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Surviving The Russian Winter


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This is a cry for help! 

My current save has me in charge of Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg. It's a job I am pretty desperate to hold on to. But the expectations are demanding. The previous manager was removed from post after finishing third, although his job was on the line when the team were in second and still very much in contention. I have played exactly half of the Russian Premier Division season, and find myself in this position: 

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By Zenit's standards, this is below par. As you can see, Krasnodar have the opportunity to go into the halfway point of the season with a six point cushion. They are the top scorers and best defence in the division. They have already beaten me in St Petersburg, and have seen off the other top sides with relative ease. We can't rely on a huge dip in their fortunes.

Coming up behind me are Spartak Moscow and Rubin Kazan. A couple of bad results could see me slip down the table into a position that spells serious danger for my future (technically, I'm already in such a position). So I need to get my **** together, basically, and start to pull ahead of the teams below me, while putting pressure on the current champions and league leaders, Krasnodar. 

As luck would have it, the Russian winter is upon us very soon, and we shall have a lengthy break between our final game in 2021 (a Europa League fixture at home to Istanbul on the 9.12.21) and our first competitive fixture of 2022 (a Russian Cup fixture at home to Lokomotiv Moscow on 20.2.22). This should allow me a second preseason, in which I can have a look at tactics and try to bed the system in with friendly matches before the competitive action resumes. It's a last chance to rescue the season, so I have to make sure I am utilising my players to the best degree possible. That's where I'm looking for help from the SI tactics community. I'm gonna post some screenshots of the players I have at my disposal so you can see what attributes I have to work with and how they're spread throughout the team, and hopefully from that information, you can suggest an approach that would help make us turn lacklustre draws and suckerpunch defeats into victories. 

I hear you ask what my current set-up is. Well, I arrived in Russia just as the season was beginning, so didn't enjoy a preseason to figure things out. I've been trying mostly gegenpress 4-2-3-1, but have stripped it right back and changed to a 4-3-3 recently, because we were simply not performing with it. At the moment, I have a bare bones set up that gets adjusted depending on the situation and opponent. This is it:

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C14351AAD41107F248D30035BAADE95B9CF92E2D (1920×1080)

I do move things about depending on what is happening, often making one of the wingers an inverted winger, or moving them into the AM strata. I also change the DLP to a DM if I want to advance the ball upfield quicker. But at the moment, I've been trying to control games and grind out results to get me to the winter break. I have four games until I reach the off-season.

I'll omit the goalkeeper from the discussion, as Justin Bijow has been fine in any role he plays. He's comfortable with the ball at his feet and is a decent passer. So he's good as a SK or a GK. 

But starting with our backline, here is a look at the personnel I have to work with:

Defenders:

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Midfield:

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.156C88480B5615A34B24E9E82CED215058298A77 (1920×1080)

 

.C7663A693086A45FD9AD5ABB96E987E1EA7FF1B2 (1920×1080)

 

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.CAE1C3350EB9272C9A0D9D358AAE35C69668ABE0 (1920×1080)

 

.90E3BAD7149256111F9A1B4E110E4C300386E9AF (1920×1080)

 

.BB75CEBABFA918096430937AE5CBA5604C8B4568 (1920×1080)

 

.2269AA0DCEC9376E3A11341566ACC4A5F5141B22 (1920×1080)

 

.CE0AB182E32E2167F8C5F02742711068D46BD861 (1920×1080)

 

.59DAB718D36F20724F29C9F80C006DB526167DE7 (1920×1080)

 

.2EA670AF9B95A489854E7A0BEA92CD5C5FD302F5 (1920×1080)

 

Attackers:

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.6AD5DCD326978B1DF6465852A85E81618C62767C (1920×1080)

 

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So that's the squad. Those are the tools I have available at the moment. As you can see, there's enough quality there to win the league. I just can't seem to get it right. I've never been great at the game. So looking for a more consistent tactician to help me out. 

If you could also suggest some training schedules to complement whatever tactical approach you think would get the best out of the players, that'd be great.

