The Return of Lokomotiv’s Prodigal Son, Arshak Koryan

Fans enjoying themselves outside Lokomotiv Stadium. Photo: Toke Theilade/RFN

When a Russian player joins a European club, it always makes headlines. At the moment, there’s only a handful of Russians playing in West European leagues, and none of them is successful in the biggest ones, although injury-plagued Denis Cheryshev has had his moments, which causes a lot of pain in the football proud nation that wants to see its players succeed like in the past.

That is also why it is considered a failure from both media and fans when a Russian player moves abroad only to return home without any kind of achievements. This was exactly the case with Arshak Koryan, once regarded as one of the most promising players of his age, who recently returned home to Lokomotiv Moscow, the club where he grew up, after a stint at Dutch side Vitesse.

Although he was born in Sochi, the now 22-year-old Koryan spent almost his entire youth at Lokomotiv, whom he joined at the age of ten when he moved to Moscow. As a youngster, he was regularly reported to be among the top players of his generations, and it seemed only a matter of time before he would break through to the first team. In the 2014/15 season, at the age of 18, he finished as the top scorer in the reserves with 13 goals in 14 games, and from his spot on the right wing, he was constantly terrorizing the opposing defences. As expected, he soon after made his first team debut in a friendly game. Overall, he went to score 30 goals in 54 games for the second team.

Arshak Koryan sitting on Lokomotiv’s bench. Photo: Елена Рыбакова /

Like many other Russian youngsters, Koryan struggled with the big step from youth and reserve football to the first team, and neither Leonid Kuchuk nor Miodrag Božović gave him a chance. While training with the first team, as one of the fringe members of the squad, he continued to play his matches in the reserves league, depriving him of the possibility to develop.

As a consequence, he opted to leave the club, and in February 2015 he rejected Lokomotiv’s contract renewal offer, turned down several offers from Russian clubs and decided to move to Europe, and more specifically to the Netherlands, a country known as a great place for young players to develop their game.

“My departure from Lokomotiv to Vitesse helped my football grow,” Koryan told journalists in October 2016.

Just like at Lokomotiv though, he failed to break through to the first team and was mainly used as a substitute. Once again, however, he impressed in the reserves where he scored 17 goals in 40 games, but for the first team, it was another story. It is hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for his misfortune. Was he simply unlucky, being the wrong place at the wrong time, or is there something in his person or mentality that holds him back?

Last season, Vitesse won the Dutch cup after a 2-0 victory in the final against AZ, and while Koryan was in the match day squad, he didn’t get any playing time. This was the pattern all season in fact, as he made just three appearances for a total of 99 minutes despite having spent 25 games on the bench.

It was no surprise that his contract wasn’t extended, and he stood before two options; return to Russia or continue to roam around Europe. He chose option number one, turning down offers from Belgium and Spain, and returned to Russia, and after a short trial at Lokomotiv, he officially signed with them on July 12.

“Lokomotiv need Koryan. The comeback of a home-made talent is a very important moment, ” head coach Yury Semin said after the announcement of his new player.

“The comeback to Lokomotiv is an important step for me. I feel that I can help the team. Here there’s hard competition and that’s good,” Koryan added.

What’s next?

In the 3-5-2 formation currently used by Semin, it’s hard to find a place for Koryan. He’s an offensive minded winger with very few defensive skills. He would perfectly suit on the right wing of either a 4-2-3-1 or in 4-3-3 formation though.  It’s quite impossible to imagine Koryan doing what Jefferson Farfan has done so far at the beginning of the season, and playing as a wingback, so he might have to wait a while on getting the playing time he desperately sought.

However, it is no secret that Lokomotiv have a serious shortage of wingers, and if Koryan works hard and patiently, things could change quickly for him. Football is a dynamic game, and Semin proved last season, that he likes playing with wingers. When that is said, Koryan only has a handful of first team appearances at the age of 22, and cannot afford to waste more time on the bench.

Nevertheless, it is up to Koryan now to prove that his return to Russia really was the best choice and that he isn’t a failure as a football player. Semin has a proven record of reviving slumping careers. For example, it only took Aleksey Miranchuk six months to find his old form and become a new, improved version of himself. The question remains, how much time does Arshak Koryan need to do the same?

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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