Season Preview: Mordovia Saransk

mordovia

Intro: Last season was certainly a strange one for Mordovia. They gained promotion after winning the First Division in 2013/14 then appointed a new manager after Ukrainian Yuriy Maksymov left by mutual consent. Under the new Russian manager Yuri Semin they managed to avoid the relegation play-offs and finish mid-table, despite being having one of the goal differences in the division. The newly promoted side never put a consistent run together and won and loss games very sporadically. It was their away form that really let them down and that must be improved.

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Andrei Gordeyev during his time as assistant for Guus Hiddink at Anzhi.

They will have to improve at both ends of the pitch if they want to finish in a similar position again this year. Last season was somewhat of a lucky escape, they managed to use their good home form at the end of the season to record victories against the sides below them. This meant they managed to claw away from the relegation places.

Never a club to escape managerial drama. Semin has now left to join Anzhi Makhachkala with Mordovia placing former Sibir Novosibirsk manager Andrei Gordeyev in charge.

Greatest Strength: Home record – Despite the Mordovia fans only seeing 10 goals at home last season, they also only conceded 10 and picked up most of their points at the Start Stadium. One of these wins was a memorable 1-0 win against eventual champions Zenit St. Petersburg.

If ever a team could be accused of parking the bus, it’s the team from Saransk. Whilst this may not be a popular style it certainly helped them secure their mid table finish and survival in the division.

Greatest Weakness: Attack – Mordovia’s top goal scorers last season were defender Marko Lomić with 3 (2 of those penalties) and the aged Ruslan Mukhamstshin (who was on loan from Rubin Kazan) with another 3.

This says everything about Mordovia’s lack of bite. Damien Le Tallec has been extremely disappointing since arriving from Nantes and has had nowhere near the impact he should have had considering how highly rated he was in the French youth setup. This lack of goals also means the team are unable to put a consistent run of form together which could eventually cost their Premier League status, you cannot survive for long on sporadic results.

Le Tallec was highly rated as a youth player, and it is time for him to step up and prove his worth. If he do so, he will be a key player for Mordovia.

Le Tallec was highly rated as a youth player, and it is time for him to step up and prove his worth. If he do so, he will be a key player for Mordovia.

Key player: Le Tallec – Despite not hitting the heights he should have done in the past there is no doubting his ability. He was in the highly rated Rennes youth set up which produced Yann M’Vila before leaving for Borrusia Dortmund and before returning to France with Nantes in Ligue 2. At the age of 25 he needs to start coming into his own and should be the spark in amongst an aging Saransk Squad.

Transfers/Departures review: The revolving door metaphor is certainly appropriate here. So far five players have left (including expiration of loans) with 5 coming in. None of the outgoing players have commanded any fee which means there has been nothing to spend on incoming players, hence why they have also been free transfers. The biggest disappointment will be the loss of Bishkek born keeper Anton Kochenkov to Lokomotiv Moscow, he played every minute of last season and was a big reason why Mordovia let in so few goals at home.

The most notable incoming player is Slovene international midfielder Dalibor Stevanović, 30, from the chaotic Torpedo Moscow. Mikhail Markin, 21, has also been brought in from Khimki to add some much needed youth into the side.

Best case scenario for the season: Another mid-table finish but this time with a lot more security. As previously mentioned, their goal difference last season was dreadful due to poor performance at both ends of the pitch. Their home record is very good and ideally the team will be able to take this form on their travels.

Worst case scenario for the season: Relegation – With Mordovia having a stadium newly built for them in Saransk thanks to the upcoming World Cup in 2018, the club cannot afford to be relegated and languish in the lower divisions for years. Both ends of the pitch must improve to prevent this from happening.

Key early season fixture: The home match against Ural in early August will allow them to pick up early points from a potential relegation rival.

Season prediction: Further down than last season, they have let go of a lot of players and not received fees for them. Subsequently, the players they brought in have also been free transfers, not an ideal scenario if you want to be equaling or even bettering last season’s 8th place.

Unfortunately, with such an ageing squad it is hard to see where the goals will come from and I see them in the relegation play-off places and only just surviving.

 

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Follow Thomas on Twitter: @Thomas_Giles_UK

Author: Thomas Giles

Studied Russian at University which peaked my interest in the country and led to me living there for two years. Having already been a big football fan in England, I started following the Russian league and the chaos that goes with it during my time there. Whilst I am the first to admit that the action on the pitch is far from exciting, I find the politics and history of Russian football fascinating.

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