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Tymoshchuk To Leave Zenit

Zenit St Petersburg legend Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has announced his intention to leave his post as a coach at the Russian champions when his contract expires in late June. The Ukrainian has been a part of the Zenit backroom team since his retirement in 2017, where he is considered to be a highly influential member of Sergey Semak's coaching staff. 

Tymoshchuk made the announcement via the club's official website, where he thanked the fans, players and his fellow coaches for the support he has received throughout his stint behind the scenes. Speaking to fc-zenit.ru, the former Ukrainian international said:

"I've been extremely fortunate to enjoy three separate spells here at Zenit, two as a player and now one as a coach. Each time, I have renewed the affection I have for the club, and I have always felt the respect was mutual. Everyone from the boardroom to the stands has supported me and given me the strength to work hard to help the team realise its ambitions. In this part of my career, I have been lucky to educate myself in such an elite environment. The experience I have gained from being a part of the coaching setup at Zenit has been invaluable, and I hope to one day return in some capacity to continue helping Zenit be the best club in Russia. I'd like to thank the supporters, first and foremost, for their loyalty to me throughout all these years. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to the players, my fellow coaches, Sergey (Semak), and everyone else who has helped make my time coaching at the club so enjoyable. Until we are together again!" 

Tymoshchuk is fondly remembered in St Petersburg, where he helped Zenit win their only European silverware, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2008. He also lifted the Russian Premier Division as club captain in 2015. 

It is believed his departure has been precipitated by a desire to move into a management role in the coming season. 

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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No Ukraine Return For Tymoshchuk (The Times of St Petersburg)

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has ruled himself out of the running for the vacant Lviv job in his native Ukraine. The former Shakhtar Donetsk captain held talks with the Lviv hierarchy on Tuesday afternoon, but has since distanced himself from the role. Speaking to the State broadcaster in Ukraine, Tymoshchuk stated: "I am talking to people all the time, looking at options and discussing strategies. But I don't expect to be managing in Ukraine next season. It is true that I have spoken with them (Lviv), but this is normal. You discuss things with people and if there's little agreement on the best way forward, you go your separate ways."

Tymoshchuk, who earned 144 caps for Ukraine, has been linked with a number of jobs in recent weeks, including roles in Slovenia, Armenia and Uzbekistan. The former Bayern midfielder is understood to have met representatives from Maribor, Alashkert and Bunyodkor Tashkent, but there is no indication as to where his preference lies. 

 

 

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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NK Maribor Appoint Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Ukraine stalwart Anatoliy Tymoshchuk retires | UEFA Champions League |  UEFA.com

Slovenian giants NK Maribor have appointed Anatoliy Tymoshchuk as the club's new head coach. The former Bayern Munich midfielder will replace Mauro Camoranesi who was relieved of his duties after the club failed to retain the title in the 2019/20 campaign. Tymoshchuk (pictured above) recently left his coaching post at Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian Premier League, where he had formerly been a player over two spells. 

Maribor chief, Drago Cotar, presented the new boss to the national press at the Ljudski vrt Stadium this afternoon, declaring himself delighted at having attracted the former Ukraine captain to the club: 

"I think I speak for everyone at Maribor, and indeed Slovenian football, when I say how pleased I am to have brought another big name to the club. Anatoliy has amassed a wealth of experience in his native Ukraine, Russia and Germany, winning the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup over an illustrious playing career. His impressive 144 caps for his country demonstrates the pedigree we are talking about here. Whilst he is as of yet untested in the managerial arena, he has always been a leader throughout his career and his intelligence and understanding of the game will stand him in good stead when trying to deliver success to Maribor."

Tymoshchuk himself was eager to draw upon his playing career when speaking to reporters for the first time:

"I've enjoyed playing at the very highest levels, and I believe that my understanding of the demands of elite level sport will help me turn Maribor into a formidable team. I decided not to rush into management, preferring to spend a number of years learning the coaching trade in Russia under Roberto Mancini and Sergey Semak. I have also worked with some world class coaches in my playing career, and I will look to draw upon all I have learned from them as I embark upon my own journey. I'm a newcomer to Slovenian football, so I will be using the local knowledge of the coaches who are present at the club already. But I am looking forward to the challenges of the coming season, and I hope to restore this club to the top of Slovenian football."

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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Maribor vs Liverpool Champions League preview: Klopp's men aim to end draw  sequence in Slovenia | Goal.com

Maribor Begin Preseason Preparations

The reign of Anatoliy Tymoshchuk officially got under way today, as the NK Maribor players returned from their summer break to begin preseason.

