Taking over any side halfway through a season is difficult, never mind taking over a top-flight side competing for a European space consistently. Daniil knew that he had to come in and make an everlasting impression and pick up from where Yury Krasnozhan left off.
Rubin Kazan occupied the second last European spot – a ticket to the UEFA Europa Conference Third Qualifying Round – and despite having a bit of a gap over Spartak Moscow, there wasn’t much of a gap to CSKA Moscow, or Krasnador depending on their result in their game in hand. Daniil decided the best place to start analysing his new team through the current league table; won 10, drew 3, lost 6, scored 22 and shipped 17.
Of the 6 games lost, two were against title contenders Zenit and Dinamo Moscow and perhaps expected results given the gap between these two teams and the rest of the league. CSKA Moscow edged out a 2-1 victory whilst Akhmat recorded a 2-0 victory as well. Daniil circled these two teams to indicate that these were going to be crucial reverse games, and no more ground can be let up so easily. However, the alarming defeats were tight games, 0-1 and 2-1 against Sochi and Orenburg. 14th and 13th respectively. Any team potentially looking to take the next step as a club and look to become a force to be reckoned with, cannot drop points to relegation fighters, and Daniil has marked stars next to their names on his whiteboard.
Daniil was also interested to see which teams Yury managed to steal 2 points from or rescue a point off. And again it was an eye-opener. An impressive 1-1 draw with Dinamo Moscow at home will always go down well, especially given Dinamo’s 4 in a row spell from 21/22 onwards. A match that Dinamo probably should have won based on the xG statistic, but Daniil believed that was the platform to reach for in the reverse fixtures. The remaining two draws were either side of a Puskás Akadémia defeat in Europe, against Krylia Sovetov and Lokomotiv Moscow respectively. Again, not the result expected of a team looking to go further, but after going 1 behind against Krylia, it was not the worst outcome.
Rubin Kazan looks to be a relatively sound defensive team as only Dinamo Moscow (16) and Zenit (15) have a better defensive record. This gave Daniil some confidence that he wouldn’t need to make masses of changes in the back-line, as the key to any success was having a settled back four and goalkeeper. Daniil asked his head performance analyst to compile some reports to confirm his theory, and the following reports were compiled:
Interestingly, the polygon confirms that the defence is doing the task when called upon, which does not seem all too often so far this season. The ability to build attacks from the back also confirms the theory that Daniil has a selection of intelligent defenders that can get the ball on the ground and play, instead of route one football every time and clearing their lines. However, the defending scattergraph does show there is still a long way to go and improvements will need to be made to go to the next level. Dinamo Moscow and Zenit both get in fewer blocks and clear the ball less, along with Krasnodar – slightly more blocks per game – and Lokomotiv Moscow who seem to struggle to get a block in. Finally, the Defensive Efficiency graph confirms that on the occasion that opponents get past the defence, Rúnarsson was doing enough between the sticks to keep chances out. Opponents were converting on average 0.9 chances per game which checks out after 19 games, only 17 goals had been shipped.
However, it was at the other end of the park that Daniil was starting to raise concerns over – 1.16 goals per game at this stage of the season was alarming and the major factor in holding Rubin Kazan back. The goal spread across the team was relatively poor, Ignacio Ramírez was the leading goalscorer with 12 (8 league goals), distantly followed by Daniil Shamkin on 5 (2 league goals) and Daishawn Redan on 4 (3 league goals). Shamkin can only operate as a centre midfielder, centre attacking midfield or striker, whereas Redan can operate anywhere in the attacking positions. Daniil had options when it comes to his formation choice, but he had to figure out how to get the best out of the team. The trusty head performance analyst got another phone call and produced the goods for Daniil once again…
As Daniil expected, the polygon confirmed that his inherited side was not clinical enough in the final third and this was the focal point of Daniil’s attention in the winter transfer window. Both attacking/shooting scattergraphs produce the result of aggressive shooting but are wasteful at the end of the day – Daniil was looking at the positives here and seeing that his players are not afraid to have a pop at goal, it was now on him to get them converting these half chances. Daniil wanted to check the passing scattergraph out just to confirm to him what formation he would elect to play going forward, and when the graph returned the results he did not expect to see. Classed as inaccurate, a quality midfielder would be required to ensure the final ball is inch-perfect for the remaining attackers. Daniil decided that sticking to the 4-2-3-1 was going to be the way forward, he just had to find that perfect number 10 to take them one step further.
