Manuel Veth –
With the Moscow Derby between CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow just a few days away both clubs have done their homework. Spartak Moscow rebounded from their 3-0 defeat to FC Rostov by beating Ural 1-0. CSKA Moscow in the meantime continued their good form in the second half of the season with a decisive 4-0 victory over city rivals Lokomotiv.
CSKA Moscow, therefore, remain unbeaten since Viktor Goncharenko took over the club before the winter break. With Goncharenko in charge, CSKA have collected 2.25 points on average. It’s an impressive points production by the 39-year-old coach, who has made great strides to change the way CSKA have been playing.
Using the 3-5-2 formation, CSKA Moscow have become like a machine under Goncharenko. There is nothing fancy about their football, but with a solid defence, as well as a strong midfield CSKA can grind down their opposition.
Alan Dzagoev – Injury history points at bad management
The match against Lokomotiv was a perfect example for this. The Armeitsy were in absolute control over Loko, and goals by Alan Dzagoev, Vitinho, Aleksandr Golovin, and Bibras Natcho meant that their victory over Lokomotiv was never in doubt.
There was, however, one black mark on CSKA’s win over Lokomotiv. Midfielder Alan Dzagoev had to be substituted in the 17th minute just a few moments after he opened the scoring for CSKA Moscow in the eleventh minute. Holding his upper thigh, Dzagoev limped off and was replaced by his teammate Kirill Nababkin.
Alan Dzagoev’s injury history was already a major discussion point in the latest World Football Index – Futbolgrad Podcast. This season the Russian midfielder has already missed 12 games with muscle injuries and is now expected to miss several games in what appears to be the same injury that has plagued the native of Beslan all season.
Injuries in fact have plagued the gifted midfielder for years. Dzagoev did, for example, miss the 2016 European Championships with a broken foot. Before that Dzagoev also struggled throughout the 2014 World Cup with Achilles problems. His broken leg aside the majority of his injuries have been muscular or tendons, which suggests that Dzagoev needs to work on injury prevention.
The latest series of muscle injuries in his upper thigh especially highlight the possibility that his club and Dzagoev himself do not work hard enough when it comes to injury prevention. This latest series of injuries began on September 25, and has now cost Dzagoev the majority of this season, and also puts doubt over the midfielder’s fitness ahead of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Long term CSKA, and Dzagoev will have to find a solution for the problem. Short-term Dzagoev’s absence could have a significant impact on the Moscow Derby against Spartak Moscow on the weekend.
Who could replace Dzagoev?
Viktor Goncharenko 3-5-2 midfield is heavily dependent on players like Dzagoev. Dzagoev alongside Pontus Wernbloom and Bibras Natcho holds together the centre of the park. Dzagoev being the most technical gifted of the three is key in CSKA’s transition play, and without him, the compact midfield will lack the creativity to overcome a physical strong Spartak midfield.
Dzagoev’s injury, in fact, is made worse because CSKA have been without Roman Eremenko, who is out with a doping suspension. With Dzagoev out Goncharenko may have to re-arrange his midfield slightly, especially as the likes of Astemir Godryushenko (20), and Khetag Khosonov (18), are too inexperienced to fill the void created by Dzagoev’s injury.
Goncharenko could opt to bring on the attacking midfielder Zoran Tošić or Georgi Milanov. But both are more attacking minded players then Dzagoev, and whether they have the tactical awareness to replace Dzagoev in the 3-5-2 formation remains to be seen.
Whatever Goncharenko chooses to do ahead of the derby against Spartak Dzagoev’s injury will significantly hurt CSKA in what could be the most important game before the end of the season.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.