Daniil knew that he had to get the players onside fairly quickly, as the new season was upon them come the start of July; 3 friendlies in place against Chaika Yubileiny (amateur outfit), SKA Khabarovsk (Russian First Division) and Dinamo Moscow (Premier League) meant that match fitness was the important factor.
Given that Daniil was managing in the lower reaches of Russian football, he thought it would be best to not complicate matters at this stage and keep the tactics as simple as simple could be:
A simple 4-4-1-1 that could transition into a 4-2-3-1 when an attacking threat is needed, and back into a 4-5-1 when a defensive performance was required. Daniil was fairly satisfied with this tactical setup knowing that he could get the best out of the current crop of players. The amateur side was swept aside 3-0 before both of the bigger clubs put 6 past Daniil’s side, 2-0 and 4-0 respectively. Not the best confidence-building going into a new season, but he knew game-time, match fitness and tactical awareness was going to be key.
The only challenge that Daniil had to overcome when it came to transfers, was the league squad registration rules in place:
Inheriting a squad that only consisted of 16 outfielders and 1 goalkeeper, the first port of call was bringing in a backup goalkeeper. Under 21s is a big focus in the lower reaches, as it gives them a platform to perform on and hopefully bolster the Russian National Team in years to come, so Daniil had to get his scouts out and start bringing in some talent. 9 new faces came into the fold, and Daniil was beginning to see his bigger picture piece together:
Daniil knew there was a couple of panic buys in amongst the incomings, but knowing he had to bring U21 players in – he had to have two of them on the pitch at all times – he needed just something on the bench at this stage, that would allow him to work around that rule.
Aslanbek Sikoev comes with some Premier League experience having played 4 times for Arsenal Tula in 2017/18. With Georgy Zhuravlev injured, Daniil needed cover in here and certainly managed to bring in good players in the shape of both Sikoev and Gubanov to bide some time.
However, the real diamond in the rough looks to be 23-year-old Dmitry Kirillov. Coming through the Zenit academy, he was deemed not good enough and released at the end of the 2019/2020 season. Daniil knew he had to act quickly and get Dmitry in.
Daniil didn’t just act on players. He knew that he had to get a support network created from scratch, and did manage to entice some staff that are more than suitable for this level, taking Dinamo from having a bang average supporting team to one of the best in the league:
With everything looking to be in place, Daniil was prepared for his first game as Dinamo Vladivostok manager, and his first game at a professional level. After the Dinamo Moscow friendly, the nerves began to kick in as he awaited the outcome of the Russian Cup First Round draw, which was scheduled to take place on the 14th of July.
Advantage Dinamo Vladivostok playing against a side in the opposite group predicted to finish 2nd bottom of both groups combined. This should be a fairly straightforward cup tie; but as always, cup football is a different type of war. A 37-hour journey to the North-East of Vladivostok awaited Daniil, as he knew he would have to factor in the constant travelling into his game plans.
However, it was not to be the fairy tale start to Daniil’s tenure, as his side had to fight from a goal behind just to take the game to penalties. Russian football does not believe in extra time at this stage of the cup – perhaps given the travelling involved with the teams from all over – and Daniil knew that it was down to lady luck on the night.
It was not to be as Daniil’s side was defeated 5-3 on penalties. First Round exit in a competition the board wanted the team to get to the Third Round; not a great start to Daniil’s tenure, and the reaction would be the most observed thing from the boardroom. It doesn’t seem like much, but Dinamo missed out on £24,940 of guaranteed money from failure to reach the expected stage – but much needed money at this level of football.
37 hours later, Daniil got the team home in Vladivostok and had, in essence, under a day to prepare for the league opener against SKA-2 Khabarovsk. Knowing that the players’ reaction in this game could set them on their way for the season, it was important to get the gameplan instilled into the players’ minds and give themselves a headstart; every manager wants to win the league opener, none more so than Daniil who would be making his home debut.
Thankfully, a win in his league opener against a recently promoted side, and really gave the players some momentum, going unbeaten for the first 7 games of the season. The defeat against Salyut was a very difficult one to take, as our hosts were on the receiving end of a 3-0 thrashing the week before. We just weren’t ready for the immediate reaction. However, ending the first half of the group stage on an emphatic win was very positive for Daniil:
A point clear of Saturn Ramenskoe with a game in hand against 6th placed Peresvet, it was looking promising that Daniil could be taking Dinamo to a Final Stage appearance in his first season – every point mattered at this stage as everything carries over. An immediate glance to the other group would suggest that the quality is very similar, if not slightly more challenging given more teams are fighting over a top 6 finish. Keeping the confidence and dressing room atmosphere in place, was vital for the second half of the season and thereafter; perhaps the early cup exit was a blessing in disguise for morale? It certainly wasn’t as the finances were beginning to feel the pinch:
£94,049 spent in travelling costs to date, and the league has only been up and running for 2 months – an alarming amount of money going out, a cup run will be required next season, and Daniil is fully aware of this now after a scathing talk from the board. He was already stretching the wage bill, knowing that promotion was vital this season, it could be very easy for Dinamo Vladivostok to fold like a pack of cards if the finances are not looked after carefully.
The next 11 Group 1 games are going to be pivotal to Daniil this early on in his managerial career. Does he have the bottle to handle the pressure and expectation?