Spartak Moscow: Will they ever get their 10th RPL title?

Spartak Moscow were one of the top dogs in Soviet football during it’s existence, they were highly successful and they regularly battled for silverware. Spartak have claimed the Soviet Top League title 12 times, second to Dynamo Kiev (13 titles). When it comes to the Soviet Cup, there was no team that won it more times, the red and whites won the competition 10 times. After the USSR and the Soviet League collapsed, the Russian Premier League was created. Spartak continued their success from the Soviet league, winning 9 titles in the leagues first 10 seasons and they also managed to lift the Russian Cup on 3 occasions. With the clubs history and success it does come to a surprise that they haven’t won the title since they last won it back in 2001, or is it? They have only won one piece of silverware since 2001, that was the Russian Cup in 2003.

Since the 2001 title success things for Spartak have gone downhill. Long serving manager and chairman Oleg Romantsev (401 matches in charge) sold the club in 2003 to Andrei Chervichenko. Romantsev still continued his role as head coach but then left later in the year (he left in may 2003). Since Romantsev’s departure there hasn’t been a great deal of stability at Spartak, there’s been 8 permanent managers in charge of the club. As well as 8 managers they have also had 3 caretakers, 2 of them were appointed full time at some point. CSKA Moscow’s record appearance holder Vladimir Fedotov was one of them, he’s had 3 spells in charge, twice as caretaker and his third was permanently, these spell lasted 1 year, 19 days. Andrei Chernyshov was in charge for the short period of 2 months, 14 days. Italian Nevio Scala spent 9 months, 6 days in charge,  Stanislav Cherchesov was there for 1 year, 1 month and 14 days, Igor Lediakhov was caretaker for 26 days, Michael Laudrup was in charge for 7 months, 7 days and Spanish coach Unai Emery had 4 months, 25 days in charge of Spartak.

Aleksandrs Starkov had one of the longest spells in charge of Spartak since the days of Romantsev, he was head coach for 1 year, 6 months and 17 days. Finally we have current head coach Valeri Karpin, he was first in charge of Spartak from 16 April 2009–30 June 12 (3 years, 2 months, 15 days) the longest spell for a Spartak head coach since Romantsev’s departure. Unai Emery then took over and after his sacking Karpin took over once again but only as caretaker, it took just 18 days before Karpin took the job full-time. Spartak finished 2nd in 2009 after Karpin took over, they then finished 4th in 2010 and then 2nd again in the 2011-12 season. After Karpin took over again last season he and Spartak managed to finish the season in 4th place. Under Karpin, Spartak haven’t finished lower than fourth, so can he guide Spartak to the next level and finally win their first title since 2001?

Jurado celebrates scoring against Dynamo Moscow.

Spartak have managed to strengthen their squad with quite a few decent players and they certainly look stronger because of these new additions. Their first bit of business was to bring in Tino Costa from Valencia, the Argentine has slotted straight into the line up and has already proved to be a vital player. Denis Glushakov was brought in from Lokomotiv Moscow, the box to box midfielder has appeared in all 7 games this season. Glushakov partners Costa in the centre of midfield, which is proving to be a good partnership. After a successful loan spell last season Spartak decided to make Jurado’s move permanent, the Spaniard occupies the number 10 role. Juardo is one of 6 players that has appeared in every game so far this season and he’s a key asset to the team with his playmaking skills. Spartak once again strengthened the midfield further by bringing in Kuban’ Krasnodar’s key man Aras Ozbiliz, the Armenian winger proved his ability last season following his disappointing time at Ajax. Ozbiliz is used on the right wing and he uses his left foot brilliantly when cutting inside, last season he scored a few great goals but none better than against his new side in week 22. During the window Emenike and Ari were both sold, 15 million and 400k respectively. That left Spartak needing a striker so they brought in Lucas Barrios from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande, the former Borussia Dortmund man hasn’t featured much so far but he should prove to be a good addition to the strike force and the team. Due to injuries at the back and key defender Salvatore Bocchetti being out till the end of the year, Spartak needed more depth and quality at the back. So at the end of the window they managed to bring in Joao Carlos from Anzhi and Serdar Tasci from Bundesliga side Stuttgart.

Spartak started the season in fine fashion picking up 3 straight wins. They started the season by beating Krylya Sovetov away from home, 2 first half goals from Costa and Movsisyan were enough for the win, Kylya only managing to pull one goal back. They then traveled to Yekaterinburg to face newly promoted Ural, 2 goals was once again enough to come away with all 3 points. Next up was the derby game, the red and whites turned up at the Arena Khimki and put it a highly impressive performance. The display resulted in a 4-1 demolition of rivals Dynamo Moscow, in the first half Spartak were untouchable and they lead 4-0 at half time, goals from Yakolev, Emenike and Jurado, the Spaniard managed to score the first and last Spartak goals. Dynamo Moscow had a late consolation as Voronin converted a penalty with 10 minutes left to play, Spartak’s rivals were already defeated by that point.