 

Much appreciated.

Edited by Tikka Mezzala
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I'd maybe change the left Wbs to a Fullback, since both the W and BBM in front of him will be going forward, i'd want him to guard the flank more than anything else. I would also remove shorter passing, seems unnecessary. Other than that I feel like your tactic is fine, but somewhat conservative for Zenith.

How are you doing against weaker teams ? Feels like your current tactic looks ok vs equal / bigger opponents, but maybe too conservative vs weaker ones. As Zenith you should be able to dictate the game vs most teams in Russia. Yet you are using a tactic with low risk taking overall. 

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4 minutes ago, Fatkidscantjump said:

I'd maybe change the left Wbs to a Fullback, since both the W and BBM in front of him will be going forward, i'd want him to guard the flank more than anything else. I would also remove shorter passing, seems unnecessary. Other than that I feel like your tactic is fine, but somewhat conservative for Zenith.

How are you doing against weaker teams ? Feels like your current tactic looks ok vs equal / bigger opponents, but maybe too conservative vs weaker ones. As Zenith you should be able to dictate the game vs most teams in Russia. Yet you are using a tactic with low risk taking overall. 

You're certainly correct. I started off much more positive, but we were struggling to open teams up because they just sat in deep and restricted space. I actually became more conservative in order to try and encourage the opposition out more, but perhaps went too much in the opposite direction. 

I'm thinking about going to a 4-4-2 and being more positive, using Dzyuba's aerial ability, and our decent wingers. I think we could aerially dominate most defences with our forwards. But I am concerned about how to set up the midfield in a 4-4-2. I don't want to be too one dimensional, and I never know what to do with a two man central midfield in order to make sure we don't get totally overrun. 

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1 hour ago, Tikka Mezzala said:

I started off much more positive, but we were struggling to open teams up because they just sat in deep and restricted space. I actually became more conservative in order to try and encourage the opposition out more, but perhaps went too much in the opposite direction. 

I guess this isn't a direct answer but I hope it helps you think about what you what to achieve to better understand what you what from your players.

Also a big example of this is Man United Vs Villarreal they had the better team but couldn't break the  team down in the Europa League Final.

 

Edited by De Nile
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I'm encouraged by the 4-4-2 I've tried in the last four games. I have three strikers who can compete aerially. Having a more direct approach, trying to get the ball up there quickly, has allowed me to get a bit more out of them. We've won all four games, and in my last game before the break against FC Ufa, we were struggling to get the breakthrough before Dzyuba sent a cross into the back post for Arezo to rise above his man and head home the winner. 

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37 minutes ago, Tikka Mezzala said:

I'm encouraged by the 4-4-2 I've tried in the last four games. I have three strikers who can compete aerially. Having a more direct approach, trying to get the ball up there quickly, has allowed me to get a bit more out of them.

So try and play wider, utilise crossing and possibly ask some of your players to be more direct and play more risky passes. Having a winger who plays direct passes and risky passes is good especially if you don't want them to go down the byline.

 

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Based on your players, I'd probably go 442. (admittedly don't know much about your opponents in Russia, if there's much 352, then that might not be the best idea)

Lovren and ??? at the back. Santos to their left, whoever is playing better on the right. Fomin (DLP) and Wendel in the middle. Malcom and Velasco wide. Dzyuba (DLF/TM) and Azmoun up top. 

Driussi and Claudinho both look useful off the bench in a few different roles. 

If you have any budget to spend in the winter window, then I'd look for an athletic CB upgrade (bonus points for a lefty!) to pair with Lovren. if not, then Rakitskyi and a conservative backline is probably your best option. 

Edited by XuluBak
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10 minutes ago, XuluBak said:

Based on your players, I'd probably go 442. (admittedly don't know much about your opponents in Russia, if there's much 352, then that might not be the best idea)

Lovren and ??? at the back. Santos to their left, whoever is playing better on the right. Fomin (DLP) and Wendel in the middle. Malcom and Velasco wide. Dzyuba (DLF/TM) and Azmoun up top. 