Club captain Marcos Tavares led the players through their warm-up under the watchful eye of the new Ukrainian head-coach. Tymoshchuk, 41, was appointed a fortnight ago, replacing Italian coach Mauro Camoranesi, who was sacked having failed to win the PrvaLiga title last season. 

The former Bayern Munich and Zenit midfielder was surrounded by a team of new coaches, three of whom have joined up from the Shakhtar Football Academy in Tymoshchuk's native Ukraine. Speaking to the Maribor official website, the new manager said:

"It's great to finally begin the work that will hopefully lay the foundations for a successful year ahead. Meeting the players for the first time is always exciting, and although it will take a while to get a lay of the land here, I'm encouraged by the first impressions. We have a packed schedule over preseason, and we will be playing some very good teams. So it's important that we do the work on the training pitch to be ready for what's ahead." 

Maribor begin the PrvaLiga campaign on the 22nd August away at NK Bravo Ljubljana. Before that, they'll potentially face several rounds of Europa League qualifiers. 

 

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File:Marcos Tavares.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

It's a new era at NK Maribor, but is it the beginning of the end for club legend Marcos Tavares?

The Brazilian forward is about to embark on his fourteenth season in a Maribor shirt, and at thirty-six, many pundits are suggesting it could very well be his last. Maribor's new head coach, Tymoshchuk, has insisted the Brazilian has a role to play in the team this season, but the Ukrainian has admitted that the club will have to start to think about the post-Tavares era. 

"It's never easy to consider the end of a positive relationship, but players have short careers, and clubs have long histories. Marcos is going to be important this season, no doubts there. But beyond that, I think it's important there's some consideration for what's down the line in this regard. If Marcos could play on forever, it would be fantastic. But that isn't how life is.

If preseason games are anything to go by, we can expect to see Tavares playing deeper than we are used to seeing. In Maribor's most recent friendly victories, the Brazilian has been employed in the hole behind the centre-forward. It's a role that allows him to use all of his technical abilities, while taking into account his physical limitations. No longer a player who can run off the shoulders of defenders, Tavares is more likely to feed the younger strikers ahead of him. It's a role he insists he's happy to play, but there is a question of where the goal will come from with Tavares passing on the responsibility to be the match-winner. Aljosa Matko and Zan Vipotnik have been employed up front in the games so far in preseason, but it's unclear whether there is enough goals between them to help Maribor in their hunt for silverware.

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Maciej Rosolek will complete a season-long loan move to NK Maribor upon the opening of the Slovenian transfer window on the 15th July. The teenage hitman has already made fourteen appearances of Legia Warsaw, scoring three times in the Estraklasa. Rosolek is considered to be a bright prospect in Polish football, and is someone Maribor's manager, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, has had his eye on since his Zenit days.

"It's great to have a deal in place for Maciej. He is a player that can bring a lot of qualities to the team, and is someone I believe can contribute many goals to the side. When I was on the coaching team at Zenit, Maciej's name was mentioned as a potential signing. The club monitors the whole region for up and coming stars, and he is someone who caught the eye of the scouts. Bringing him to Maribor for the year is a great piece of business, and I hope he can kick on in his development here." 

Rosolek's arrival signals Tymoshchuk's second foray into the market, having already brought in Georgian central defender Zurab Gigashvili on a free transfer. But the Ukrainian head coach insists it's unlikely to be a busy window, with many clubs suffering from financial constraints due to the impact of covid-19. Five players have already left the club this summer, and that number could increase before the window shuts. The tightening of the belt will create an interesting challenge for Tymoshchuk as he tries to reclaim the PrvaLiga title on a limited budget. 

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NK Maribor have added another striker to the team's roster, as Kairat Almaty forward Eseola jetted in to complete a loan move to the Slovenian side. 

The Ukrainian forward will hook up with compatriot Anatoliy Tymoshchuk who was very keen to make the move happen after the striker scored an impressive 28 goals in 43 appearances for the Kazakh side. 

"I'm delighted we've been able to take advantage of the loan market once again to bring another forward to the club. Eseola is someone I know well from his time in the Ukrainian league, and his form for Kairat has attracted the attention of many Russian clubs. He's been unfortunate to get sidelined by the new Kairat manager, but we're delighted he's become available and I'm sure he'll contribute much to the team in the year ahead."

Eseola dropped down the Kairat pecking order thanks to the arrival of veteran striker Vagner Love. The Brazilian is somewhat of a marquee signing for the Kazakh side, and Eseola appears to have been the victim of the move. 

