3. Artyom Dzyuba, striker, Zenit
Scoring 16 times in his first 24 games for Zenit, six of these coming in the Champions League, Artyom Dzyuba has done everything he could to win over Zenit’s fans after he joined the club from archrivals Spartak Moscow before this season. Since his debut for Spartak in 2006, Dzyuba has been considered a great talent, but the fans had to wait ten years before the striker finally established himself as one of the best strikers in the country.
2015 has however been a strange year for the striker. When it was revealed that he wasn’t going to extend his contract with Spartak last winter, he fell out of grace at the club, and when he later announced that he would be joining rivals Zenit, he was demoted to the second team despite being Spartak’s top scorer. After hard work from Zenit, he was sent on loan to Rostov, but he was unable to copy his great 14/15 season as he only scored once in 11 appearances.
Since joining Zenit, and Slutsky taking over the national team, Dzyuba has finally broke into the Sbornaya’s starting lineup. He scored eight goals in eight matches during the Euro qualification campaign, four of these coming in the 7-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein in September.
Dzyuba’s 125 successful aerial challenges is the most in the league, and his strength in the air as well on the ground plays an important role in Zenit’s offense. Furthermore, his strong appearance in the penalty box allows more freedom for offensive players like Danny, Shatov and especially Hulk.
Statistics from InStat ranks Dzyuba as the best striker in Russia in front of Lokomotiv’s Oumar Baye Niasse and CSKA’s Seydou Doumbia. Even though Dzyuba has only contributed with one assist in the domestic league and two in the Champions League, his 1.9 key passes per game is the second highest of all strikers in the Russian Premier League who have played more than a 1000 minutes this season.
2. Quincy Promes, striker, Spartak
Promes’ 13 goals and three assists last season made him one of the biggest winners at our RFN Awards after last season. His performances during his first season in Russia made us crown him as The Best Signing of the Year, The Best Young Player of the Year while he also made our Team of the year.
This season the Dutch striker has been even better, already scoring ten goals and making two assists while recording a WhoScored rating on 7.34. Promes is currently the leading goalscorer in the Russian Premier League, which becomes even more impressive by the fact that Spartak have been struggling this season. The Moscow side is currently ranked sixth in the league, and had it not been for Promes Alenichev’s boys would have struggled much more. In fact, Promes has scored 38% of Spartak’s goals, which is the highest contribution in the entire league.
With his powerful shooting from distance, his pace and great technique and dribbling skills, Promes is nearly a unique player by Russian standards. These things make him the kind of player who can change the outcome of a match on his own.
Promes’ great form has caught the eye of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, and he could end up leaving Moscow by next summer at the latest. By then Spartak will be able to make a big profit on the player they bought from Twente for €15 million.
1. Hulk, striker, Zenit
All of the seven RFN writers who took part in the voting for this top 50 had Hulk ranked as the best player in the league, something that shows just how big a star the Brazilian is.
After a difficult start in Russia, Hulk has been fantastic in the past three seasons scoring a combined 40 league goals. What’s more important, however, is that ever since André Villas-Boas took over Zenit last year, Hulk has been no longer only a goalscorer but also a teamplayer. Contributing 13 assists in the 13/14 and 14/15 seasons, Hulk has already made 12 this season after only 16 games. On top of this, he has also scored eight league goals as well as three goals in the Champions League. His WhoScored rating on 8.16 is by far the highest in the league, while his InStat Index rating is also much higher than his teammate Oleg Shatov who is ranked second.
Hulk has either scored or assisted 20 of Zenit’s 34 league goals this season, and his importance to the reigning champions cannot be understated. The perfect examples of his importance are Zenit’s two home games against Mordovia and Ufa, both of which he missed. Zenit dominated both games, having 33 total shots against Ufa and 78% ball possession, but only drawing 1-1, and having 14 total shots and 64% possession against Mordovia and only drawing 0-0.
That Hulk is more than his powerful shot is proven by the fact that he averages more key passes per game than any other player in the Russian Premier League with 4.83 according to InStat. On top of this he is also the player with the most successful passes into the opponents box per game.
Hulk extended his contract with Zenit last year, and not long ago he stated that he would love to extend it again, and stay in Peter the Great’s St. Petersburg until 2025. Hulk is clearly feeling at home in Russia now, and that is obvious on the pitch.
Author: Toke Møller Theilade
Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.