Season Preview: Akhmat Grozny

Akhmat Arena in Grozny. Photo: Станислав Гайдук

Akhmat Arena in Grozny. Photo: Станислав Гайдук

FC Akhmat Grozny has witnessed a considerable amount of changes this summer.  Not just notably a managerial change, as Rashid Rakhimov has left the club and been replaced by former FC Krasnodar coach Oleg Kononov, but also their official club name.

Terek Grozny, as the club was previously known, was named after the city Grozny and the subsequent River Terek which flowed through her. This summer, however, the club was renamed after the first president of Chechnya, Akhmat Kadyrov, whom the stadium is also named after. Akhmat Kadyrov is the father of the current president Ramzan Kadyrov, who also serves as honorary president of the club.

READ MORE: Terek Grozny’s Name Change – A Political Tool

Last season, the club finished 5th, one point behind FC Krasnodar and Europa League qualification. While the Chechens will be disappointed on missing out on European football, the 5th place was their best ever league finish, and something to build upon.

Head coach

In May 2017 long standing manager Rashid Rakhimov stepped down as head coach.  In the last three seasons he had guided his team to finish 9th, 7th and 5th last season, but over the last season, Rakhimov, unfortunately, became increasingly ill and was often unable to be on the sideline with his squad.  Over his three years at the club, he had built a stable and hard-to-beat outfit, which consistently showed improvement and progression as a club.

Looking to fill the void, the club were quick to appoint new manager Oleg Kononov.  The 51-year-old Belarussian played most of his senior career in his homeland but is best known as his time as head coach of Krasnodar, guiding them to a 4th and 3rd place finish in the RFPL, while also taking them into European competition for the first time beating the likes of Real Sociedad along the way.

Greatest strength

When talking about Grozny and Chechnya you cannot but forget the 12th man and the atmosphere that is produced at the Akhmat Arena on a regular basis.  Last Season, Grozny had the 4th best home average attendance in the league with an average of around 15,000, and they are incredibly tough to beat when playing at home, achieving an impressive 1.73 points per game at home last season.

Greatest weakness

This summer has seen Akhmat lose some experienced, and long-serving players, whom will be hard to replace.  In Gheorghe Grozav, Daler Kuzyayev, Facundo Píriz and Igor Lebedenko, Akhmat lost veterans who have played 332 games for the club combined, and none of their replacements has any RFPL-experience.

Key player

Albanian international Bekim Balaj stands out above all others. The striker scored nine goals last season, the 5th highest in the league, and he was especially brilliant in the first half of the season. Unfortunately, his form dipped a bit in the spring, which also affected Terek’s overall results. Overall though, the debut season of the 26-year-old was impressive, and he is becoming a household name in the league.

Young starlet

Akhmat has brought in some young Brazilians this summer, who should all be interesting to follow. 19-year-old midfielder Ravanelli came highly rated was signed from Ponte Penta, and is largely unproven and unknown, but seems like an interesting player. The same can be said about the 18-year-old striker Leo Jaba, who joined Akhmat from Corinthians and will be looking to get some valuable game time this season to prove himself.

Season prediction

The lack of proper signings and the loss of Rakhimov makes it difficult to see Akhmat copy last season’s 5th place. The club has the advantage of being relatively well-run, well funded and stable, but despite this, they look set for a mid-table finish away from the top of the league.

Author: Stephen Fenton

British Citizen: Arsenal FC & Russian Football Fan. Whilst spending a large quantity of my time in Estonia and Russia, my love for the RFPL was born.
Interested in Russian History,Culture and Politics. Profession – Logistics Coordinator (European Specialist).

Comments

  1. ФЕНТОН says:

    great ,Stephen!İ shared on vk.com!

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