The confident leadership of Krasnodar can be safely called the main revelation of the new RPL season. And it's not even about the fact itself, because the club was able to give a successful series and rise high in the table, but in stability and confidence.
In the first nine rounds, the southerners lost a minimum of points and did not suffer a single defeat. Moreover, two of the three draws could well have ended with a different score, if they were lucky. Lokomotiv escaped in the 98th minute, and in the confrontation with Fakel, John Cordoba did not convert a penalty in the opening, and as a result, the fans did not wait for goals. At home, the wards of Vladimir Ivich almost did not allow misfires at all.
Much more often they squeezed rivals inferior in class with not the brightest game, which was unusual for the team before. The duel with Nizhny Novgorod turned out to be indicative in this regard, when the leader allowed the opponents to create several dangerous chances, struck only one shot on target and prevailed thanks to a penalty kick converted by Eduard Spertsyan. The last match with Ural turned out to be difficult, in the first half of which Krasnodar did not create anything, but then squeezed the guests.
"Obviously, the team has switched to more rational football. How this happened, I don't know. Probably, it was not necessary to make grandiose changes. Ivic simply said: "Guys, we need to fight for every ball, bite in, and not play for fun." He managed to ignite the wards with his idea. And the fact that Krasnodar gathered cool masters, initially there was no doubt, "said the famous coach Valery Nepomnyashchy in an interview with RT.
Such results testify, first of all, to a serious turning point in the philosophy of the club. Ivic is perhaps the first coach in his history to put the result at the forefront, and not bright football. For example, in terms of possession of the ball, the southerners occupy only the fourth position in the current season of the national championship (56%). Zenit, which is the leader in this indicator, has 63.5%. And in terms of the number of goals (14), they share the sixth line with Spartak. For comparison, in the previous championship draw in this segment, the team had 18 goals, and the year before last - 17. At the same time, Ivic himself has repeatedly emphasized his reluctance to depart from the original ideas of the team.
"My job is to continue to adhere to the philosophy that I was told. And I accepted this even before I sent the signed contract to the management. But my job is also to ensure that the players progress, grow in price, skill, quality. Of course, you need results - you need to win matches. If you just show attractive football, you will not survive either as a coach or as a player," the coach explained in an interview with Sport-Express.
At the same time, he stressed that no one can tell him what tactics to choose and which wards to release on the field, and made it clear that if this happens, he will not be in the team.
Former Bulls footballer Maxim Demenko believes that under the Serb, the team largely stepped on the throat of its own song, and this had an extremely positive impact.
"We have seen highly open football before, and Serhiy Galitsky spoke about the need to remain committed to this style. Now the southerners can afford to play according to the score, for the result, to dry the game somewhere. You can feel the hand of the coach. And most importantly, he is trying to explain to the president that the result is more important than brightness, "Demenko said in a commentary to RT.
Nepomniachtchi is sure: the head of the team does not require coaches to rely solely on attack and also dreams of winning trophies.
"Moreover, the southerners under Ivic do not stand at their gates with the Great Wall of China, but still act as the first number. But there was a balance, the guys learned to defend. Plus, their own strong pupils have grown up. I didn't like the fact that there was no Russian-speaking backbone there before," Nepomniachtchi said.
The southerners made the most serious progress in defense. In nine rounds of the RPL, they missed only three times, keeping their gates intact six times, and confidently leads in both indicators. In defense, everything is built around the figure of Junior Alonso. The Paraguayan returned to Russia in the winter from a loan and has since been absolutely irreplaceable. For example, in the championship, he played all the matches from bell to bell. And only in the Cup Ivic once left the leader on the bench. The Latin American literally radiates confidence and not only competently destroys other people's attacks, but also starts his own.
Next to him, even Caio Pantalean, whose game had previously been associated with mistakes, was revealed. But after buying Tormena from Braga, who was a key performer of one of the strongest squads in Portugal, the Brazilian landed in the reserve, and then in addition was injured. The newcomer, on the other hand, joined the squad so confidently, as if he had been playing in the RPL for a long time.
A successful game in their own half is also associated with the competent actions of midfielders. Finally, Oleksandr Chernikov returned to action, forming an impassable duet in the defensive zone with Mykyta Kryvtsov. The latter, along with Sergey Volkov, is among the best in the team in terms of the number of selections. Two midfielders do not allow opponents to run away into quick counterattacks, which was previously a problem for Krasnodar, and help defenders restrain them.
It is impossible not to note the reliability of Matvey Safonov. In the spring, he regularly made blots and even gave way to Stanislav Agkatsev in the start. However, now he has solved all the psychological difficulties and constantly helps out partners. Matvey naturally leads in the championship in the number of "dry" games. Thanks in large part to the goalkeeper's performance, the Southerners conceded almost seven fewer goals than they should have statistically, with their expected goals conceded (xGA) rate of 9.72.
"I don't think it's worth singling out individual performers. Firstly, Krasnodar itself is moving forward, and, therefore, the opponents have little time to attack. Plus, Safonov plays at the highest level. And in the support zone, they burn out everything that is nearby, Chernikov and Kryvtsov. It's about teamwork," Nepomniachtchi explained.
In attack, the game is based on the interaction of Eduard Spertsyan and John Cordoba. The first still remained in Russia and leads the team race of scorers with four effective shots, even if three of them fell on penalties.
The Colombian, on the other hand, famously clings to the ball in front and, as he himself enters a striking position, creates chances for his partners. The only thing is that he cannot yet boast of a good implementation and misses a couple of chances in almost every game. As a result, with an expected goals (xG) of 4.58, he scored only three times. On the other hand, the striker constantly threatens someone else's goal and is in second position in the league in terms of the average number of shots per match (3.3), and in terms of the number of fouls earned on himself (2.7), he is in the lead.
"To date, Zenit probably has the strongest squad. Next is Spartak, and in the third position is Krasnodar. But it should be noted how competently the club strengthened its problematic positions in the summer. And most importantly, the newcomers adapted very quickly and began to benefit. In turn, the young Spertsyan, Chernikov and Kryvtsov became leaders. Thus, we got a powerful backbone of Russians, diluted with high-quality legionnaires, "Demenko assessed the composition of the team.
The calendar is also quite favorable to her. In the next three meetings, it is necessary to meet on the road with outsiders Rubin and Baltika and at home with the problematic Rostov. In these games, Krasnodar may well score maximum points and increase the gap from the pursuers. And only then he will have a difficult stretch with CSKA, Krylia Sovetov and Zenit. Demenko is confident that recessions in any case will not be avoided.
"The Southerners have not lost yet, and it is not known how things will go further for them when this happens. We are talking about a very subtle psychological moment. Therefore, it is important how the players and Ivic's staff will react to the first failures. This season, every team is capable of losing points, and there is no hegemon," the expert added.
Nepomniachtchi called Krasnodar one of the main contenders for gold medals.
"Even before the start of the season, I urged you to pay attention to him. If everyone in the team is healthy, it simply has no weaknesses. The southerners are competitive against the background of Zenit. Plus, there is some imposingness in the actions of St. Petersburgers, while Ivic's wards are cut to the end at every moment, "the specialist summed up.