Round Table: Looking Back at the Summer Transfer Window

Two weeks ago, the transfer window closed, and we have now had a chance to evaluate the new players. Therefore, we gathered a team to discuss the transfer window. 

The panel consisted of the following RFN writers:

Toke Theilade (@Toke Theilade)
James Nickels (@JamesNickels)
Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)
David Sansun (@RFN_David)


Question one: Who’ll stand as the best signing this summer, once the season is over?

Toke: Emmanuel Mammana. After years with horrible central defenders, which constantly cost them points and victories, Zenit finally addressed the elephant in the room and signed a replacement for Luis Neto. Mammana is still young, but he has started of brilliantly. Defences win championships, and now Zenit can finally boast a strong defensive line again.

James: Many new signings have already caught the eye with their league form this year; Leandro Paredes, Sebastián Driussi, Léo Jabá, Wanderson, Solomon Kverkvelia, Nuno Rocha etc. Some more recent new signings who have yet make their debuts look promising; Pedro Rocha, Emiliano Rigoni and Vero Salatić. However, the one new signing who stands out ahead of all the rest for both his influence on his new team and performances within it is Daler Kuzyaev.

Andrew: Zenit have obviously made the most significant transfer deals this summer with their horde of Argentinians and ex-Rostov players, but it’s one of their other signings that stands out for me; Daler Kuzyaev. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well he has adapted to life with the St Petersburg super-club, especially given the pedigree of fellow new arrivals, but his signing is brilliant on a number of levels. Firstly, he has the qualities to make a great box-to-box midfielder with his work-rate, accurate passing and eye for goal, then he has the composure to knit the side together. Let’s not forget he holds a Russian passport – I’ll stick my neck out and say he’s a dark horse for Russia’s World Cup squad.

David: It’s hard to look past any of the Zenit signings at this point. A lot of the other clubs have also made a signing who look good on paper, or have had a solid impact so far. However, I think when all is said and done, providing Lokomotiv and the player can keep up their early season form, Solomon Kverkvelia has been immense so far, and his qualities could fire Lokomotiv into two successive European campaigns.

 

Question two: Are there any players who are destined to fail at their new clubs?

Toke: Eder to Lokomotiv. He will always have his mark in the history books because of his goal in last summer’s European Championships final, but overall Eder just isn’t a very good player. He was mediocre at best in France, horrible at Swansea and perhaps just above average for Braga. Lokomotiv were of course desperate to bring in a striker after Ari’s injury, but this transfer looks like another Russian team being fooled by an impressive CV.

James:  Arshak Koryan, who joined Lokomotiv from Vitesse. Before I begin, I must say I believe Koryan does have promising footballing ability, even before his move away from Loko in February 2015. Koryan was one of Loko’s most promising youngsters, but he turned down a contract renewal offer and moved to Dutch side Vitesse in order to gain more first team football.

Koryan is good enough to break into the first team for a spell, but the question is where? He does not have the power nor defensive ability to play as Jefferson Farfan does, covering both in attack and at wing-back. Nor does Koryan hold the astute technical ability of Aleksei Miranchuk to play either behind the front man or as a false nine. Koryan’s problem is that he is a very traditional, pacey winger, playing in a team that has no use whatsoever for a very traditional, pacey winger.

Andrew: Unfortunately, I am going to stay with Zenit for this one. The squad is so impressive that it is hard to complain about their transfer policy – the perceived deadwood has been cleared, and genuine quality has replaced it – but I fear for Matías Kranevitter. His four compatriots all look more or less guaranteed to start, and with Branislav Ivanović nailed on in defence alongside Domenico Criscito there are no more foreigner places available. Even if there weren’t any restrictions on foreigners, I doubt he’d make the side ahead of Kuzyaev or Christian Noboa.

David: Pedro Rocha. It’s a risk to say it having not seen him, but at €12m, in a struggling Spartak side, in a new country, in new conditions, and with limited experience and goals so far, it’s hard for me to see him being an instant impact in Russia.

 

Question three: Which signing surprised you the most?

Toke: Leandro Paredes to Zenit was quite surprising. The fact that Zenit could sign a highly promising 23-year-old player, and an Argentinean international, from a club like AS Roma was impressive. It furthermore shows the extent of Roberto Mancini’s reputation, as I’m certain that he played a huge role in talking Paredes into joining Zenit. This transfer was a real sign of intent.