Driussi and Claudinho both look useful off the bench in a few different roles. 

If you have any budget to spend in the winter window, then I'd look for an athletic CB upgrade (bonus points for a lefty!) to pair with Lovren. if not, then Rakitskyi and a conservative backline is probably your best option. 

I've shifted a couple of the back-up CBs and recalled my Polish CB who I had out on loan. 

Spoiler

8242B05D0F4F832E1FCA25EBC5A50314E9F7242E (1920×1080)

Claudinho and Driussi have just been sold to Fiorentina. Zappacosta has joined Marseille. I've also sold one of my back-up centre mids (I had too many) to Viktoria Plzen. 

Incoming, I have Patric from Lazio to replace Zappacosta. I've also brought in the Uruguayan forward/attacking mid Facundo Torres from Penarol. 

I'm also looking at this guy to replace Rakitskiy:

Spoiler

04AF6672D648B1AE44DAD3D7A22D23B1EA7A79EF (1920×1080)

 

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This is a direct counter tactic with short passing + play out of defence. I say this because you use an AFa on lone striker for 4-1-4-1. If you want to play direct counter it is ok but you need direct counter TIs like at least not using shorter passing. Because this is a potential striker isolation issue for 4-1-4-1.

 

You have two very good wide attackers and they are both inverted wingers on LW & RW. Don't use them on lower positions. Malcom is more suited to IWa because his first touch, off the ball, speed, technique, passing, flair, vision, decisions are better. Velasco is IWs.

4 saat önce, Tikka Mezzala said:

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4 saat önce, Tikka Mezzala said:

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Fomin is the most creative player on your midfield. Don't use him for defensive solidity and back & side passes. He deserves a more important role. I would use him as Regista... Also he has a conflicting PPM "gets forward whenever possible" for DLPd which can weaken your defence.

4 saat önce, Tikka Mezzala said:

2269AA0DCEC9376E3A11341566ACC4A5F5141B22 (1920×1080)

 

Your best "CB"s Lovren and Rakitskyi are slow players and Rakitskyi has a conflicting PPM "gets forward whenever possible" for 2 CB tactics. Try to combine Lovren with another "CB" which has good speed and defensive attributes if you use 2 CB tactic.

Both RBs are good players and have "gets forward whenever possible" and "runs with ball down right". These are excellent PPMs with FBs role. Don't use them as IWB.

Douglas Santos is a good FBs. His workrate is average. I don't suggest using him as WB.

Sardar Azmoun is a complete forward. He can do a bit of everything. Dzyuba is a Target Man. Both strikers can be used on lone striker. I would use Dzyuba because of his greens. He can score and assist so many with those skills.

Wendel is a CMs for me. He can do a bit of everything on midfield. But he can play MEZs/a with suited players around him.

 

Try to use your best players on best possible positions / roles with considering roles/duties teamwise.

Edited by zabyl
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I played my first game of a winter tournament against Rubin Kazan. Was 0-3 down after 20 mins. But managed to turn it around to 4-3, before conceding a late equaliser. 

Need to replace Rakitskiy. I have a Polish CB that will hopefully help. I'm also after one from CSKA. 

But I feel there's potential in the 4-4-2. 

I'll use Fomin in a more positive role. Thinking of Ozdoev being the CM(d). 

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18 dakika önce, Tikka Mezzala said:

Thinking of Ozdoev being the CM(d). 

Kuzyaev can be another good option. His concentration and teamwork attributes are great.

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1 hour ago, Tikka Mezzala said:

Just got beat 2-0 off Krasnodar in the winter tournament. Haven't laid a glove on them in three games. Totally own me. 

What is their setup? Approach?

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1 minute ago, XuluBak said:

What is their setup? Approach?

They play a 4-2-3-1 wide. They seem to be quite attacking with high winbacks and inverted wingers. Their AMC runs the show a lot of the time. Remy Cabella. 

They seem to play with real aggression. I struggled to get out and get my foot on the ball. 