Things were looking good for Spartak, they were flying. After a huge win against Dynamo they then traveled away for the fourth time in a row, this time to Krasnodar where they came up against a tough FC Kuban side. Emenike struck on 30 minutes, but Kuban bounced back with two quickfire goals on the 67th minute and 70th minute, which gave the home side the lead. Movsisyan converted 5 minutes later to quickly get Spartak back in the game, but no winner could be found and Spartak had to come away with just the single point. Next up Spartak played their first home game of the season, which are being played at the Lokomotiv Stadium this season. Rubin Kazan were the first guests. Like the week before Spartak couldn’t get all three points as both sides battled it out for a goalless draw.

Next up was a trip to Perm to face Amkar, the home side were looking for their first win since the opening day win against Tom Tomsk. Spartak went behind after just 17 minutes thanks to a Georgi Peev goal, Pavel Yakovlev put Spartak level after 49th minutes before Amkar scored a second in the 67th minute, Martin Jakubko with the winner. After being knocked out of Europe, Spartak then hosted newly promoted Tom Tomsk. The visitors started off brilliantly and took an early lead, it took Vladimir Rykov just 7 minutes to put the ball in the back of the net. Movsisyan managed to level things right on halftime and then in the second half Costa set up Yakolev for what would be the winner.

Costa celebrates with his team after putting them ahead vs Krylya Sovetov.

Costa celebrates with his team after putting them ahead vs Krylya Sovetov.

Going into the international break Spartak have just one defeat to their name, will they regain their focus after the loss to Amkar or is it the start of some inconsistent form? Spartak Moscow were knocked out of Europe by St. Gallen which surprised a lot of people, however it was very much deserved, after a spirited performance from the Swiss side and a rather shocking one by the Russian side. With Spartak out that leaves them to concentrate on their league form and the Russia Cup, both I’m sure they’ll be looking to win. Could the European exit be a blessing?

Spartak have an impressive attack which is fully capable of competing with CSKA Moscow and Zenit, Movsisyan has proven how important it is for Spartak to keep him fit and scoring. The Armenian front man scored 13 goals last season, 9 of them at Krasnodar and 4 after his move to the capital, so far this season he leads the clubs scoring charts with 3 goals. Pavel Yakovlev has started the season well, the left winger has already beaten his goal tally from last season, in 16 games he only scored the 2 goals, this season in 7 games he’s already bagged himself 3. He faces competition from Aiden McGeady but in this form he’s rightly keeping him out the side, the question is can he keep this form going throughout the rest of the season? Ozbiliz on the other wing has plenty of quality but we have only seen glimpses of it so far, he’s yet to get on the scoresheet for his new club in the league, however he does have one assist to his name, which Spartak will be counting on more during the season.  Jurado has started the season with 2 goals and 1 assist, along with Ozbiliz, Jurado will be looked at to make the difference for Spartak. When things aren’t working for them those two players will be the ones that can come up with something special to split the defence or get an important goal. One interesting thing to keep a look out for the rest of the season is how Jurado and Ozbiliz link up and how effective their occasional switching of positions to mix things up are.

At the back things aren’t as good. The injury to Salvatore Bocchetti is a huge blow to Spartak Moscow’s hopes of challenging for the title, the Italian is a key part of this side and he’s arguably one of the best defenders in the league. Bocchetti picked up the injury in the 0-0 draw against Rubin Kazan, the Italian will be out of action till mid December. Since his injury Spartak haven’t been the same without him, note they weren’t an amazing back line before his absence but they were far stronger and looked more comfortable keeping teams out. As well as Bocchetti out injured, Spartak also have Sergei Bryzgalov out of action. The 20-year-old Russian will be out till the end of October. A lot of questions have to be asked about this defence, who’s going to be the main CB partnership? for now it will most likely be Joao Carlos and Serdar Tasci when Tasci comes back from injury, the German is expected to be available for the game against CSKA Moscow. Come January Karpin (if he’s still around) will have one or two headaches when selecting his main CB partnership. The fullbacks are pretty much glued into place, Dmitri Kombarov consistently fills the left back spot, so far this season the fullback has been a consistent presence at the back making 7 appearances. On the other side, Spartak have the impressive Sergei Parshivlyuk who’s started the season well, only time will tell if he can keep it up. The fullback has created 3 goals this season, topping the clubs assist chart.

Karpin under pressure.

Karpin under pressure.

Despite the decent start and some good signings, things aren’t so rosy. After the Europa League exit against St. Gallen rumours came out that the club were looking to replace Valeri Karpin with former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, the Italian won the English Premier League and the FA Cup while in charge of ‘The Citizens’. Could we see Mancini moving to the Russian capital and steadying the Spartak ship or will he be another unsuccessful manager? Will Spartak stick with Karpin despite the shocking European exit? and most importantly are they able to win some silverware for the first time since 2001? Plenty of questions that will be answered over the next few weeks or months, it’s unclear weather the Spartak ship will crash into rocks and sink down the sea of teams or pull through troubled waters and reach the beautiful island of champions.

Is this finally Spartak’s year or do they have to wait a little longer?

Article for The Footy Room.

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