The FWA continues its world tour…from the sunshine of Buenos Aires last week we travel to shivering Moscow
Sergei Kerzhakov, a Moscow-based freelance football writer, on how to draw 1-1 yet lose 3-0…how Muscovites deal with bad weather…and an anonymous Arshavin
MONDAY FEBRUARY 27
After Roman Pavlyuchenko, Andrei Arshavin became the second North Londoner to return home. While Pavlyuchenko signed for Lokomotiv Moscow from Spurs for £8 million, Arshavin is on loan to his first club, Zenit St Petersburg, until the end of the season though the Russian champions are paying a fee of £1 million and the player’s wages. That should help Arsenal’s finances even more.
Arshavin may find himself in familiar territory – the subs’ bench. Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti has made it clear Arshavin, captain when he was there before his move to Arsenal, is not guaranteed a place but the injury to Portuguese playmaker Danny will help his chances. Spalletti’s tactics are “one for all, all for one” where the whole team attacks and the whole team defends. The latter has not always been Arshavin’s strength but this is a deal that benefits all parties though Arsenal fans will have to find someone else to boo. Sorry Theo.
In Russia we have a league of two halves. The league traditionally went from March to November. This will be altered ahead of the 2012/13 season, with the league running autumn to spring. The transitional season of the competition began in early 2011 and will continue until the summer of 2012. After the 16 Premier League teams had played each other twice over the course of 2011, they were split into two groups of eight (Chris Samba’s new club, Anzi Makhachkala just sneaked in the top eight, no doubt a major consideration in his move) and the teams will play other teams in their groups two more times for a total of 44 games. The two groups will be contested in the coming months, with the top eight clubs playing for the title and European places.
There is more but I’ll stop there. I think Einstein may be needed to work it all out.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 28
Tomorrow Russia play Denmark in Copenhagen, so another popular player in England, Niklas Bendtner, will be opposing Arshavin. In fact, Bendtner left a note for his former Arsenal team-mate in his hotel – “Hey mate, look forward to see you.” It was printed in some Russian newspapers, maybe a slow news day.
It is a meeting of two of Europe’s in-form sides. Denmark have seven wins and two draws in their last nine games, Russia are also unbeaten in nine with five wins and four draws. The friendly comes at what is effectively the end of our pre-season. Anoraks will be delighted to know this is the first meeting of the two countries, the last time they played 20 years ago we were the CIS.
The pitch, or lawn as it is literally translated from Russian, at the Parkstadion is changed three times a year because of pop concerts and motorcycle events.
While England have, in Joe Hart, as good a goalkeeper in the world as any country, Dick Advocaat’s top two keepers, Vyacheslav Malafeev and Igor Akinfeev, are injured. Anzi’s Vladimir Gabulov is likely to play against Denmark. Thomas Sorensen of Stoke wins his 100th cap; Euro 2012 will be his fifth major finals with the Danes.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 29
It is minus four degrees here today and while an inch of snow can paralyse England, in Moscow life goes on as usual in far more adverse conditions. From the early hours of the morning an army of snegoborochnaya mashina – snowploughs – start to clear the roads and pavements. Around 55,000 city council workers can be on snow-duty, not using hi-tech equipment, just spades and brushes.
The secret is: we prepare. Okay, we know every winter will be harsh, that from November to March it will be cold. Very cold. There may be many aspects of life where England leads the way but when it comes to the weather we are streets – perhaps literally – ahead.
Most Muscovites do not have to worry about heavy central heating bills, the local council pays them. They control the radiators which are on 24/7 so while it may be cold outside, indoors can be like saunas.
I watched the match from Copenhagen with some friends and Russia were impressive in winning 2-0 in the Parkenstadion where the roof was closed. Arshavin scored the second goal, his first for the national team in two and a half years though Sorensen should have saved it.
The result and display pleased captain Arshavin who said: “I think the fans and experts will be happy with the team’s movement and pressing. In general, a win over such an educated team, a participant of European finals, is prestigious.”
Russians are certainly in a better mood football-wise than the English tonight.
THURSDAY MARCH 1
Yuri Zhirkov, the former Chelsea player who is now with Anzi, has been in court. His former agent Victor Halapurdin claims he is owed more than £2 million by Zhirkov from his transfer to Chelsea from CSKA in 2009. This is interesting. Clubs, for reasons few can understand, normally pay the agent’s fee, in this case 11 per cent of the transfer fee which is a nice way to earn a lot of money. Quite why Halapurdin would [allegedly] be owed money by Zhirkov for the move I have no idea, maybe we shall find out in time.
FRIDAY MARCH 2
In their preview to the new season which starts tomorrow the Moscow Times said that “Anzhi Makhachkala, last year’s biggest spender among Russian football squads, didn’t make any top-level acquisitions during the recent transfer campaign, apart from hiring coach Guus Hiddink.” That would have gone down well with Chris Samba who cost the Dagestani club £10 million.
Another former UK-based player, ex-Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb joined Krylya while Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov signed for Spartak Moscow.
Champions Zenit and runners-up CSKA, who meet in Moscow, are again expected to be the main contenders in the new-look league set-up. Last year the teams drew 1-1 but the Russian Football Federation awarded Zenit a technical 3-0 defeat. Zenit coach Spaletti had not included a home-bred player – a Russian citizen – aged under 21. It was not the first time Zenit had broken the rules. They had previously escaped a 3-0 technical defeat after fielding one foreign player too many during a game against Lokomotiv. However, on this occasion it was deemed the referee was at fault. Refs are blamed for many things but…
SATURDAY MARCH 3
Andrey Arshavin’s first game for Zenit on loan against CSKA lasted 55 anonymous minutes. CSKA goalkeeper Sergei Revyakin will certainly not forget his debut. He was beaten by Alexander Kerzhakov after only 18 seconds with Kerzhakov scoring again with a second-half volley before CSKA hit back to draw 2-2. Revyakin was thrown in the deep end because CSKA’s two senior goalkeepers were unavailable. He won praise for an outstanding display, not bad for a 16-year-old. Yes, 16. The result left Zenit six points ahead of CSKA in what amounts to a double-season.
Roman Pavlyuchenko lasted a little longer than Arshavin as Lokomotiv beat Kuban 2-0 – 62 minutes but it was a mostly invisible return to the Russian Premier League.
SUNDAY MARCH 4
To the surprise of nobody, Roman Abramovich has sacked another Chelsea manager. People in England know little about Abramovich because of his public silence and it is the same here. We have been following his court case with Boris Berezovsky with interest but best not to say what the public perception of the Chelsea owner is, which may give you a clue.