I actually bought their right winger, so have tried to weaken them :D

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The results since switching to a 4-4-2:

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The tactic:

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Krasnodar and Dynamo Moscow away to restart the league season. Two games that we simply cannot lose. 

I feel we're growing into this tactic, but Krasnodar were too much for us during the winter cup. Hopefully we can pull something out of the bag. 

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A part of me kind of feels that as Zenit, should you be playing in this manner? Obviously if it works then keep going but they're one of the best teams in Russia right? If it was me then I'd trial maybe more horizontal compactness and less vertical and go direct with a double pivot if you're playing on Positive mentality and feel Fomin can run a game.

         GKde
WBsu  CDde  CDde  FBat
WMat  DLPsu  CMde  IWsu
       TMat AFat

The above would be quite interesting, just playing on direct. Fomin would have quite a lot of movement around him and your width would come from the FB positions with the security of a double pivot. Dzyuba feels like too much of a threat not to have in the box and would be able to get on the of crosses from the FBat but also be able to lay off to the AFat or the WMat coming from deep.

Absolutely nothing wrong with how you've set them up it's just I'd prefer maybe then the IW has an attack duty to get beyond Dzyuba if you're playing him on support.

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8 hours ago, zabyl said:

Looks nice. How did Dzyuba and Fomin perform?

Dzyuba did well to get me up the park, but I might adjust thing to get him in the box more. At least when I need a goal. 

Fomin has been solid. He's a great option. 

Surprisingly, the right winger has been the main goal threat. Lots of diagonals from the IW to him. I signed Krasnodar's winger, and he scored twice against Lokomotiv. So some hope at last. 

 

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7 hours ago, Justified said:

A part of me kind of feels that as Zenit, should you be playing in this manner? Obviously if it works then keep going but they're one of the best teams in Russia right? If it was me then I'd trial maybe more horizontal compactness and less vertical and go direct with a double pivot if you're playing on Positive mentality and feel Fomin can run a game.

         GKde
WBsu  CDde  CDde  FBat
WMat  DLPsu  CMde  IWsu
       TMat AFat

The above would be quite interesting, just playing on direct. Fomin would have quite a lot of movement around him and your width would come from the FB positions with the security of a double pivot. Dzyuba feels like too much of a threat not to have in the box and would be able to get on the of crosses from the FBat but also be able to lay off to the AFat or the WMat coming from deep.

Absolutely nothing wrong with how you've set them up it's just I'd prefer maybe then the IW has an attack duty to get beyond Dzyuba if you're playing him on support.

I'm gonna trial this in a game I'm chasing a goal and see what it does for the team. If it looks good, I'll use it more. I would like to see Dzyuba in the box more.

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Well, same old story. 

Krasnodar win 1-0. They didn't really deserve to in all honesty. Poor game won by a set piece on the stroke of half time. Best chance outside of that fell my way, when I hit the post. But the gap is now seven points, and I'm down in third. Definitely not keeping this job.

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Just wanna thank everyone who offered advice in the thread. I've played several more seasons since the last post, and I've managed to win four out of six titles with the club, including three in a row just there. 

 

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Il y a 2 heures, Tikka Mezzala a dit :

Just wanna thank everyone who offered advice in the thread. I've played several more seasons since the last post, and I've managed to win four out of six titles with the club, including three in a row just there. 

 

That's awesome ! Nice job, did you stick to the 442 you posted a few days earlier?

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Just now, Fatkidscantjump said:

That's awesome ! Nice job, did you stick to the 442 you posted a few days earlier?

It kept me in a job by improving the results for the remainder of that season. But the following season, I adopted a narrow diamond due to the strength in central areas. It brought us our first title, and then Krasnodar recovered to win the next. But a good transfer window helped me win another title (unbeaten), and then a third. I adapted again in my sixth season to play a 4-2-3-1 with some of the tips above in mind, and had another great season (beat RB Leipzig 8-1 away in CL). My final three seasons saw only two league defeats. 

Unfortunately we kept getting tough draws in the CL, so we never managed to make much headway there. 

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