Six months ago, Anzhi Makhachkaa humiliated Zenit St. Petersburg in the cup, beating the Blue-White-Sky Blues 4-0 in Makhachkala after an entertaining affair that, among other things, saw Mikhail Kerzhakov being sent off. At the time, Anzhi were in the middle of a hot streak, and with former Czech national team coach Pavel Vrba on the sideline, the Dagestanis played both entertaining and effective football, proved by the fact that they only lost three of their first 14 games. During this streak, they held Zenit to 2-2 in the league, FC Krasnodar and CSKA Moscow to 0-0 while also picking up difficult victories on the road against Rubin Kazan and FC Ural.
These days however, things at Anzhi Arena are quite different. Vrba is long gone, and so are 11 of the 14 players taking the field in the cup-game against Zenit at the end of October.
The changes happened after Suleyman Kerimov sold the club at the end of December last year. Kerimov, who invested massively in the club after buying it in 2011, seemingly lost interest, and the new owner, Osman Kadiev, had no interest in continuing his project. Instead, Kadiev stated that he wanted to develop Dagestani football, and soon after 18 players left the club, including leading stars such as Bernard Berisha, Yannick Boli, Xandao and Aleksandr Belenov, while another 21 players joined the club.
Naturally, the fire sale affected the results, and Anzhi have won just one of their first four games after the winter break. Last week, they lost at home to Ural, and the poor start, has meant that Anzhi are now, once again, in danger of relegation.
The yellow-green Dagestanis are only five points over the relegation line, and considering the difficulty of their remaining games, there are reason for head coach Aleksandr Grigoryan to worry.
Despite the chaos surrounding the team, Anzhi’s squad do have enough talent to stay up, and to cause trouble for most teams. In David Yurchenko, they have one of the most solid goalkeepers in the league, and in front of him, experienced Russian Football Premier League defenders Sergey Parshivlyuk and Thomas Phibel help guard the goal. In fact, the defence is Anzhi’s strongest line, with former Spartak Moscow talent Sergey Bryzgalov and Aleksandr Zhirov also being proven RFPL players.
In the offensive part of the game, the problems are differently serious. In Yannick Boli and Bernard Berisha, Anzhi lost two of their most creative players, and it is no coincidence that the Yellow-Green have only scored 16 goals in the RFPL this season. Up front, Ukrainian target-man Pylyp Budkivsky is good striker, proved by his 14 goals last season for Zorya Luhansk, but he is often quite isolated and his partner, 28-year-old Aleksandr Prudnikov, has turned into the laughing-stock of Russian football, since his early break through at Spartak Moscow.
For the game against Zenit, Anzhi will have to do without defender Sergey Bryzgalov, while Rostov-loanee Saeid Ezatolahi is doubtful.
Be sure to check out Toke's other writings at russianfootballnews.com