Daniil knew that with last season’s successes, expectations of him would rise with the unexpected title win. Partying the month of May and early June away, it was time to re-board the footballing brain express and lay down the foundations for remaining in the First Division.
Silently, the board were confident that Daniil could lead Dinamo Vladivostok to First Division survival at the first time of asking, and then become an established side in the league. But Daniil knew that in order to do so, he would need to change tactics to give them the best opportunity at survival.
Utilising his studies at university, combined with his family roots, Daniil was aware of the Soviet Pakfront, where German tanks would often be ambushed. The idea of the tactic was to entice teams to over-commit in the Vladivostok half, and then have a quick break on them – combining the board’s vision of being a defensively-sound team, as well as a counter-attacking team. However, getting talent and quality in was going to be difficult.
The board advised Daniil that after moving up a division, the wage budget was going to increase to £30,000 per week. Daniil knew that spending the full amount could be catastrophic for the club’s finances, but he would be able to spend double what he had before and still have room in the bank if need be. With the majority of his first season squad out of contract at the end of June, it was time to start ear-marking targets and get plans in motion.
The Experienced Figures
Although the club vision is to sign players under the age of 23 for the first team, Daniil knew that overloading his team with younger talent and inexperienced players would be his own downfall. Nasadyuk & Gordienko both signed extensions last season to stick around, whilst top goal-scorer Sikoev was under contract for another year. Left-back Valentin Vinnichenko also signed a new contract and these were the main basis of last year’s starters that would help out with the new faces.
But Daniil knew he couldn’t rely on them for a full season. Yes, they were good enough in the tier below, but with the likes of Ufa, Ural, Novgorod & B teams in this division, they would struggle.
Kushniruk, Bogaev, Kutin, Geloyan and Baitukov, all join Vladivostok on a free transfer following the expiration of their previous contracts. Kushniruk managed to accumulate 57 games in the First Divison between the ages of 19 and 21, so is experienced at this level. Bogaev came through the Zenit youth ranks and represented the first team 5 times in the top flight. A lot of development moves during his time with Zenit, Bogaev has had experience in the First Division and was playing in the same tier as Vladivostok last season. The ability to play a number of positions was also a stand-out pro in signing him for 2 years.
Kutin arrives as one of the club’s biggest earners, but that is the price you pay for a player that can play along the back-line with First Division experience. Given the board’s view of signing younger players, Daniil needed to strike the balance with a few older heads, and Kutin fits the bill.
Armenian Geloyan also provides that depth in an attacking sense with his ability to play anywhere in the final third. Two footed, and in his prime years, he would be a key player should Daniil want to achieve anything this season.
Baitukov on the other hand was signed because of his ability to play 4 positions comfortably. If we had to change tactics and got a bit more attacked, we had the option to drop Baitukov back into a full-back position. Although his history suggests he had never played higher than the third tier in Russia, he looks good enough to do a job and offer squad depth around the team.
The Up and Coming
But whilst Daniil knew his two signings before were not in line with the board’s vision, he brought in 11 lesser experienced players that had the quality to step into the team, yet the potential to develop in the years to come.
A lot of signings were made throughout the summer, which could affect squad cohesion, but required given the numbers that left during the summer, it was a risk worth taking. Armenian Mnatsakanyan was also a steal for Daniil and looks to have anchored his position in the team already; unfortunately, the determination is on the low side so will be more of a short-term fix. Valery Ganus looks promising considering he had spent a full year out of football before joining Vladivostok, no medical report flags anything up but Daniil reckons this is one that has gone under the radar, and the 6’4″ defender will certainly cause issues in the opposition box.
With a fresh-looking playing squad in place and a slightly improved staff network in place, Daniil knew that he had done as much as he could in preparation for the clubs first season in the First Division. Predicted to finish 17th, Daniil was relishing the challenge to prove the pundits wrong.
Financially, the club had yet to recover from their first season as a team, but both Daniil and the board knew that this was likely to improve with First Division exposure.
With £1.7 million coming into the club, Vladivostok could be settled for a few years before starting to feel the pinch of expenditure. A club with no debt other than the overdrawn account? That is some positive signs. Coupled with the prize money involved in the competitions this season, there was plenty of reasons to be positive about the financial future of the club.
Stepping up a division was always going to be a difficult task for Daniil. He knew this. He was spending his summer watching videos of his league opposition and trying to gauge his players’ abilities against the league average, but he had to be realistic. Vladivostok were a few levels off matching the league.
Smart recruitment was key, and grinding results were going to be key. Should he be able to keep Vladivostok in the division and competing, the level of ability attracted to the club goes up and in turn, the club’s stature goes up.
A positive start to the league campaign filled Daniil with belief that it could be a season of promise, but that was brutally shot down by the time August rolled around. Exit from the Russian Cup in the Third Round against Volgar happened first, before shipping 10 league goals in 4 matches – the start of an abysmal run.
The lack of goals was alarming, but equally so, the number of goals being conceded was alarming. A switch from one striker to two in September saw edgy games of fine margins, but come October it was a familiar trend. Daniil was getting increasingly frustrated. The supporters were too. Was it time to throw caution to the wind and go back to something more familiar; and potentially upset the board?
Daniil knew something had to change. But he couldn’t be too hard on the players; any promotion comes with adverse times the following season, it is a marathon and not a sprint. Ending the first half of the season in the relegation zone was concerning, especially given it was the club’s first time in the relegation zone, but Daniil knew there was another couple of gears to shift through. It is time for Daniil and his boys to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. Survival is on the cards. He believes.