Domm Norris2 Comments

HIDDINK'S ANZHI CHALLENGE

Domm Norris2 Comments

Things are never simple for those ambitious clubs who had previously lurked in the depths of mediocrity, before being thrust upon the prying eyes of the jealous majority thanks to the wealth of a new set of owners. Manchester City, Malaga and Paris St Germain have all found themselves in similar situations with varying degrees of success to their name. Among this list of the lucky few is Anzhi Makhachkala, who have suffered what can best be described as a rather turbulent twelve months.

Upon the dismissal of Gadzhi Gadzhiev - the man who was in charge of Anzhi when Suleyman Kerimov, one of Russia's richest men, bought the club - a string of wild rumours circulated claiming that one of European football's finest thinkers would lead the team to domestic and continental dominance.

The club rightly took their time before making a decision that could well serve to shape both the immediate and long term future of the club. However, despite the rumours that Fabio Capello or Guus Hiddink were on the brink of penning a deal, former Spartak Nalchik and Lokomotiv Moscow coach Yuri Krasnozhan was given the nod.

Such a move came as a significant surprise to many as, despite his previous good work, it was entirely debatable as to whether a coach with such a low profile within European football could command the respect of players in the ilk of Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos. The persistent claims that a world renowned figure would be leading the club in the near future may well have played on the minds of the players themselves. It is entirely plausible that they would have believed that Anzhi's obscene wealth could persuade any number of available - and even unavailable - coaches to the North Caucasus. However, Krasnozhan was the man whom Kerimov deemed to be worthy of bringing the club the success that it so desires.

Despite Krasnozhan's initial appointment being a shock, his recent departure from the club - which he officially joined on December 27th - is an incredible turn of events that has sent Anzhi’s mid-season break into turmoil.

The three-month winter stoppage that Russian football has been forced to endure, much like the rest of Eastern Europe, was seen as a period of time in which Anzhi could strengthen their playing squad to the point where they could realistically launch an assault on a European place. However, with the Russian transfer window set to close on February 24th and no coach at the helm it seemed possible that the club would not delve into the transfer market any further despite not having made any significant signings over the winter months. Anzhi's new sporting director, Alan Soziev, is viewed as a key figure in developments within the transfer market and despite having only joined the club a week before Krasnozhan he is yet to have any significant, visible input.

It is telling that the reasons given for Krasnozhan's departure have varied from pillar to post, with some citing arguments with individuals behind the scenes while others are claiming that is was his relationship with various players that made his position untenable. Krasnozhan himself has stated that differences in 'basic principles' between himself and the 'management team' led to his decision to leave the club.

It seems as though controversy has persistently found a means of hounding Krasnozhan over the past year or so as his departure from Lokomotiv Moscow was equally abrupt. He left that post under a cloud of unsubstantiated match fixing allegations but his appointment as coach of Russia-2 - the national team's B team - shows that perhaps these claims were merely vicious rumours. However, you can't help but sense that there is an underlying issue within the mindset of Krasnozhan which has caused him to depart two of Russian football's most high profile jobs in such an acrimonious manner.

Anzhi, once again, managed to catch the attentions of the western press by announcing that Guus Hiddink had agreed a deal to lead the club into its grand new dawn. Just how far the experienced Dutchman can lead the club, which has finished only once in the top half of Russia's top flight, is debatable considering the issues that currently sit on his doorstep.

Anzhi's lack of true Russian talent, Yuri Zhirkov aside, is one that will need to be addressed thanks to the 6+5 system that the domestic game currently employs. This ultimately means that there is a strict limit to just how many expensively assembled foreign talents can be deployed in any particular match. You take a look at the likes of Zenit, who can boast Roman Shirokov, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Anyukov, or CSKA Moscow -with Igor Akinfeev and Alan Dzagoev - and you notice just how lacking Anzhi's current group of native players is.

This means that Anzhi cannot simply tread the Manchester City line of scouring Europe for available talent and offering them lucrative deals as an incentive to join a club lacking in trophies and history. There needs to be a focus on sustainability and the development of young Russian talent who can, theoretically, come through the ranks and provide the team with a consistent stream of young, home-grown players.

Obviously such developments figure directly in the long-term approach of the club, but with many of Russia’s most prominent footballers plying their trade in their homeland and already on sizable deals - Andrei Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak aside - it's debatable as to whether the club can take any other approach.

Hiddink's 18-month contract has provided Anzhi with a sense of impetus ahead of their first game back, against Dynamo Moscow on March 2nd. However for the club to truly become a force, both domestically and on the continent, then it will require foundations to be laid by Hiddink as opposed to with him leading the charge. The project in Makhachkala was never one that would be an overnight success and as such it is vital for the club to maintain sight of the future several years down the line.

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