With an idea where the squad was weak, it was time for Daniil to delve into the transfer market for the first time as Rubin Kazan manager.
Throughout the window, Daniil managed to bring 7 players into the club. Daniil knew that this was a big risk, 7 new players during a winter transfer window was a bit unheard of. But given where he felt the weaknesses were, Daniil felt these signings were either justified or forced due to movements out.
Daniil was tipped of the potential availability of free agent Marcelo Velásquez and immediately got the scouts out to have a look at the young Colombian. At the time of scouting, he was with Colombia Under 23s at the Olympic Games Qualification bagging himself 3 goals in 4 appearances. Perhaps a bit rough around the edges, Daniil was keen to get him in to push Ignacio Ramírez further, whilst also offering quality in the squad. Luka Đilas was next through the door after Daniil met his £1.9 million release clause, and gives Daniil the penetration his side has been crying out for. A tricky wide player that can play through the middle as well, he will give plenty of defences a headache when it comes to marking. The only thing holding this deal back from being a world-class deal was the low £6 million release clause inserted by the young Serb’s agent – Daniil knew he was going to have headaches in the near future if he couldn’t thrash out a new deal.
Sticking with the attacking theme, Daniil made a move for Real Madrid youngster Roberto after finding him on the transfer list. Roberto had never made an appearance for the senior side, despite multiple eye-catching seasons with Real Madrid B, and Daniil took up the opportunity to add to his firepower with the young Spaniard. Playing behind the striker as a shadow striker, Roberto has the potential to be a star in Russia.
Although the defence didn’t need a lot of focus as such, Daniil knew it would be appropriate to delve into this area of the market. 2 deals here, and both for completely different reasons. With the exception of Pedro, there was no backup left wing-back for Daniil to utilise in a hectic second half of the season. On deadline day, Krugovoy’s agent was pushing the boat out there for a loan move for his client whereas CSKA were quite keen to sell if the right deal appeared. Daniil wasn’t too keen on taking a risk at this stage, and managed to agree on a loan deal with an option to buy for £1.6 million should it work out. A fair deal in everyone’s eyes as Daniil finally got a bit more security in. Secondly, Colin Dagba. Daniil was worried about this deal as it was heavily rushed through on deadline day. Content with his business with 15 hours to go Zenit tested the waters with a bid for Arsen Adamov and a deal became worth £6.25 million that was hard to turn down. Dagba in comparison to Adamov as a wing-back is a better option, but without it being properly researched, Daniil was praying Lady Luck would be on his side in this instance.
UEFA Europa Conference League
Daniil’s first experience of continental competition didn’t start the way he was hoping it would. With squad registration required by the 1st of February, Daniil was unable to register a bulk of his new signings for the next round. Penalised for Russia having a window that runs from late January to late February, it was frustrating, but Daniil was encouraged by the fact the board only expected to make it to the Second Knockout Round, something Kazan had already accomplished.
A competition that was filled with plenty of big sides such as CSKA Moscow, Olympique Lyonnais, Young Boys, Everton and Napoli, Daniil knew that success was never going to be viable so early into his Kazan career, but he was hopeful of a good run. Targetting the quarter-finals was his aim, providing the draw was fair to Kazan, this wasn’t going to be the case, unfortunately.
The Young Boys of Bern would be waiting for Kazan in the Knockouts. Sitting 28th in the UEFA coefficient, it was going to be a mammoth task for Daniil and Kazan to see off the Swiss threat. With a depleted squad due to injuries and unregistered players, Daniil flew the boys to Bern to try and put on a show, but they were outclassed on the night, losing 2-1 – Ignacio Ramírez giving hope with 5 minutes to go.