James: Aleksei Ionov to Rostov. The Selmashi were tipped by many to be relegated back to the FNL this season after the departure of Kurban Berdyev and 29 players, including twelve first-teamers. However, the team under Leonid Kuchuk have performed brilliantly thus far, losing just once and conceding only three goals after eight rounds of games this season. Part of this has been due to their excellent recruitment drive, with Aleksandr Zuev, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Sergei Parshivlyuk, Artur Yusupov, Vladimir Dyadyun, and Sergei Pesyakov all notable incomings. Ionov, however, is the most surprising of all.

Andrew: There are a few contenders here – Kirill Panchenko on a permanent deal to Dinamo when CSKA had minimal senior attacking options, Khasan Mamtov to Anzhi when he already effectively had the freedom of Tyumen – but I’m going to say Saeed Ezzatolahi to Amkar on loan. I thought considering the circumstances, he had an excellent season for Anzhi last season, and was perfectly placed to cement a place in Rostov’s midfield after half the squad left. His physicality and creativity would have been a replacement for Noboa free of charge, and for the player himself I’d have thought he’d want a more permanent solution given his international experience. For Amkar it should be a great signing, but he’s not played a minute.

David: Paredes to Zenit was the one that made me think, OK, they’re not messing about this year. He had such pedigree and has arguably stepped down from Roma to join Zenit, but money talks. Juan Lescano to Anzhi was also a bit of a shock, considering he’d really not hit much form in the FNL. It was almost as if they signed him just because he pulled off a rabona against Zenit – albeit hitting the bar – but apparently Grigoryan wanted to be reunited with the Argentine striker whom he had worked with in Khabarovsk. It remains to be seen how Lescano will fare now Grigoryan has resigned of course.

 

Question four: Which clubs were the winners and losers of the transfer window?

Toke: One cannot overlook Zenit as the winners. They have spent by far outspent the rest of the league, so there’s really no competition here. Unlike previous seasons, the signings they have made this summer are generally of a class above what the rest of the league can attract.

As for the losers, I have to go with Spartak. Considering the momentum they had following last season’s championship, it was incredibly naïve to think that Rocha, Petković and Pašalić would be enough to keep them at the top of Russian football. Clearly, they needed to invest more in the squad prior to the Champions League. They failed to add both depth and quality to the squad this summer.

James: Zenit and Spartak. In my season preview for Spartak. For the former I anticipated the status quo, with Roberto Mancini unable to readdress the balance in just one year, and predicted the Red-Whites’ to win the league again this year. However, Zenit’s massive spending – including the first €20m+ fee for a player since 2012 (Hulk, Witsel, Willian) juxtaposed with Spartak’s failure in the window to strengthen significantly has switch the two around in merely eight short weeks.

Sir Alex Ferguson used to famously claim that defending a championship was always more difficult than winning the first, and thus heavily believed in continually strengthening a winning team. Antonio Conte likewise did this at Juventus and has at Chelsea this season, yet Massimo Carrera has been unable to. Be that his decision, or more likely, forced upon him by Leonid Fedun, Spartak have missed their chance and will now be playing catch-up to an imperious Zenit side for the rest of the reason.

Andrew: Zenit simply hoovered up with their incomparable spending power, and in one sense they are the clear winners because they have dealt effectively to leave them clear favourites to win the league. However I’m going to go for Rubin, for two reasons; firstly, they brought back Kurban Berdyev, and secondly because they cleared out a fair portion of the deadwood and replaced the key losses well while still turning a tidy profit. As for the losers, it’s impossible to look past CSKA – once again they have failed to bring in anyone when they needed to the most. Relying on youth is admirable – Timur Zhamaletdinov looks exciting, and Fyodor Chalov could break through further – but this feels more like it has been forced upon them rather than the pursuit of a noble cause.

David: Amkar were the losers for sure. They had no money and have done nothing to inspire confidence in their season. The results have reflected this too. Not only that, but they lost two of their best players, Branko Jovičić and Roland Gigolaev, the latter to a league rival. Rostov looked like early potential losers, but they replaced their losses very well and have started the season very competently.

Zenit are the undoubted winners, but having spent more than the rest of the league combined, that’s no surprise.

Toke Møller Theilade

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.

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