The Ukrainian forward is considered to be adept in the air, and is known for his good strength and aggression. With the league season just over three weeks away, he'll have some time to train with his new team mates and get some minutes under his belt in the remaining friendly fixtures, starting with a trip to the Hungarian capital to face Budapest Honved on Saturday. 

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Maribor Learn European Fate

NK Maribor will face Maltese side Balzan Youths in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. The Slovenian runners-up have been designated as the home side for the one-legged tie, with the match due to be played on the 27th August. 

The winners of the tie will face either Alashkert or MSK Zilina in the second qualifying round. 

Speaking after the draw, the Maribor manager insisted that there would be no room for complacency as he attempts to guide his team to the lucrative group stages: "It's a winnable tie. But there's simply no room for error this year with the single legs being played instead of the traditional two-legs. Every team will know that they just need a huge ninety minutes to get through. It's a major incentive for the underdogs, and should be something to focus the minds of the teams who are deemed favourites, like ourselves."

Should Maribor see off the Maltese side, they could face MSK Zilina, who they have already beaten in preseason, or Alashkert, who Tymoshchuk was linked with before taking over at the Slovenian side. 

 

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Maribor Round Off Preseason in Style to Honour Tavares

NK Maribor concluded the off-season with a stunning 4-1 win against FC Midtjylland in a testimonial match in honour of club legend Marcos Tavares. The win completes a perfect preseason for Tymoshchuk's men, who have notched up eight wins in eight games. 

Before the match, the Maribor President presented Tavares with a silver plate honouring his incredible thirteen years with the club. In that time, the Brazilian forward has won sixteen honours and scored one-hundred-and-fifty-four goals, making him Maribor's record goalscorer, and the most decorated player in Slovenian football. In what is expected to be his final year at the club, Tavares will be hoping to add another title or two to his illustrious record, and if the Midtjylland win is anything to go by, he might just get his wish.

The Danish side started the game well, taking the lead on the quarter-hour mark. But from that point onwards, it was all Maribor. Tavares was instrumental in his team's attacking play, linking up well with the wide men, and drawing defenders out of position with his clever positioning. It took Maribor until the 74th minute to get their deserved equaliser, but a flurry of late goals in the final ten minutes helped to make the scoreline as emphatic as the performance. 

The PrvaLiga runners-up will begin the new Slovenian season on Saturday away at Bravo Ljubljana, before turning to European duty against Maltese side Balzan Youths. New manager Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will be hoping to take the preseason form into competitive fixtures and get off to the strongest possible start to his reign in Maribor. 

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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Bravo Maribor! 

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NK Maribor started their PrvaLiga campaign in style with a thumping 0-5 win away at Bravo Ljubljana. The highlight of the game was undoubtedly a debut hattrick from Aljosa Matko, who spent the previous campaign on loan at Bravo, notching up fifteen goals. The Maribor academy product started the match as the team's main striker and repaid his manager's faith with a clinical performance. 

Bajde and Vrhovec added the other goals to send Maribor top on goal difference after round one of the league season. 

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk:

"I asked the players to go out and give me a solid performance. At this stage of our development, you are looking for signs that the players are taking what you're asking of them on board. I've certainly been well served by them, and I'm sure the supporters are delighted to witness a five goal win on the opening day."

Elsewhere in the PrvaLiga, champions Celje opened up their title defence with a 0-1 win away at Koper, and Olimpia Ljubljana got up and running with a 0-1 win at Gorica. 

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Tymoshchuk on the match:

"I'd have taken a 1-0 win today, because in the main it is all about getting through to the next stage. But we've shown quality as well as a professional attitude and have been rewarded with a result that will please our supporters. I'm happy with all aspects of our performance, from our attacking intent to the way we limited Balzan to the one effort that never troubled us. It was a complete performance, and one we can build on."

 

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Alessandro Ahmetaj Seeking New Start in Slovenia

At the end of the 2019/20 season, Alessandro Ahmetaj, like so many young footballers, waited anxiously for news regarding his future. The young midfielder had just completed another campaign with Sassuolo's u-19 side, and felt positive about his chances of earning a place in the club's u-23 setup for the new season. It was a nervous wait for all the young players on Sassuolo's books; each one dreaming of taking the next step towards the promised land of playing in Serie A. When news finally filtered down from the club's head of youth, it was heartbreak for Ahmetaj. He would no longer be a member of the Sassuolo youth setup. 

