Season Preview: Lokomotiv Moscow

Locomotive standing outside Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Toke Theilade/RFN

Locomotive standing outside Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Toke Theilade/RFN

The Super Cup, which was lost 2-1 to Spartak Moscow after extra time, brought to light both the strengths and weaknesses of Lokomotiv Moscow. On the one hand, head coach Yuri Semin can count on a team which never gives up and on a reliable defensive line; on the other hand, it’s clear that the Railwaymen lacks quality in several positions and also need a deeper bench. All of this was evident last season as well, when despite lifting the Russian Cup, Loko performed very badly in the league, and finished far behind their rivals at the top.

With the beginning of the RFPL, Semin has already sent signals to the management. He wants new signings and a stronger squad, if he is to live up to their expectations of qualifying for the Champions League. The arrivals of Nikita Medvedev and Arshak Koryan plus the return of Solomon Kverkvelia and Ari aren’t enough to challenge the likes of Zenit, CSKA and Spartak.

This summer has seen Lokomotiv create the farm-team Kazanka though, which could certainly help the development of talents, but this is a long-term plan, and won’t help Semin much this season.

Head coach

Semin is a legend at Lokomotiv Moscow, whom he coached between 1992 and 2005, from 2009 to 2010 and again since 2015. With the Red-Greens he has won two championships, the only in the club’s history, and five Russian cup trophies. He has also won the Ukrainian league with Dinamo Kyiv as well as coached the Russian national team for a short period.

Despite his accolades, Semin could however be on his way out if things don’t go according to plan this season. He turns 71 later this season, and being an old-school coach, there are doubts whether he is the man to lead Lokomotiv into a new era of success.

Greatest strength

The defensive line. On paper, Corluka and Kverkvelia are perhaps one of the best pairs of central defenders in Russia. Nemanja Pejcinovic is a luxury sub and Taras Mykhalyk a worthy jolly. Playing in a three-men or in a four-men defense make any kind of difference. In the Super Cup, midfielder Dmitry Barinov was even used as a defender and he delivered a great performance, showing how Semin’s tactics work.

Greatest weakness

As already said, the lack of depth makes it difficult for Lokomotiv to change an ongoing game. Furthermore, this adds a lack of competition between players, with the best ones who play over and over again. Moreover, with the same players, it’s tough to adopt different tactical systems.

Key player

Manuel Fernandes was great for Lokomotiv last season, and won the Player of the Season award at the club. The Portuguese maestro imposes rhythm, registers assists and scores, often beautiful, goals. Guys like Corluka, Kverkvelia, and Miranchuk are all important, but if Lokomotiv wants to be successful, they need to utilize Fernandes’ supreme talents.

Young starlet

One of the men of the match of the Super Cup was Dmitry Barinov. He’s the one to watch next season. Once and for all, he should be given enough playing time to take a step forward in his career. Known as a tireless warrior, his versatility perfectly suits Lokomotiv as he can play in nearly all positions between defense and midfield.

Season prediction

Everything depends on future signings. If Gerkus manages to reinforce Loko, an unpredictable team could be built. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine the Railwaymen finishing the season above fifth place. As usual, the Russian Cup could be a nice target to win another trophy and qualify for Europe.

Author: Stefano Conforti

Half Russian, half Italian. Football writer and Lokomotiv Moscow supporter. Founder of the FCLMblog, the only blog about Lokomotiv outside Russia, and FCLMmagazine, which is the first magazine in English for an Eastern Europe football club. I’m interested in everything related to Russia and the post-Soviet world.

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