Losing 4-0 to FC Krasnodar is bad enough in isolation, but Anzhi’s slide after the winter break is more than one game. Only scoring one goal in their last 5, Anzhi’s strong season is in danger of coming apart after the winter break. Despite a fairly easy fixture list to start the final stretch of the season, including 4 out of the bottom 5 teams in the table, Anzhi have lost ground on the much coveted second spot that means Champions League qualification. Needless to say title aspirations have just about vanished – and going scoreless over 2 legs against Newcastle also eliminated Anzhi from the Europa League.
Anzhi were without Eto’o, Willian, and Zhirkov – 3 key players that obviously hinder their attacking ability. Anzhi’s midfield set up with Jucilei in a deep, simple defensive role with Ahmedov and Diarra further forward in less defined roles in the middle. Boussoufa played on the right wing, with freedom to move deep and forward – was intended to be the primary playmaker. Shatov sat deeper on the left, and was not very involved in the game. Tagirbekov offered very little going forward at LB. Traore was often isolated up front, but a key part of Anzhi’s gameplan. Anzhi always looked to Traore.
KRASNODAR SET UP
Krasnodar set up in a loose 4-2-3-1 with the front 4 with very fluid positioning. Pereyra #33 played up close behind Wanderson, and Wanderson moved from right to left as the primary striker. Krasnodar attempted to play through the left, with Joa0zinho as a playmaker in an advanced free role and lots of support attack from LB Anđelković.
In the first half, Anzhi clearly intended to attack through Traore and Boussoufa as the main, and seemingly only, options going forward. But they were relied on to a fault. Traore was effective in hold up the ball as a focus point with his head and feet, but did not receive nearly enough support.
Anzhi did have two good attempts on goal – one from Traore and one from Boussoufa – but the GK saved both one-on-one opportunities. These opportunities resulted from quick hitting attacks poorly defended by Krasnodar, and the fact that the best threats were from such quick hitting situations indicates a team that struggled for ideas when in possession.
ANZHI’S PROBLEMS IN CENTER MIDFIELD
Anzhi’s primary problem was a disjointed attack of almost separate teams with no connection via the center of the midfield. Ahmedov and Diarra had ill-defined roles and often resulted in doing very little. They provide no cutting edge, runs forward were not existent or mistimed, and seemed to be doing the same thing – that added up to little contribution.
Most significantly, they offered no support to Jucilei in the back or Traore and Boussoufa further forward. Jucilei was often forced to knock the ball back to defense or goalie, and Boussoufa and Traore were given no support when they did manage to have the ball forward. In one instance, Traore had to knock the ball from Krasnodar’s 18 year box right all the way to his left fullback at the halfway line- a major indictment of his isolation.
A better sense of positioning and purpose to Diarra and Ahmedov could have served Anzhi as the midfield was entirely too functional with lack of support going forward or help bringing the ball out of the back. Diarra’s frustration became visible at the first half wore on.
Shatov, for his part, offered very little in attack, and was anonymous through the first half. Boussoufa did not play well, but did manage to get involved.
Despite the intent to attack down the left, Krasnodar’s first goal came from flooding the right side of the pitch. Krasnodar’s front four played with great fluidity and positional freedom, creating some confusion in Anzhi’s defense. Joaozinho (22) , who had been playing high on the left, and was the main focus of Krasnodar’s attacks, dropped deep into a CM position, seemingly to pick up the ball as the focus of the attack. However, in play consistent with the quick tempo in the final third, Krasnodar engaged in precise one touch passing and sharply timed runs, resulting in a cross from the right and an easy finish from Wanderson. In this sequence the ball started at Markov (2) before being played through all players on the right. Anzhi’s defense was disjointed and slow to respond to the quick attack, and likely was focused on Joaozinho’s dropping into deep midfield.
Shatov was replaced by Serderov at halftime, but it made little immediate difference as in the 47th minute Krasnodar hit quickly through Anzhi’s static defense. Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez came on for Anzhi and the Moroccan had attacking intent which opened up the game and Anzhi looked more dangerous, but Wanderson slotted home Krasnodar’s 3rd at the 58th minute. Anzhi appeared discouraged and the game was over- although Anzhi did look more dangerous with more open tactics.
Krasnodar were particularly impressive in getting their first victory over Anzhi. The dangerous attacking fluidity between the two Brazilians and the particularly impressive former Loko player Ignatyev shows that the team is not missing Movsisyan (yet). The back line could be frail if under pressure, as Anzhi’s best opportunities were from defensive mistakes – but Anzhi were not good enough here to test them or finish their opportunities.
Anzhi looked better when they went on the attack and went forward, getting in good attacking positions and getting set pieces, but at this point down 2-0 – and then giving up another to go 3-0 – the game was already over. This suggests that Guus is playing a much too functional midfield as the game opened up for Anzhi when Carcela-Gonzalez came on the wing opposite of Boussoufa. The removal of Ahmedov and Shatov improved Anzhi’s attack as each offered nothing. Zhirkov or Willian in their place could surely have made a difference, but Guus’ tactics were too defensive.
Check out highlights here: Championat.com