When confronted with the news, Alessandro's parents cried for him. Both had played a major role in his development, buying him boots, driving him to and from training, and showing up at matches to provide support from the sidelines. When it was revealed that Ahmetaj would no longer be returning to Sassuolo for the new season, it felt as though all of the work the entire family put into his development had been for nothing. 

"We cried together for hours" Alessandro's father told us: "We know how much football means to him, and how hard he has been working, how hard we've all been working to try and help him to reach his ambitions.

Alessandro himself was determined to try his luck in the lower reaches of Italian football, knowing a host of clubs willingly offer trials to players released from teams higher up the leagues. But just before the trial season got under way in Italy, Alessandro received a call from an unlikely source. "Just before the preseason was due to start in Italy, I was contacted by the head of scouting at Slovenian second division club Koper." he reveals, "It's funny, because my family used to take a trip across the Adriatic Sea to Koper in the summer when I was little. I remember the city and its marina very well. When the scout told me they'd watched me play in a summer tournament in Croatia the previous year, I was taken aback. I had no idea there were clubs outside Italy keeping track of my progress."

Koper had been keen on Ahmetaj since they themselves put forward a team to play in the tournament in Split the previous season. The young midfielder turned in some impressive displays with Sassuolo's u-19 team, helping them to a third-place finish in the tournament. Koper's chief scout kept tabs on several of Sassuolo's young prospects in the off-chance that any of them were due to be released. When news of Alessandro's departure reached the Slovenian club, moves were made immediately to snap the young Italian up. 

While Italy shares a border with Slovenia to the east, it is rare for young Italian players to move to the country, with most preferring to try their luck in Italy's lower leagues. For Alessandro, it simply felt like fate was intervening: "I had been pretty down after my release from Sassuolo. So when I got a call saying someone was interested in signing me, I took that as a sign that I had been doing something right. Getting let go from your club is a blow to your confidence; getting a call saying 'we want you' has the opposite effect. With it being Koper, too, it all just felt like fate was telling me to try something new. I've always enjoyed going to Slovenia, but it had never crossed my mind to play there. Now I'm here, I feel it's the perfect place to kick on and try to carve out a career for myself."

Koper signed Ahmetaj on a three year deal, and were intent on giving him a platform in 2. SNL to showcase his skills. But the surprises were not to end there for the Italian. Shortly after preseason got under way, Koper were approached by PrvaLiga giants NK Maribor with a view to loaning the midfielder. Maribor's head of scouting had also witnessed Alessandro's ability in the tournament in Split, but had been slow to act upon the youngster's release. Maribor had just appointed a new manager and transfer business had been put on hold whilst the new man got his feet under the desk. When told about Ahmetaj's qualities, Maribor manager Anatoliy Tymoshchuk gave the green light for a loan move with a view to buying the player next summer. Koper were reluctant to let their new man go so soon after signing him, but the manager felt it was only right to let the player decide, given it was a huge opportunity. Alessandro's head was spinning at this point, after the whirlwind of a summer he'd been having. Whilst he felt somewhat guilty about considering leaving Koper so soon after joining, the chance to play in the PrvaLiga and the Europa League with a club like Maribor was hugely appealing. After a couple of days considering the possibility, Alessandro agreed to the move. 

"I honestly felt really guilty about telling the Koper manager I wanted this move. But I feel it's the best thing for my career. Playing well at Maribor can get you noticed, and after the heartbreak of last season at Sassuolo, I feel I needed something like this.

Ahmetaj arrived at Maribor midway through the club's preseason campaign, and after impressing in some friendly matches, the midfielder made his professional debut in the UEFA Europa League win over Balzan Youth, scoring a brilliant goal to cap it off. "It's been surreal really. Going from the u-19s at Sassuolo, to getting released, to playing and scoring in the Europa League for Maribor. You can't really wrap your head around life sometimes. It's crazy how things can just jump out of the blue at you and your life can go in a whole new direction. I'm keen to keep working hard here and if I can earn a permanent move to Maribor or another big club, then I'll be absolutely delighted. Life can change dramatically in the space of a few weeks, and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me."

Alessandro's immediate future has a home game against Gorica in the PrvaLiga in store for him, before the next European fixture against Zilina of Slovakia comes post-international break. If the Italian can build on his impressive debut and keep his place in Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's starting XI, he'll give himself a very good platform to start to carve out a career in the game, after his dreams appeared to be up in the air at the end of last season. 

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Derry City or Lech Poznan Await NK Maribor or MSK Zilina

If PrvaLiga leaders NK Maribor can successfully negotiate their Europa League second qualifying round tie against Zilina of Slovakia, they'll face either Irish side Derry City or Polish outfit Lech Poznan in the third qualifying round. 

