Everything you need to know about: FC Spartak Moscow

Spartak’s replesedent new home, the 44,000 seater Otkrytiye Arena. Source: Открытие Арена

After a decade and a half of obscurity, Spartak Moscow is finally back to the big time, back into the Champions League and winning trophies. However, the honeymoon was short-lived as “good old Spartak” thus far in 2017/18 have returned to their now all too welcoming mediocrity. Hopefully, as in the grand days of Oleg Romantsev and Konstantin Beskov’s reigns, Spartak have the potential to thrive in Europe.

History

Spartak has its foundations in the Russian Gymnastics Society (RGO Sokol), which was founded in 1883. In 1922, the Moscow Sports Circle (later named Krasnaya Presnya) was formed in response to the Police forming Dinamo Moscow, army forming CSKA Moscow, and such, Spartak (derived from Spartacus) was created by an amalgamation of trade union organisations, and thus was given the name “The People’s Team”.

Nikolai Starostin was one of the founders of the club, and in 1926, arranged for the team to be moved to the 13,000 seat Tomsky Stadium and be chiefly sponsored by the food workers union – hence the monicker ‘myaso‘ (meat). Sarostin himself changed the name to the Spartak Sports Society in 1935 and changed the badge to the eponymous red and white diamond logo we see today. Starostin and his brothers all played for Spartak in the 1930s and ran the society pretty much up until their incarceration in the Gulag in May 1942. Rehabilitated and released upon Stalin and Lavrentiiy Beria’s (the head of the secret police and thus Dinamo Moscow)  deaths in 1953 and 1954 respectively.

The brothers are all memorialised in the newly built 44,000 seater Otkrytiye Arena with statues pitch side, and the rest of Spartak’s history is one of success. They were the most successful Soviet-Russian team both pre and post-dissolution, and have only suffered troubles in the last 15 years before their revival last season.

Manager

Massimo Carrera last season was arguably Spartak’s greatest asset, the Italian could do no wrong. Fast forward five months, and now he is public enemy number one with many, and possibly even the club’s owner, Leonid Fedun. Carrera’s head has been swinging under an axe for some time now, awaiting the LukOil magnate to finally swing. Tactics approach to games and the subsequent results have been consistently inconsistent, as many stars of last season have underperformed. However, Spartak may just be leaving in reserve their best for Europe, just as CSKA have. If results and performances continue in Europe as they have domestically, the Italian will run out of excuses sooner, rather than later.

Carrera was hired in the summer of 2016 as the assistant to Dmitry Alenichev, the under-fire club legend. Previously, the former central defender was assistant to Antonio Conte for four years at both Juventus and the Italian national team and thus has a strong pedigree in the game. Last season, he was praised for introducing catenaccio to the Otkytiye Arena, as Spartak powered their way to a title for the first time in sixteen years. An almost unimaginable length of time for a team which won the Premier League every year bar one (1995) from 1992-2001. Carrera utilises Spartak in either a 4-2-3-1 (come 4-3-3), a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2. Often, Carrera employs the latter in order to pair twin strikers, Ze Luis and Luiz Adriano up top in order to overpower their opponents. Recently, he has returned to a three-at-the-back following successive Moscow derby losses, leading to an impressive victory over resurgent Rubin Kazan at the weekend.

Key Players

Quincy Promes – Promes is Spartak’s crown jewel, since joining in 2015, the Dutch winger has scored 49 goals in 90 appearances for the Red-Whites, and is often their game-winner. Already leading the team’s scoring charts this season with six in just nine games, Promes’ goals have given Spartak ten of their twelve points in the league this season, as well as scoring a late winner against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russian Super Cup. Promes has a wicked left-foot and holds poaching instincts many strikers would die for, but his greatest asset is his footballing intelligence. He always picks the right thing to do on the pitch, and has a strong mentality, scoring Spartak’s vital goals during their championship win last season. Expect him to be a thorn in any side in Europe this season, and will likely put himself right in the shop window if he performs well.

Georgi Dzhikiya – Signed in the 2017 winter transfer window, the Russian of Georgian ancestry has been a rock-at-the-back for Massimo Carrera this season. Although Spartak’s troubles have tended to be defensively this season, Dzhikiya has been their shining light. Carrera somewhat ludicrously dropped Dhzikiya for the recent Moscow derby at home to Lokomotiv, and after Aleksandr Samedov’s red card could have seriously done with having Dzhikiya in their back line as they conceded four goals in one game. His positioning, awareness, and anticipation are his strongest assets, as well as holding the prerequisite physical assets to thrive.

Fernando – Although the Brazilian central midfielder has underperformed this season, he is still one of Spartak’s most important players. His deep-lying playmaking, ball retention and effective recycling of play is vital to Spartak’s counter attacks and ability to swarm the opposition box, allowing Denis Glushakov, Ivelin Popov, Mario Pasalic, Roman Zobnin and their full-backs to attack with relative freedom. Fernando is at time Spartak’s most important player, with his dirty work allowing the cacophony of attacking talent to shine.

European Record

Last season, Spartak were eliminated in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League by Cypriot minnows AEK Larnaca, with the sacking of manager Dmitry Alenichev coming soon after. Although disastrous at first, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Red-Whites, as his assistant, Massimo Carrera, took over soon after and led the club to its first Russian championship for over 16 years. Spartak was involved in the 2012/13 Group Stages, but only reached the knockout rounds of any European competition once in the last ten years; reaching the Europa League quarter finals in 2010/11 after transferring from the Champions League. Spartak has a much more prestigious history in the old European Cup and Uefa Cup, reaching the knockout stages of either competition for eleven years in a row up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Their greatest result was reaching the Semi Final on the European Cup in 1991, losing out 5-2 on aggregate to Marseille, who themselves eventually lost out to Red Star Belgrade, a game if Spartak had won would have been hugely anticipated in both Russia and Serbia due to the close links between Spartak and Red Star.

Strongest Lineup

4-2-3-1: Artyom Rebrov – Andrei Eschenko, Serdar Tasci, Georgi Dzhikiya, Dmitry Kombarov – Fernando, Denis Glushakov – Aleksandr Samedov, Ivelin Popov, Quincy Promes – Luiz Adriano

3-5-2: Artyom Rebrov – Serdar Tassci, Ilya Kutepov, Georgi Dzhikiya – Andrei Eschenko, Mario Pasalic, Fernando, Denis Glushakov, Dmitry Kombarov – Quincy Promes, Luiz Adriano

Author: James Nickels

Born and raised in South Shields, the direct mid-point between Sunderland and Newcastle in North-East England during an era of sustained success and European football for the Magpies, while the Black Cats floundered in the lower divisions, so naturally I decided to support Sunderland. I’ve developed an interest in Russian football over the last decade or so, but it piqued while studying for my Masters’ Degree in Russian and Soviet History, and I’ve been hooked by Spartak Moscow ever since. Considers Eduard Streltsov the best of his generation, and a fond proponent of his repatriation.

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