Why Zenit is Number One Domestically and BeyondBy: Roman | October 25th, 2010
2009 was a big year for Russian giants Zenit Saint-Petersburg. They had new 2010 kits made by Nike, Luciano Spalletti was brought to lead with an artistic Italian style of coaching, and a new handful of star players such as the return of Alexander Kerzhakov, Bukharov, Serbian Danko Lazovic and Lukovic and lastly Portuguese defender Bruno Alves. The squad started to play in Spalletti’s signature 4-2-3-1 formation with a more aggressive-styled offense and a tight and broad defense. The squad did also show hints of former coach Dick Advocaat’s style of play through Portuguese international Danny. With a fresh offense, an open center, and a tight defense, Zenit entered the Russian Premier League as heavy favorites. Setting a number of records already for the Premier League, the Blue-Whites are easily the best team in the country and prove to be the best team in their Europa League group.
Zenit completely reworked by mastermind Luciano Spalletti thrived in the domestic Russian Premier League by topping first without a single loss to any opposing Russian side. So far to date, the only loss Zenit suffered under Spalletti was against the French AJ Auxerre and this took place in the UEFA Champions League. The first leg against Auxerre played in St. Petersburg was a 1-0 win for the home team although the score could have been wider for both sides. The second leg played in France was a day for the French as they won 2-0 against a 9 man Zenit squad bringing the aggregate to 2-1.
Zenit’s tight defensive and aggressive offensive earned them to be in first place with 57 points in the league, with FC Rubin Kazan trailing with 51 points and CSKA Moscow in third place dangerously close to Kazan with 49 points. Zenit’s successes and wins not only brought them to first place in the league but also had them win the Russian Cup against last-place FC Sibir Novosibirsk from a 60th minute penalty scored by midfielder Roman Shirokov to conclude the score 1-0.
Luciano Spalletti’s method of coaching (Aggressive offense and tight defense) and his signature formation also allow Zenit to be first place in Group G in the Europa League (Formerly known as the UEFA Cup). Zenit St.Petersburg under Dutch trainer Dick Advocaat won the UEFA Cup in 2008 against Scottish Glasgow Rangers. So far Zenit played three games against the opponents in their group (Hajduk Split, AEK Athens and Anderlecht) with an 100% success rate gaining 9 points and topping their group.
With Zenit’s top players such as Kerzhakov, Bukharov, Danny and Bruno Alves in top form and the discipline provided from Luciano Spalletti, my prediction is that the Blue-Whites will finish the Russian Premier League first and will be heavy favorites to not only finish first in Group G in the Europa League, but are the legitimate team to even win the cup.