Maribor seen off Maltese minnows Balzan Youth in their first European tie, winning 8-0 to break their highest European win record. Tymoshchuk's men have also notched up two straight wins in the Prva Liga Telekom to set the pace. 

The winners of the Derry City v Lech Poznan match will be designated as the home team for the third round. 

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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NK Maribor overcame the odds to defeat Lech Poznan in the Europa League third round qualifying tie in the Polish city. The Slovenian side dug their heels in to put up a strong defensive display, and the brilliance of Ukrainian forward Eseola provided enough punch to hurt the Estraklasa league leaders. 

Maribor will now face FC Kobenhaven in the Danish capital for a chance to play in the UEFA Europa League group stages. 

Tymoshchuk:

"We went behind and looked a bit unsure of ourselves. But the team persevered through the difficult spells and we've battled to get back into the game. Extra time is an endurance test, and we've used the bench well to help us with the fresher legs. To see Eseola run past three players to score the winner when he must have been dead on his feet was simply incredible. It's been a good day for the football club."

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Maribor Lay Down Title Marker

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If Celje manager Jiri Jarosik was under any illusions about how difficult it is to defend a title, NK Maribor provided a timely reminder to the Czech tactician. Both sides came into the clash having been taken to extra-time in their midweek Europa League fixtures, but tiredness was only on display across one of the teams: the current champions, NK Celje.

Maribor had altered their tactics for the game, opting to play two strikers in a 4-4-2 shape. It was a move that paid off early on, as both strikers managed to get on the scoresheet before the half hour mark. 

Celje's characteristic solidity abandoned them as the Maribor players laid siege to their goal. The champions trailed 4-0 at half time, and could only keep the score down to 6-0 in the second period.

It was a display that showed Maribor mean business this season, and they'll need every bit of this good form to help them overcome a difficult tie in Denmark this coming Thursday.

Tymoshchuk:

"It's very pleasing to see the players show a great deal of hunger to go and win this tie. We know Celje are the champions, and the team to beat. You can see how determined this group is to win back the title, and if we can put in more performances like today's, we should be in with a decent chance."

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Transfer Window Roundup

The Slovenian transfer window slammed shut this evening, meaning the sides competing in the PrvaLiga Telekom will have to be satisfied with their squads until the winter window. Below is a look at the business conducted by NK Maribor this summer. 

Like so many clubs, Maribor have had to tighten their belt this year, with the impact of covid-19 being felt across the PrvaLiga. As a result, the majority of business done by the club has been in the form of loan signings. Italian midfielder Alessandro Ahmetaj, and strikers Eseola and Rosolek have bolstered the Maribor squad on year-long deals, while Zan Zuzek and Zurab Gigashvili have joined the club permanently. 

£600k worth of players have departed the team this summer, bolstering the club's finances. 

 

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Tymoshchuk:

"We're obviously gutted at being eliminated so close to the group stages. I thought we gave a very good account of ourselves against a team who were massive favourites. We asked questions of them and really should have taken the tie to extra time. But we missed those big moments and that costs you at this level. Lessons are there to be learned, but we have to also be willing to praise the positive parts of these performances. We'll focus on the domestic matters now and hope to taste more European action next season."

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NK Maribor Lead The Way Ahead of Winter Break

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NK Maribor manager, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has enjoyed an impressive start to life in Slovenia, leading his team into a healthy position as the PrvaLiga heads towards the halfway stage. 

The Ukrainian manager has reinvigorated the team, exorcising ghosts of the previous campaign, and bringing the best out of a number of key players. The addition of Ukrainian forward Eseola has also proved pivotal, with the Kairat Almaty loan man scoring an impressive sixteen times in the first half of the campaign. 

Tymoshchuk's side have built their success upon solid foundations, with only nine goals conceded in seventeen league fixtures so far. When you add an impressive goal haul of forty-four, way ahead of the rest of the PrvaLiga sides, it makes for good reading for supporters of NK Maribor. 

The second half of the season will see how strong Tymoshchuk's side is mentally, as they prepare to cope with the pressure of trying to secure a league and cup double. 

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We are one game away from entering the final quarter of the PrvaLiga season, with a mere thirty points up for grabs for each team. For Gorica, who sit six points off the relegation playoff position, and seven off of safety, ten games will seem painfully short, as time begins to run out on their top flight status. At the other end of the table, NK Maribor will be counting the games as they look to be well on course for the title. Sitting twelve points clear at the top, it would take a disastrous final quarter to deny Anatoliy Tymoshchuk a first major title in his first season at the club. 

