Sergei Semak: "This championship win is the most memorable"

The Zenit manager spoke to the media after the final day of the season. 
Sergei Semak: "This championship win is the most memorable"

I see only those (journalists) who like our team are here (laughs) and everyone who wanted to see different champions have probably left already. Thank you very much for your support and congratulations, it’s been an incredibly difficult season for us and sometimes we were very unlucky, even when we played well. We didn’t have such a big gap to rely on this season, be that points, chances created or how well we played, but still, we were a little better. There were a number of reasons we lacked finishing sometimes, and sometimes we had bad luck. We didn’t do enough for us to create any kind of gap. I think that the way things were going, the team could have lost faith, but we continued to work hard and believed in ourselves and, thank God, we did it today. We were able to become champions and made the supporters happy. The lads did great.

I think it is very hard to imagine how difficult it is for players in times like this, when we were having such bad luck. You can call it whatever you want, but it’s been with us throughout the season. We lost a lot of matches, but I don’t think we were much worse in games. A title race like this is rare, when the title is decided at the very last minute. The other sides deserved this title race and played until the last minute. Krasnodar and Dynamo both lost points at certain parts of the season, but in the last match, we turned out to be better and were able to make our vast number of supporters in this city and in others, happy.

Congratulations on becoming champions, did you tell the team what the score was in the other match or did you wait until the last minute?

No, we didn’t tell them at half time or at the beginning of the half. When we went behind we decided to tell them, to give them more motivation. If there was a different score, we would not have said anything, because we had to focus on our game. Before the match we said we wouldn’t look at their score, and if necessary the coaching staff would pass it on, and this is what happened during the match. When we thought it was necessary, we told them to give them more energy to change the course of the match.

Will the Zenit players out on loan get winners medals?

I can’t say, it depends if they played in matches or not. This is probably more of a question about the requirements to be awarded a medal, so I can’t say exactly.

You were criticised a lot during the season, especially in the spring during Zenit’s bad run. Do you have anything to say to your critics? Other than winning the title?

There is always criticism and if I thought about how much there’s been over the years, I think I wouldn’t be able to carry on. The dominant teams are never loved, but this is because our team is winning. It doesn’t matter what reasons people have, or why they don’t like us, and there are a lot of these people. I think that it’s useless to try and explain things to people who won’t listen.

It’s enough to look throughout the season and see who said what, even the officials who run the game said it was “good that Zenit lost to Rubin...” I think there should be neutrality here. If you (are an official and) support a team, you should support them at home or with your friends, but keep this information to yourself and do not openly support any team.

Naturally, those who don't like us would like to see a different champion, but we want to stay at the top as long as possible, and the lads are doing everything they can to make this happen. 

Is this the most pleasing of the six championships? You just mentioned that speaking to those who don’t want to listen is useless, and perhaps the way things have been for Artur fits this. I would like to ask you, has his goal against Krasnodar, the goal today, and the goal in Samara meant he’s justified his transfer in full?

Of course, he’s justified it! His goal today means we’re champions. The whole team earned it of course, but someone had to score the goal, especially given how difficult it has been to score a goal in recent matches. We still need to understand Artur’s potential and we’ve not had enough time to fully integrate him into the team. We’ve had issues with full-backs throughout the season, and this meant we had to change both tactics and formation. The whole season was like walking a tightrope, balancing in one direction or the other. We changed formation and tactics, and tried to remain fighting at the top of the table for the league trophy.

Arthur is full of the winning spirit, and his goals certainly show his importance and how useful he can be for the team and it’s a starting point for us. It will be easier for him in the future when he gets more used to things, just like Pedro. These are players who haven’t yet fully integrated to the team, but they showed their full potential today. They are part of the team, and I’m very grateful for their hard work. Playing in any position we ask, they are giving their all.

How did you decide who would take the penalty today?

We get so few penalties that we only think about who will take the penalty when going on the pitch. Today's match was only the third penalty of the season for the team that controls the ball the most and spends most time in the penalty area. But, anyway, it’s been this type of season.

I don’t even want to comment any more at this point. As for taking the penalty, we have options. You saw that Claudinho was going to take it, but the Rostov coach ran onto the field to say where he thought he would shoot, so we quickly changed the taker to make it more difficult for the goalkeeper.

Which of your six titles would you say is the most memorable for you?

The most difficult one is this one, but the first one was very important. These are different, unique feelings about them. But regarding how difficult they were... Of course, this championship win is the most memorable. I’ll say it once again, you very rarely see a season like this. I don’t know if there had been a time before when three teams could have won the title on the last day.

Do you already feel like Zenit’s Sir Alex Ferguson or not yet?

Of course not. I am a person who does my job and tries to help those around me and I help where I can. As for the contract extension, we all know about it and it's because of the results that everyone is happy with, so things are working. If you aren’t getting results, the easiest thing to do with a team is to fire the manager, and this is absolutely right! You can’t fire the team, and it’s difficult to change things during a season, but the manager can be changed at any time when necessary. I am absolutely fine with the contract terms and am grateful to the club’s management. This is a signal of trust and it is very important that this signal was received at this time, it was very important for the club, so that even if we had not had won the championship for the sixth time, to have won five league titles out of six is seen as a good result. But, anyway, the conversations in the media calmed down when the club’s management came forward with the offer to extend the agreement and showed that they supported the work of the coaching staff and see our future at Zenit. We are very grateful for what our club’s management do, both for the team and for me personally.