Sergei Semak: “We’re continuing to play for the Cup and the league title”

The Zenit manager’s words on the match against Pari NN.
Sergei Semak: “We’re continuing to play for the Cup and the league title”

“The match was difficult and it was expected as Pari NN rarely concede, they’ve conceded less goals than we have and in this aspect they’re in second place after Krasnodar, they know how to play in defence.

It was good that we were able to score a quick goal, but after that we were lacking quality to finish our shots in counterattacks. We did have chances to score, but unfortunately there were a lot of mistakes.

We played well in defence, except for the moment where the opponent had a chance after a corner, other than that there are no questions for our defensive line. The condition of the players who came on the pitch today and the injuries clearly affected the way the match went for us and the quality of our play.”

What happened with Chistyakov? Was it an old injury or something else?

“I can’t comment on Dmitriy’s problem yet, he will undergo a checkup tomorrow, then we’ll see how serious his injury is. It’s tough to say whether it was a head injury or a neck one, but I hope it’s nothing too serious. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish the match today.”

Why is Renan not playing even when your situation with the central defenders is difficult? Are you ready to let him go in the winter?

“We have no offers regarding Renan as of today. The same goes for the other players. If someone is not content with something, they have to discuss this with the club and come up with the solution together. He is a young player and he hasn’t been very consistent this season. He started quite well, but at some point Alip won the competition for this position. Considering the situation we’re in right now he could’ve come on, but since he hasn’t been playing much his condition is not at its best level.

When we train we see that he doesn’t have enough confidence to play in the starting team right now. The risk is quite high, and if the game wasn’t as difficult we might have given him the playing time. Considering the way the match was going for us today it was better to let the footballers who are in better condition play.”

What would you say about the team’s performance in the first half of the season? What was successful and what wasn’t?

“I would say we did well, considering all of the issues we had do teal with. We had injuries, some of the players joined the team later, we had to come up with solutions on how to replace the key players who left in the summer. We had to experiment with the formations as the season was progressing and when we thought we found the right one, Vyacheslav Karavaev got injured. Mário started improving his fitness level, but then got injured as well. We had to deal with a huge amount of difficulties, Mateo was unavailable for some time, then Ivan Sergeev got sick and was out for a bit.

If somebody told me that we would have to face this situation in the summer, I would be all for it. I thought things would go so much worse for us in terms of our position in the standings when we were planning our training process and analyzing everybody’s condition. I would say that we finished on a good note and we’re continuing to play for the Cup and the league title. This is our main objective. Now we have to get ready, we’re going to have time during training camp to help the players who were absent to catch up and improve their fitness levels.”

In the last five years Zenit got used to being chased by other teams and not the other way around. How are the players feeling right now? Do they have extra motivation?

“They always try their best. It’s a rare case when the team is able to win titles for so many years in a row. This brings certain difficulties with it, but we do have the understanding of what we have to do. Sometimes we’re successful at it, sometimes we’re not, but generally speaking not a single team in the world would be able to win every year. In order to achieve that you have to guess the transfer aims right, to sign the players who would strengthen the team. Bayern conceded five goals today, therefore every club has its own difficulties. Some are lacking motivation, some don’t have enough players available, or maybe there was an incorrect timing with the rotation process. These are the usual issues we have to deal with and it’s not a problem. We have to keep working and do our best. Everything else is out of our hands, we can’t predict how things will go.”

Speaking of the future, Zenit would probably need to strengthen the squad during the transfer window this winter. When should we expect Artur to fly out to St. Petersburg for medical checkups? The Russian and the Brazilian journalists say that the deal is almost sealed.

“I can’t comment on this question. It’s news for me that the Brazilian media writes this information. I think it’s still too early to talk about transfers that Zenit might or might not be planning.”

You always point out how well Aleksey Sutormin does in training, but we rarely see him on the pitch. Why didn’t we see him today, was it because the match wasn’t going the way you wanted it to, or is there another reason?

“That is correct, we weren’t able to give him the playing time today. I’m not pointing only Aleksey out, everybody works well. Although speaking of Sutormin, the injuries affected our decisions with the substitutions today. We didn’t expect Dmitriy Chistyakov to get injured. We had to substitute three of our defenders today, and we were trying to hold that moment off as much as we could. We had to make three necessary substitutions, but we also knew that we had Du Queiroz on, I don’t think it was easy for him to play for the whole 90 minutes as he is not in his best condition. The same goes for Mantuan who missed a lot and Cassierra too. We had a lot of questions to deal with throughout the match, therefore we couldn’t give the playing time to Aleksey today.

Either way, we have training camp ahead, so we’re going to start over. As I’ve already said, those players who don’t have enough playing practice and who want to change something have to understand that the club has its interests that have to be matched. On our end, we as a coaching staff and the club try our best for the players to be happy. Sometimes you can’t make everyone happy and there are moments when a player wants to leave. In this case his agent has to find an offer that would work for the club as we would have to find a replacement for said player. There is no other way to deal with this, the players have contracts and they earn money, so they have to be professional about it. There is no doubt that the club and the coaching staff will give way to the player if the requirements are met.”

With the recent change in Zenit’s structure, does your opinion matter in terms of the transfer campaign, or do you have to work with the squad you’re told to work with as a manager?

“I think my opinion does matter, but you have to ask the other management staff how much it does. I would say that the manager’s position has to be the defining one. In my opinion there are two concepts. The first one is when the club signs a manager to work in the conditions set by a sports director or the club’s management. The second concept is where the manager is responsible for the results and the players who join the team. Since we don’t have a sports director at the moment, the coaching staff has to deal with the majority of these questions.”

Are you worried that Wendel will be late for the training camp again as it happened in the summer? Did you speak to him on this matter, could he guarantee that he would be back in time?

“You can talk about Wendel for a long time. He can’t guarantee that he would be back in time, but honestly, meeting a person like him is rare. He is like an artist, he enjoys his work. He has the drive to play at every training session and he enjoys the process so much that if you give him some time off while we’re playing he would get worried.

Now when the guys are off for vacation to get some rest from football, the first thing Wendel is going to do is to gather his friends and play football with them. It’s life for him, that’s who he is as a person. There are some flaws, but there are qualities that are truly astonishing, and one of them is the endless love for football. I think it’s not something you would see often.”

How are you planning to celebrate the New Years?

“I want to celebrate the New Years with my family and I hope nothing will get in the way. After the New Years I hope to travel somewhere with the kids and we already have some plans. We have many kids and we want to spend quality time with all of them. We might have to divide them into smaller groups to go on a trip with the first group for a week now and then have another trip with the other group after.”