Despite Maribor's relative comfort at the top, the post-winter break fixtures were characterised by inconsistency in the months of February and March. Taking only a single point from their first two league games upon their return, the gap at the top of the table was reduced to five points. Three wins would follow, but a 3-2 defeat at Domzale gave the Celje and Olimpia games a 'must win' status. After seeing off a struggling Mura, Maribor started to look like champions in the making once more, as they dispatched of Celje and Olimpia with minimal fuss. Despite being plagued by injuries in the fullback area since the start of February, Tymoschchuk's squad seems to have weathered a difficult spell, and the course is set for them to secure a sixteenth PrvaLiga title.

The biggest obstacles to Maribor's hopes in the final quarter come in the away fixtures at Celje, Olimpia, and Tabor Sezana. All three sides have already taken points from the league leaders, and provide potential banana skins in the run in. 

 

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After a highly fruitful twelve months in Slovenia's top flight with NK Maribor, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has returned to Russia's cultural capital, St Petersburg, to take on the task of replacing Sergey Semak, his former teammate, as the new head coach of Zenit. 

Tymoshchuk delivered a league and cup double in Slovenia, whilst winning plaudits for his tactical style and development of younger players. The Ukrainian made such an impression in his first managerial role that several other clubs across Eastern Europe were keen to prize him away from Maribor, but his connection with Zenit proved too strong, and there was only really one possible destination for the former Ukraine captain.

Tymoshchuk addressed the disappointed Maribor supporters on the club's official media channels this afternoon:

"I would like to begin by apologising to the fans for the brevity of my tenure. I fully intended to honour my two-year contract, and would gladly have considered extending it had I earned the right to. What we have put in place in the last twelve months has the potential to help Maribor be successful for many years to come. Under normal circumstances, I would oversee the continuation of our project, but the chance to manage a club that I spent a good deal of my playing career with is an opportunity that I simply cannot refuse. 

I'd like to thank everyone at the club, from the boardroom to the physio room. Our success has been the result of everyone's efforts. I'd also like to extend my thanks to the supporters who have made me feel welcome in Slovenia. I sincerely wish Maribor every success in the years ahead, and feel confident that the club is in a good place to push on from here." 

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I've played several seasons since my last update, due to totally being engrossed in the save and trying to figure out various problems that arose. I'll give a summary of each season below before trying to post updates during the course of a season.

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Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's first season in Russia with Zenit ended disappointingly. Despite having a healthy budget to help mount a challenge on Krasnodar's title, the team came up short. A third place finish also denied the club a place in the lucrative Champions League, with a defeat away at Spartak Moscow late on in the campaign giving the capital side the runners-up spot. 

Throughout the campaign the team struggled to put in convincing performances and never really looked like champions. Eight draws highlights the main problem: we lacked a cutting edge. Krasnodar, meanwhile, carried on from their impressive 20/21 season with the best attack in the league. Spartak's success came down to their mean defence, conceding only fourteen times in thirty games. 

We managed to get to the quarter finals of the Europa League, where Tottenham eliminated us. This was beyond our expectations of reaching the first knockout round, so managed to clawback some goodwill from the board.

We also reached our expectation of reaching the Russian Cup final, but failed to take the next step and win it. Rostov pulled off a shock win to deny Tymoshchuk a first trophy on his return to Zenit.

The season ended with this:

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Our end of season sit down with the Zenit board staved off the sack, but made clear the precariousness of our position. We simply had to hit the ground running in 2022/23 and maintain positive form over the whole campaign. 

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Fortunately, the change of tack paid off and our more positive and offensive system bore fruit. We were more aggressive and due to some shrewd business in the transfer market, were able to push our DF line higher up to play the game in the opposition half. Krasnodar had a significant dip in their performance, allowing Rubin Kazan and Spartak to finish ahead of them. 

We also managed to pull off a league and cup double, beating Rubin Kazan in the Russian Cup final. This mirrored our sole season in Slovenia, where we also pulled off the double. 

In Europe, we got to the Conference League semi-final, where we lost disappointingly to Hungarian champions Ferencvaros. Some fitness issues played their part in this defeat, but it was all about the domestic matters and keeping the Zenit job. 

An incredible turnaround in fortunes. Season two allowed Tymoshchuk a second league and cup double in three years; his first in Russia. 

