Mircea Lucescu: "I am confident that in a match with Spartak you will see a very different Zenit”

The blue-white-sky blue boss on the match against Anzhi, the choice of the starting lineup, Lombaerts red card and the race for the championship.

Мирча Луческу: «Уверен, что в матче со „Спартаком“ вы увидите совсем другой „Зенит“»
Do you agree that Zenit can no longer win the championship? Are you ready to take responsibility?

Unfortunately, now things don’t depend on us and we are depending on other matches and this is very sad. It is unfortunate that as we enter the final stages of the season we have a very large number of players on cards, Crishito and Neto have had seven and Dzyuba and Kokorin have had three. Yusupov missed this match, Naturally and when we have so many cards, we had to protect ourselves so as not to miss the match with Spartak. To some extent this has unfortunately influenced today's match. Unfortunately, we had to change a lot of players, Smolnikov is not yet fully fit, Anyukov fell ill on Saturday. I didn’t dare to, and probably made a mistake, by not putting Criscito in. I had to resort to using Chernov, who has been playing and training almost exclusively with Zenit-2 recently. This led to us playing the first half badly, I can call it anti-footbal and that I do not like, it is  unnatural to me and my teams. We did not have the patience to pass out of defence as we always do and resorted to the long ball, which is alien to our game. Anzhi almost always won the ball, they used their speed, their aggressiveness and this lead to them scoring.

It was a tough talk during the half-time break and for the second half a completely different team went out. We started the second half well and after the Lomberts’s sending off I saw the team that I would have liked to have seen from the beginning of today's match. We began strongly out of defence and played passing, we easily adjusted to playing with 10 men and created a number of chances. Unfortunately, they resorted to fouling and there were a lot of fouls committed when we quickly tried to develop our attack and the referee did not always give them yellow cards. I think these fouls are harder than offense that saw Yusupov sent off in Kazan.

Today, Giuliano had another mediocre match, In late November, you said that he was tired after the flight and you could not give him a rest, because Danny had not yet returned. Now Danny’s back and you did not rest Giuliano. Why?

I think you're right and these flights, of course, affect form and how he plays now. Why do I prefer him in this position? He does the attacking and defensive work. Danny is still a more attacking player who does not always defend, so I need a player who can perform in this zone and do defensive duties. Giuliano, maybe not be as fresh as he was before, so we are not seeing so much of his ability in the final phase, in comparison to how it was when he first came here.

Today Javi Garcia returned after a break, but was replaced first. Can we say that he is not in your plans?

After Lombaerts’s red card, he played five minutes as a central defender, but he is slower than Neto, so I had Luis on, who was also on seven cards, it was a risk. Knowing that we will go on the attack and the opponent will have the opportunity to counterattack, Neto would do a better job than Javi Garcia, so I chose to make the change.

What do you think about the referee sending Lombaerts off? Are you sure one hundred percent that you will be Zenit manager next season?

I think that the red was right. But I would like to see it with the same punishment to Guliyev, who committed five fouls in a row and broke up all our counterattacks. But he got a warning only at the end of the game.

As for the second question, time will tell. It’s too early to say about this subject. It depends on many factors. If things don’t change, then we'll see. I came here to rebuild the team’s game. At first this happened and the team played entertaining football, dictating almost every game. Unfortunately, when we got some injuries, especially to the Russian players, it was necessary to rebuild more. It was difficult to do and this has impacted on our game. When I came here, there was one team. Then they sold all the best players and it became a different team.

In the summer, when I came, the average age of the team was 29 years old. I tried to rejuvenate the squad. There are cycles when you need to change the players. Many of them were and are, at an age when things affect them, the weather conditions, the pitch, training. I have tried to rejuvenate the team and to a certain point it has given us results, we did play some spectacular football. Now there has been some failures.

I do not hold on to this contract. I came here to change the game of Zenit and to make it more spectacular and to win titles. Certain changes have happened, Lunev plays in the first team and in the future will become a good goalkeeper for Zenit. The same with Hernani, who is just 22 years old. The two full-backs, Chernov and Tsallagov will keep getting in the starting lineups, Djordjevic has looked good, but because of this limit, I find it difficult to get him in the team and have not always found the opportunity to do so. The team is very strong, we will take our chances in the next match. Let's see how it will end. Only then we will speak and discuss these other things.

You said a lot of warm words about some players, but Oleg Shatov said after the match that you are fine without him in the team. What do you think of that?

Unfortunately, he has distanced himself from the team due to injury. He is the only example of this, sometimes these injuries do exist and other times it's difficult to say how serious they are. If we talk about his place in the team, he cannot play behind the striker and can’t play in the same position as Kokorin. He can play only in Danny’s position, but Miguel is far better than him. That's all I can say.

I believe in this player, he has great potential, but most importantly, this needs to be constantly trained. He trains for three days and then for days doesn’t. Going to training, it may take up to 50 minutes, but then for him something hurts. We were preparing for the game and in the middle of the week he went to Finland, check for yourselves. I can’t trust a player who does not train all the time, who does not take on responsibility like the others. I'm waiting for this of course, but it depends more on him, not me. It was like this at the end of the first part of the championship, and at the training camp. He is no longer young and a promising footballer who has to wait, he was the player who should have become a leader in a team and for this he has to be constantly training and improving.