ARSEN GOES TO SPAIN
It started to look like all the European club interest in Zakharyan was too abstract, so Real Sociedad turned up just in time. To some it may seem that the 12 million euros announced in the press are not enough, but it is important to understand the context. First, no one else offers. Second, the club has paid more than five times in its history. Thirdly, Arsene ran the risk of slowing down his development, so the Blue and Whites had to sell him.
La Liga is considered a tournament that favors technical players, so Zakharyan should like it. The Russian likes to play with the ball, beat opponents and shoot on goal, even from a distance. True, sometimes he is too focused on the goal and does not try to improve the momentum by passing to a teammate who is in a more advantageous position, but in San Sebastián they will teach him to look around better.
In the comments on Russian sports sites, you can find a lot of criticism of Zakharyan. Fans believe that he lost a lot last season, so nothing shines for him in a stronger championship. But they don’t see the context: Arsen in Slavisa Jokanovic moved from the attack group to the midfield, receiving the role of “box-to-box”. Of course, this affected the overall effectiveness and entertainment of the actions. But the player has acquired new skills.
IS ROYAL PARTNERSHIP RIGHT FOR ZAKHARYAN?
The team coach Imanol Alguasil has been in charge of the Basques since the end of 2018. In San Sebastián they have no soul in him. According to the local press, he is the club’s most Basque coach in the last 30 years, fulfilling all the cultural requirements. For this region of Spain with strong traditions in terms of self-identification, this is a significant factor.
At the same time, the mentor has a number of other notable qualities that endear him to fans. He is characterized as a calm and down-to-earth person who doesn’t run around on the sidewalk like crazy, never complains about the judges and tries to trust the youngsters (to Arsen for a note).
Of course, none of this would have worked without the game being delivered. It is based on ball possession (56.7% last season – fourth in the league) and reliable short passes, not on individual qualities. It should be noted that last season the team was fourth in the league in possession (56.7%) and average assists (462.8), but 13th in hit attempts (8.1) and 17th in long assists ( 25.4)
And possession is not sterile. There are also vertical passes contrary to the objective of catching the opponent in a loss of concentration. It is the presence of a considerable number of such risky and sharp passes that means that Real Sociedad is not among the leaders of the championship in terms of percentage of successful passes: 81.9% is only eighth place. However, it will not only be Zakharyan’s ability to distribute passes that will come in handy, but also his focus on striking: the club is ninth in terms of average number per game (12.3), and from outside the penalty area overall 13. (4,2).
All this was exactly the opposite of the style of Asier Garitano, who was replaced by Alguasil. The specialist, who only lasted six months in the team, preferred to go on the attack through long forward throws. Of course, against this background, the combined and spectacular game immediately fell in love with the fans. However, critics say that Imanol pays too much attention to attack, so the defense suffers. They also note that the mentor is quite weak in terms of permutations and changes to the pattern of play over the course of unsuccessful matches.
WHAT ABOUT THE RESULTS?
They speak for themselves under Alguasil. In his first full season at the helm, he led his charges to sixth in the championship and never lowered that bar in the future, last season even climbing into the top four and reaching the Champions League group stage.
It is interesting that Real Sociedad in this century produces the most successful seasons consistently in ten-year increments: in 2003 – second place, in 2013 and 2023 – two quarters. And the most successful years came in the early 80s, when the Basques were proclaimed national champions twice in a row (1981-1982).
SAN SEBASTIAN FOR THE RUSSIANS
Real Sociedad’s silver success is more directly related to Russian footballers. Valery Karpin spent a total of five seasons at the Club in two careers: 180 games and 36 goals. Dmitry Khokhlov, whose transfer in 2000 was a record for the club (1.5 million euros), appeared on the field 111 times in three years in San Sebastián and scored 14 effective goals.
Sheriff’s favorite formation was considered to be the classic 4-2-3-1, but last season he experimented a lot, most of the time (in about half of the games) he stopped in the 4-1-3 formation. -2. And he played the first game of the new season with the 4-3-3 arrangement.
In any case, all of the above options imply the presence of two active attacking flank players. These positions are firmly held by Mikel Oyarzabal and Takefusa Kubo, so Arsen may not even be looking in that direction. In midfield, Martin Subimendi, Mikel Merino and Brais Mendes can be considered the main contenders for the starting positions. In addition, they have different strengths and complement each other perfectly.
And what happens then? For Zakharyan, there just isn’t a ready place at the start. He will have to be defeated by very strong competitors. However, do not think that we exaggerate unnecessarily. Real Sociedad is parting with a lot of money by their standards for the sake of a Russian soccer player, so definitely hope he can become at least a solid point guard. Also, the head coach loves and knows how to work with youngsters.
Although yes, at the beginning many times he will have to leave the bench. And here, by the way, the varied experience gained at Dynamo will come in handy: both in the attacking group and closer to the center of the field. This will allow Zakharyan to be the first choice for a replacement, no matter what position on the pitch needs to be filled.
In the end, let’s talk about the city itself, where Arsen is going to live and work. The bulk of Russian tourists do not know about this place, they are mainly interested in Madrid and Barcelona. Nui, maybe Seville.
But this is a stunning resort town on the shores of the Bay of Biscay. Its population is less than 200 thousand people, and the wonderful climate, sandy beaches and beautiful views cannot leave anyone indifferent. The border with France is easily accessible – 18 km.
San Sebastián is also famous for the International Film Festival, one of the best in the world, by the way. It is here that the events of the latest Woody Allen film “The Rifkin Festival” take place, which allows you to get a little acquainted with the beauties of the city.