 

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The 2023/24 season saw Krasnodar return to form and win their third title in four years. Still relying on more or less the same set of players that won them the title in the first year of this save, they have shown incredible resilience and an ability to reinvent themselves. The race went right down to the wire, with the crucial moment proving to be six games from the end when Rubin Kazan beat us to put Krasnodar ahead. It was a lead they would not relinquish. As disappointing as it was to lose the title, we competed, and there wasn't much between the sides. Certainly, this would not be a defeat that would guarantee my end at Zenit. 

In the Russian Cup we reached our third consecutive final. Sadly, it was our second defeat out of three, with Rubin Kazan adding to our title woes with a win against us in the Cup. Despite the defeat, we reached our pre-season target of making the final.

In Europe, a disappointing group stage campaign in the Champions League saw us finish third. We moved into the Europa League where we saw off Ludogorets, Leicester City, and Villarreal, before Inter Milan beat us in the Semi-Finals. It was a good run and brought us as close as we've been as a club to replicating the famous 2008 win in the UEFA Cup under Dick Advocaat. An achievement that Anatoliy Tymoshchuk was part of. 

 

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Season 2024/25, the fourth year in charge of Zenit St Petersburg, brought with it an incredible Champions League group stage performance, a disappointing last sixteen exit, an end to our run of Russian Cup finals, and a Russian Premier Division crown.

We signed no one in the summer despite losing out to Krasnodar. The reasoning was simple: Krasnodar had an ageing team that was running out of gas, while we had many emerging talents. The natural decline of their team and the natural improvement of ours was going to give us the advantage. I kept my eye on transfers elsewhere, but felt confident we had the squad to make a go of it. 

My gamble paid off. Krasnodar clearly are a team needing to reinvent itself again, but it might take several windows. Rostov were brilliant, but whether they can sustain their rise in fortunes is an open question. Spartak and Rubin Kazan are probably better placed than Krasnodar at present to push me all the way next season.

I signed a contract extension with Zenit that will keep me at the club until 2030. But the upcoming summer is going to see quite a bit of change as we look to address our fullback positions and re-energise our central midfield. We may even add another striker if we can.

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The fifth season in Russia brought a third Premier Division title, but saw us frustrated by a lack of progress in Europe. Back to back last sixteen eliminations have brought about a serious mode of reflection regarding the evolution of our tactical system. One league defeat in two years is an amazing level of consistency, and our gamble on Krasnodar's levels declining has paid off. 

 

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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The Coaches' Voice: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

Two words sum up Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's approach to football management: "balance" and "evolution". That's according to the Ukrainian himself. Tymoshchuk is currently in his sixth season with Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg, and his seventh year in management overall, having had a sole season at the helm of NK Maribor in Slovenia. In that time, he has delivered four league titles and two national cups. It has been an impressive start to life in the dugout for Tymoshchuk, but what stands out apart from the silverware he has delivered is his ability to adapt to new circumstances. 

"Five years at a single club is always going to present the challenge of preventing the team from becoming stale. It's important to always be on the lookout for signs that motivation is becoming an issue. As much as you might want to keep a group of players together for a long time, you have to keep moving. It's about evolution: adapting yourself to a continually changing environment, and giving yourself the best chance of success year in year out."

Tymoshchuk's first role in management came in Slovenia with NK Maribor. It was a role that had just been relinquished by Mauro Camoranesi after the Italian failed to deliver the league title. Tymoshchuk arrived as a surprise choice for many, but it quickly became clear that he was a smart choice. In his first months in the job he helped put together strong domestic form, and had it not been for a harsh defeat at Kobenhaven in what was then a one-legged play-off tie for the UEFA Europa League, he would have guided Maribor into group stage football at the first time of asking. What stood out from the encouraging start in Slovenia was a pragmatic tactical style that saw to clear units on the field; one defending, the other trying to create chances to score. 

"My approach with Maribor reflected the bare facts: we had some players who were good at doing the gritty side of things well, but not so much the technical side of the game, and our attacking players were not great with their defensive organisation. I decided to try and teach the team a solid enough shape where everyone could understand their function, without complicating things too much, and where players felt comfortable doing their job."

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The system Tymoshchuk employed at Maribor relied upon the defensive solidity provided by the two holding midfield players. During the attacking phase, both players would regularly stay deeper, ensuring counter attacks rarely succeeded. This allowed the wingbacks to push high up the pitch, with the wide men moving narrow to support the attacking midfielder and striker. The system owes much to some of the principles Tymoshchuk learned from former mentor Mircea Lucescu. 