The return leg’s scoreline was 1-1 indicating it was a very close game. Statistically, Young Boys dominated the game from start to finish once again, and it just wasn’t to be for Kazan on the night. Daniil knew his players could hold their heads high; after all, they just pushed the Swiss champions all the way and fell just short by the end, it really was Swiss Bliss for Young Boys.
Daniil once again was taking over another cup competition where the original objective was almost completed. Expected to reach the Quarter-Finals, Daniil was hoping for an easy ride in the cup, and when paired with Sochi in the Fifth Round he thought this was going to be the year where he could potentially go on a run.
In what was Daniil’s second game with Kazan, it was a laboured performance from his side as they still adjust to the tweaks Daniil implemented to their play style. Luka Đilas was the only scorer in the game, as Kazan did enough defensively to see off the threat of Sochi. Praying for another cup draw like the Fifth Round, Daniil’s dream came crashing down as they were paired with Dinamo Moscow in the next round.
A 3-0 defeat away from home and a 1-1 draw at home in the league games, there was a bit of an improvement. However, this was a Dinamo side deep in a title race and hadn’t lost in the league since November. With momentum and form on their side, it was going to be a mammoth task to take anything from this game. However, it was a cup game, Daniil knew that anything could happen in a one-off game – just maybe there was a chance.
One of Russia’s brightest talents, Alexey Babushkin, made sure that Daniil was in for a long afternoon. Converting a long searching ball after 25 minutes put Kazan on the back-foot, and Dinamo boxed them into their own half. No matter what Daniil tried to change, Kazan couldn’t keep possession in the Dinamo half for any period of time, and it was wave after wave of attack. Babushkin ended the contest on the hour mark with a tidy front-post finish, before Alexy Miranchuk rounded off the scoring with a superb free-kick.
Another season passes by for Daniil, and he is still waiting on a glimmer of hope in the cup. Perhaps next year will be his year?
Russian Premier League
Coming in with 11 games left of the season, it was up to Daniil to continue the run of form and push for a European spot in line with the last couple of seasons. Whilst maintaining a European charge, Daniil wanted to see significant returns in comparison to the previous 19 games, and it was time to get down to business.
Daniil suffered defeat only 3 times; one against runners up Zenit, whilst the other two were against European competitors CSKA Moscow and Akhmat. The Akhmat defeat was the one that stung the most. However, Daniil notched up 8 victories during this 11 game spell and one was an impressive 2-0 victory against Krasnodar to end the season in front of his own fans.
In 11 games, Daniil’s side managed to score 20 goals which was a significant improvement from the opening 19 games, whilst conceding only 8 goals in that time. On average, that was 1.81 goals scored and 0.73 goals conceded, but was that more so down to the players or the tweaks to the system that Daniil had made?
Well, Daniil’s young Colombian Velásquez scored 9 goals in 11 starts – more prolific than Ignacio Ramírez going into the winter break. Not quite able to make an impact in Europe against Young Boys, but Daniil has full confidence that he will come good with consistent runs of games under his belt.
Luka Đilas came in to be the starter on the left-wing, replacing Srđan Plavšić who really struggled to make any impact at all in his 10 league starts. Plavšić only manage a single goal and 3 assists in these starts, whereas Đilas managed to grab 3 goals and 5 assists in 11 starts. Daniil was delighted with this signing, and it was going to be huge for the club to tie him down on a new contract with a bumper release clause.
The only signing that was left with question marks around was Roberto. The young Spaniard never hit the ground running like Velásquez or Đilas, as he only managed to grab 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 starts as a shadow striker. In comparison, Shamkin was being utilised in a different role previously and recorded 3 goals in 11 starts with no assists, so Daniil could salvage that Roberto was a bit more creative than his Russian challenger.
Daniil was disappointed that he couldn’t match the previous season finish of third place, 57 points were enough to clinch it last season, so it does bode well for Russia on the European stage that the league is starting to move in the right direction. Daniil was determined to make sure next season was a big one for the club. He wanted to taste the next tier of European football at least. It was going to be a massive season for Daniil and Rubin Kazan.