Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Hello. This blog has company again. Freelance journalist James Appell has returned once more, this time to help Never Mind the Bolsheviks pick its Russian Premier League team of the season.
GoalkeeperAndriy Dykan, Terek Grozny/Spartak MoskvaJames: “Dykan has made a phenomenal transformation from a journeyman in the twilight of his career at Terek to Spartak's number one and a Ukraine international - all in less than six months.”
Right-backAleksandr Anyukov, Zenit St Petersburg James: “There's no one to touch Anyukov in the Russian league. He's the archetype of the modern full-back, as dangerous bombing forward as he is secure at the back."
Left-backGeorgi Schennikov, CSKA MoskvaNMTB: “Left-back wasn't the easiest of positions to fill; there wasn't really a stand-out candidate. Renat Yanbaev has certainly improved at Lokomotiv Moskva this season, but we’ve opted for Schennikov. The 19-year-old was young player of the year in 2009 and was almost ever-present in the CSKA defence this time round.”
Centre-backNicolas Lombaerts, Zenit St PetersburgNMTB: “Did a sterling job at the back for Zenit this season. He was a regular in Luciano Spalletti’s defence that only Rubin Kazan conceded less than in Russia. A former law student, Lombaerts speaks four languages and fans in his native Belgium have nicknamed him ‘Mountain’.”
Centre-backSergei Ignashevich, CSKA MoskvaJames: “This is the 10th season in a row that 31-year-old Ignashevich has featured in the league's official team of the year, and deservedly so. Russia's best defender, and he has to be, with the dodgy Berezutsky twins alongside him.”
Right midfieldDanny, Zenit St Petersburg NMTB: “My player of the season. After his long spell out injured Danny came back with a bang. He scored a superb solo effort on the opening day away to Krylya Sovetov Samara to announce his return and didn’t look back. Ten league goals and six assists is a great return.”
Left midfieldAlan Kasaev, Rubin KazanJames: “In a league short of left-sided talent, Kasaev has distinguished himself on the flank since his switch to Rubin last season. Sports a cracking mullet too.”
Centre midfieldRoman Shirokov, Zenit St PetersburgJames: “Has converted himself from a competent centre-half into a top-class holding midfield player this year, the bedrock of Zenit's title-winning side. The new Anatoliy Tymoshchuk?”
Centre midfieldOlexandr Aliyev, Lokomotiv MoskvaNMTB: “Aliev has been excellent in Russia since joining Lokomotiv from Dynamo Kyiv and especially in the earlier part of the season, his goals were crucial for Yuri Semin’s side. The Ukrainian international scored 14 times from midfield.”
Centre forwardAleksandr Kerzhakov, Zenit St PetersburgJames: “Never looked like getting near the team of the year until Zenit signed Aleksandr Bukharov in August. Since then, 17 goals in 18 matches in all competitions has made him indispensable.”
Centre forwardWelliton, Spartak MoskvaNMTB: “Once again, Welliton has had a fine season leading the line at Spartak. He scored successive hat-tricks in August and his form has sparked debate about whether the uncapped Brazilian should represent Russia. Dick Advocaat could probably do with a striker who’s scored 19 goals in 25 league games this year…”
Subs: Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan), Viktor Vasin (Spartak Nalchik), Ibson (Spartak Moskva), Christian Noboa (Rubin Kazan), Vladimir Bystrov (Zenit St Petersburg), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moskva), Vágner Love (CSKA Moskva).
ManagerLuciano Spalletti, Zenit St Petersburg NMTB: “It might seem an easy choice, picking the manager of the champions, but Spalletti has done a super job in his first season at Zenit. He was able to implement his ideas quickly and got the team playing the way he wanted to from the off; Zenit were arguably the most consistent side in the Premier League this year.”
Have we missed anyone out? Let us know, for goodness’ sake.
James Appell is a freelance journalist and blogs regularly over at the Football Ramble and ITV.com. By his own admission, he is a sports-obsessive Russophile northerner with a soft spot for Spartak Moskva. Take a read of his blog, The Cynical Challenge; you’ll probably really like it.
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