Mikhail Biryukov`s triple threat

Zenit`s goalkeeper coach gave his evaluation of his players' 2010 results and ranked his goalies.

– It`s hard to precisely evaluate the season of each of our goalies, – says Mikhail Biryukov. – Each of them had some reasons why they couldn`t play at 100% of their abilities at certain times of the year. I have a little bit of dissatisfaction with the way the goalkeeping season went for us.

– But at the same time Zenit allows fewer goals than almost any other team.
– At the beginning of the season the players had some unpleasant micro-injuries that don`t at first glance, play any role, but they can have an effect on players over time. And that`s what happened by the end of the year. Ya, we started allowing fewer goals, and that`s the merit of the whole team. For a goalkeeper that`s both good and bad. The reason is simple – the goalkeeper might stand for 1 or 2 matches in a row without playing much. But a goalkeeper should always be in good form, be within the match, support his partners and feel the battle. But when the whole match is played on the other half of the field, the goalie can lose his form. And it happened that we started letting goals go by that we shouldn`t have when the opponent had just one or two chances to score in the whole match. We have to think seriously about that, and look for a solution. I`m looking inside myself, and trying to understand how that happened. We can`t think only about our mistakes, we have to get over that. Otherwise there`s a domino effect, and that ruins the goalkeeper`s confidence. Do goalkeepers carry responsibility for the result of the match, for the series of matches without a loss? (Very emotionally.) Our goalkeepers were slighted by the press this year with titles like "When will Zenit let a goal by, when will it lose?” or “Why are Zenit`s goalies playing without any mistakes?” That has an influence too. It`s great that we went so many matches without losing, but when everybody around, including sometimes the team`s own fans, start saying that probably Zenit will finally lost its next match, that has an effect on the guys.

– Were than any matches when you felt absolutely calm? Or a match when you wanted to stand behind the goal and tell your players what to do?
– (Thinking.) No, I can`t highlight any particular matches. I told my players what I think at all our practices, and that`s enough. I can just say that when the second half of the season started, and everyone was saying that we would go the whole season without losing, then we started feeling less confidence. We gave Vyacheslav Malafeev and Yury Zhevnov the chance to fix their mistakes. But the psychological overexertion had its effect. The desire not to let any goals by in the big matches was too large, and that had an effect on the game. Just remember the second goal that CSKA scored against us: Zhevnov wanted to play quickly, like he was asked to do, but his desire overcame his composure.

– How would you rate the play of your goalkeepers this year?
– For me the most important thing is stability. Each person can make mistakes, but we tried to give the goalkeepers a chance to fix their mistakes. Malafeev and Zhevnov are high-level goalkeepers. The tough competition led to additional nerves, and we didn`t see the reliability that we`ve gotten used to seeing from them. More likely the players got used to the additional competition. Malafeev, according to the statistics, allowed less than one goal in two matches. Zhevnov allowed more than one goal per match. But that said I can only applaud the guys for their effort at practice. They worked very hard. Borodin also gave it his all, and supported his partners very well. I have to mention Andrey Zaitsev too, the goalkeeper of Zenit`s youth team. He became the team captain this year, and showed that he has exceptional talent. If he continues to work, that talent will have fruit. But we all have more to work on.