With it now looking unlikely for Zenit Saint Petersburg to win the Russian Premier League, people are demanding Luciano Spalletti leaves Zenit after having three glory laden seasons at the club. This season, so far, has been a big let down. It is surely ludicrous to suggest that Spalletti should leave though, when one considers the following points:
First of all, it must be mentioned that Zenit were very close to winning the RPL, with a CSKA loss and a Zenit win on the final day equating to Zenit finishing level on points with CSKA. A CSKA loss really could happen, with the Armeytsy facing a tough away trip to desperate FK Rostov. A Rostov win could see them rise out of the dreaded relegation play off. The Zenitchiki are away to Amker Perm, a team just 2 points above the relegation play-off, so both final day games will be tough clashes. Unfortunately for Zenit, the Russian Premier League is not awarded on goal difference. If teams are level on points it is awarded on the number of wins. If Zenit win and CSKA lose, Zenit will have 19 wins to CSKA’s 20.
One of the biggest, and most convincing, arguments for the Italian’s removal as coach is the massive amount of money spent by him. £91,308,800 was spent on players this season and, with a net transfer spend of £89,768,800 success should have been guarenteed. The players who were sold left for pitifull amounts of money; sums which were well below their actual worth. In comparison 1st place CSKA managed a net transfer spend of £15,092,000. (Figures according to http://www.Transfermarkt.com) The expensive outlay from Zenit did look good though, with the two biggest signings looking most impressive. The enigmatic Hulk and industrious Axel Witsel looked like major coups, with all of Europe’s top clubs showing interest after the pair had performed well for FC Porto and SL Benfica respectively. The new arrivals, while adding quality to the team, did cause disharmony in the squad. The ridiculous wages, the only way of attracting Europe’s finest to Russia, instigated fall outs with the management and core players of Zenit. ‘Clinical’ finisher Aleksandr Kerzhakov and midfield lynchpin Igor Denisov were demoted, for quite a long period, to training with Zenit’s youth team. The reason? Demanding higher wages. According to the club, Denisov had refused to play against against Krylya Sovetov after demanding more money. Why shouldnt a club punish a player for trying to barter a new deal? It is unprofessional of footballers who get paid vast amounts of money anyway. While the new signings caused unrest, they have undoubtedly added more quality to the team: Hulk has scored 11 goals in 29 games, assisting 9 goals. However, Hulk and Witsel have often looked disinterested in smaller matches. Hulk has shown a large degree of greed whenever he has recieved the ball, often trying a spectacular shot instead of passing. Big questions should be raised over whether Spalletti wanted to sign these players, was it the board who decided or was it Spalletti who asked? When I say “the massive amount of money spent by him”, the money is really spent by Zenit’s board, funded by Gazprom.
People have also been very dissappointed with Zenit’s poor performances on the continent, with them not qualifying from their group in the, ironically Gazprom sponsored, UEFA Champions League. Zenit did beat Liverpool in the Europa League though, and while they couldn’t make it through against the eventual semi-finalists FC Basel, it could have been a lot worse. Next year, as the squad begins to intergrate more, with Hulk and Witsel adapting to Russia, Zenit will be big challengers for qualifying from their UEFA Champions League group. Weak areas will also be sternghtened for next season. If Zenit were to sack Spalletti, and it looks more and more likely, they would ruin the vital stablity that a club needs to function. Too often clubs in Europe sack managers after a short tenure, and this is unnecessary in the majority of cases.
The role Spalletti has, as a coach, not a manager, means that he acts as a tactician and trainer. Unlike a typical English manager, he can not control the club ‘Alex Fergurson’ style. Spalletti picks his team, drills them tactically and trys to solve problems. He can not sign players at will, and must ask the board if he wishes to sign players. Any football manager or coach puts his starting XI and then it up to the players. The players must take a lot of blame for the poor performances. They have lacked any sort of finishing prowess, wasting numerous chances. A prime example of this is Zenit’s most recent loss, to Anzhi Mackhachkala in the Russian Cup semi-final. Zenit lost 0-1, despite having a staggering 18 shots, with 10 on target. They also enjoyed 60% of possession, but their prolifigacy caused them to be punished by Samuel Eto’o. Nothing is wrong with Spalletti’s tactics, the only change Zenit should make is to their approach to shooting coaching. Also, while managers can not live off the past, it would be bordering on insanity to sack a manager who has a win percentage of 60% in his time at Zenit. He has won 2 RPL titles, 1 Russian Cup and 1 Russian Super Cup. The way that Spalletti is being treated is appalling considering his success; with wrestling the title back to the East being a massive achievement.
Even if Zenit were to instigate the crazy decision to dismiss Spalletti, and it is looking more likely by the day, who would they appoint? Why would a manager go to Zenit after seeing how Spalletti has been treated. Russia is still treated with trepidation by the west, and vast wages can not convince some people to take a leap into the unknown. if Spalletti does leave, it seems like AC Milan are interested in him, after Sylvio Berlusconi leaked that Massimiliano Allegri would be departing from the Italian giants. Milan have since moved to deny that Berlusconi wrote to Il Proscesso di Biscardi, saying “There will be a complete change in the coaching staff. We will also, if necessary, re-organise the club structure”. Moving back to the main point, if Spalletti is sacked it would be a traversty, and Zenit would regret it for some time.