate treason. It is significant that in winter information emerged about the interest of St. Petersburg residents in Igor Diveev and Sverrir Ingason (the defender of the Icelandic national team and PAOK is known in Russia for playing in Rostov).

It seems that the blue and whites are willing to take a risk and not sign anyone. In any case, it is precisely in this logic that the redemption of Nuraly Alip, who was on loan, and the exchange of Yuri Alberto for Robert Renan fit into this logic. Both defenders are young and probably promising, but here and now Alip is definitely not ready to become a defensive figure comparable to not only Lovren, but even Rodrigao.

Photo source: Anna Meyer / FC Zenit

Renan, not only did not show something dazzling in Brazil, he also went to the South American Youth Championship, and will return at the end of the training camp on February 15. But for defensive players (and, first of all, central defenders), teamwork is one of the key aspects of success.

In addition, last year Semak began to turn around with schemes in three central defenses. In the fall, he used this move less often, but precisely because Lovren was in order. Now a pair of Chistyakov – Rodrigao could use one more comrade. Renan to take on this role, playing from the blade, or Alip, whose reliability is not sure?

It turns out that the center of defense and the goalkeeper line are the weak links in the game of “Zenith”, and with due luck, opponents can take advantage of this. Especially in the Russian Cup, where Wilmar Barrios, Malcolm and… Rodrigao will not be able to participate. But the champions have no more margin for error in this tournament.


In midfield and attack, St. Petersburg has a full load of ammunition. Maybe even exaggerated. But Semak’s choice is chic. But there are a couple of points. First of all, you need to make sure that Claudinho is committed to the colors of the club. The fact is that during the break there was news that Palmeiras really wanted to get the midfielder.

Photo source: FC Zenit

The Brazilians were immediately frightened by the requests from St. Petersburg (the start of negotiations at around 20 million euros), but the player himself, according to rumors, really wanted to return to his homeland. As if this refusal did not demotivate him. We all know what can happen to South American players when only contractual obligations hold them back. In addition to Palmeiras, there was information about the interest of Marseille, which also looks attractive for a footballer.


It seems that ‘Spartak’ attacking midfielder Alexey Miller signed just to annoy the rojiblancos. Because from the point of view of the game, Semak did not need him at all – only one start at the beginning of the RPL and only 304 minutes – less than, for example, Alexei Sutormin and three times less than Andrey Mostovoy.

Photo source: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / FC Zenit

Bakaev can’t compete with the Brazilians and didn’t get past the Russians in the fall, so keeping him in the team is expensive and risky in terms of the atmosphere in the locker room. Bakaev is not a fighter and will work quietly until the end, but sooner or later, without proper game practice, he can become toxic, especially late in the season when he finally realizes he is not counted on.


In addition, the contracts of Kerzhakov, Vasyutin, Vyacheslav Karavaev, Daler Kuzyaev and Gustavo Mantuan expire in the summer. The main figures here are Karavaev and Kuzyaev, since they are the base players. The first already has experience of acting in Europe, the second wants to acquire it, so it is not a fact that the negotiations are so easy.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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