Season Preview: Arsenal Tula

 

Arsenal Tula's homefield, Arsenal Tsentralniy Stadion. Photo: Andy Shenk/RFN

Arsenal Tula’s homefield, Arsenal Tsentralniy Stadion. Photo: Andy Shenk/RFN

The 2016-17 campaign was an utter disaster for FC Arsenal Tula and it was only saved by Igor Schevchenko’s goal in the second playoff relegation match against FC Yenisey at the end of May. Parting ways with experienced head coach Sergei Pavlov early on and for no understandable reasons proved to be an enormous mistake by the club’s board since his replacement, Sergei Kiryakov, didn’t bring anything new to the team, despite being given plenty of new players during the winter break.

For the new season that is about to start, a new head coach, Miodrag Bozovic, was brought in, but so far the club has failed to sign any new players with the exception of Sergey Tkachev, who arrived on loan from CSKA Moscow. Montenegrin defender Risto Radunovic has been on trial with the team and might end up being their second signing this summer. More new players will certainly arrive during the upcoming weeks as the team needs to find quality footballers to replace Nikita Burmistrov and Oleg Vlasov, who left the club for undisclosed reasons.

Head coach

Arsenal’s new boss is an old acquaintance to Russian football. Between 2008 and 2015, he coached seven different Russian clubs, including FC Rostov, with whom he won the cup in 2014, and now he’s back after a two-year stint at Belgrade with FK Crvena Zvezda. In his debut season at the Serbian giants he won the championship, but last season, was far from being brilliant and Bozovic ended up stepping down from his post after a painful defeat against the local rivals of FK Vozdovac.

At the age of 49, the Montenegrin head coach will have a mountain to climb on his new adventure at Russian football. The team is drowned in complete tactical chaos and it is up to Bozovic to fix that and find a proper formation that fit his current squad and that help them overcome their unsynchronized 3-5-1-1 system from last season.

Greatest strength

It is fair to say that the team’s greatest strength is between the sticks. Their two quality goalkeepers, Vladimir Gabulov and Mikhail Levashov, will surely help them claw plenty of points throughout the season and are definitely the pillars that sustain the rest of the team.

Greatest weakness

Arsenal’s greatest weakness was and will probably still be their inability to score goals. After scoring just 18 goals last season, Bozovic will need to reinvent his team’s attacking movements in order to take the best from the two centre forwards Federico Rasic and journeyman Igor Schevchenko. The arrival of versatile midfielder Sergey Tkachev might end up being of major importance for the team’s attacking game.

Key player

Talented midfielder Ilya Maksimov gathers all the needed qualities to be the team’s most influential player. At the age of 30, Maksimov has been constantly massacred by injuries lately, but a fresh start, free from injury problems, will surely place him as a team leader and a player of pivotal importance for his team’s attacking movements. Maksimov played as a second forward several times last season, but he constantly failed to deliver solid performances. It would probably be wise for Bozovic to place him on the midfield line or as an advanced playmaker, in order to take the best out of this talented player.

Young starlet

FC Arsenal Tula are hoping to build a strong youth team this season and the work being done by the new head coach Vadim Garanin is, so far, pleasing the players. A new positive attitude towards the game is Garanin’s motto and the young players seem to be enjoying it. Midfielder Jaroslav Ivakin and forwards Roman Izotov and Nikita Melnikov are probably the ones to watch throughout the season and probably the last two might be able to grab some playing time in Bozovic’s rejuvenated Arsenal.

Season prediction

It is hard to predict what will happen to FC Arsenal Tula this season. The club struggled last term to grab a place in the Russian football top tier and will need now to show something different if they want to have a quiet campaign this year. Bozovic needs new players if he wants to have a competitive team, because without any newcomers, Arsenal will probably once again be battling against relegation this season.

Author: Joel Amorim

From Porto, I started enjoying Soviet football at a very young age when I would watch Rinat Dasaev on TV, but it was probably Radchenko’s brace and Shmarov’s goal at the Santiago Bernabéu a quarter of a century ago that transformed me into an avid consumer of what was going on with the game throughout Eastern Europe. Punk rock fan and English teacher by day, football writer after the sun goes down.

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