"Mircea understood that the Ukrainian players were not as technically proficient, but they had a lot of endeavour and were willing to run all day. The opposite was true of the Brazilian players. By designating certain players to perform the main defensive functions of the team, the creative players could go and express themselves. I think we're seeing much more universalism in today's game, with every player expected to be proficient in all phases of the game. But sometimes you have to try and maximise what you have, and the more specialised functional system that was very prevalent across the USSR still has its place in that regard."

The 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders brought Maribor a league and cup double. It was an impressive first season in management for Tymoshchuk and his achievements caught the attention of his former club Zenit. The Russian side had parted company with Anatoliy's old team mate Sergey Semak after a third place finish in the league. It was a move that was always destined to happen, with the only surprise perhaps being that it came so soon.

"I had no qualms about returning to Russia so soon. It was a move that I knew I had to make. St Petersburg is my home and I understand the club and its traditions."

The Ukrainian inherited a talented squad, but one that was underachieving and lacking confidence. Things weren't helped by the impressive consistency of reigning champions Krasnodar who put Zenit to the sword twice in the early months of Tymoshchuk's reign. 

"Krasnodar were the team to beat. They were miles ahead in terms of levels, but in terms of personnel, we weren't far behind. It was about finding what worked for us. Clearly Viktor (Goncharenko) had found the right formula for his team, and it was tough to match that straight away. But I always viewed this job as something long term, and I knew that as long as I had the backing of the club, we'd get things right."

The Zenit board showed unusual patience with Tymoshchuk, who matched the previous season's disappointing third place finish. The former Bayern midfielder knows that it was a tactical switch in the spring of that season that helped keep him in the job. 

"I took the Maribor system to Russia and tried to adjust it slightly. We played with more of a standard front three, and allowed one of the holding midfielders to make late runs from deep. It helped us win the majority of our games, but against the bigger sides, we were coming unstuck. Krasnodar were developing well and going from strength to strength, so we had to change something after the winter shutdown. That's when we moved to a 4-4-2 and brought Artem (Dzyuba) back into the side."

Zenit were much more direct in the second half of the campaign and won the majority of their games. The only defeats came against Krasnodar and Rubin Kazan, resigning them to third place, but the signs of growth were enough to convince the Zenit board to let Tymoshchuk have another crack of the whip. 

The switch from the deep 4-2-3-1, to the 4-4-2 helped keep Tymoshchuk in a job, but it was his further tinkering that brought about his eventual success. With the sale of Malcolm, and the plethora of central midfield players at his disposal, the 4-4-2 became a diamond, allowing new signings Facundo Torres and Alan Velasco to play narrower and closer to the goal. Midfielders Fomiin, Krushyaev, and Wendel played the deeper roles, allowing the attacking midfielder and the two strikers to become a narrow front three with plenty of movement. The width came from Douglas Santos and Patric on either flank. 

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The formation became a 3-4-3 in possession, with the front three of Torres, Velasco and Amoun (the latter being replaced by Barisic the following season) providing the ammunition. 

"We utilised the central players we had, and gave the flanks to our wingbacks. We asked a lot of Douglas and Patric, but they delivered for us. I knew the attacking players would give us the goals we needed, it was more of a question of how it would be defensively. We pushed our line higher and pressed with more urgency. The central players were the absolute key here and it was their work rate and positional intelligence that allowed this system to come off."

Zenit would win the league in Tymoshchuk's second season, come narrowly second in his third, and then win back to back titles in his fourth and fifth years, all playing the diamond system. The European performances also brought about some positive results, with victories over Man Utd, Bayern Munich, Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, Leicester City, Real Sociedad, and PSG. Although it is in Europe where Tymoshchuk's biggest frustrations have come. 

"We have lost two semi-finals, one in the Conference League and one in the Europa League. But in the Champions League we have failed to go beyond the round of sixteen. That's where we need to go next. I feel our squad is still young with plenty to offer, and this is something that gave us the advantage over Krasnodar in the previous seasons, but we have to keep evolving and that means looking at how we take the next step."

The 2026/27 season has seen the tactical focus of the team evolve once more, but this time the system looks to have gone back towards a 4-2-3-1. Early analysis suggests the approach is much more aggressive than the days of the two holding players, but it remains an open question as to whether the next stage of Zenit's evolution under Tymoshchuk will bring them further domestic success and allow them to take the next step in European football.

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Statement:

"The decision to resign from my post as manager of Zenit was one of the most difficult of my life. I have been truly honoured to serve the club, both as a player and as a manager. I hope the last six years have brought joy to all who follow this great institution. It's always difficult when things end, but it's more important that the club keeps moving forward and the best way for it to do so is to shake things up every now and again. I'll always be a Zenit supporter and wish the club the very best for the future."

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