Zenit St. Petersburg: Chaos To Follow Advocaat Out The Door?
It's no secret that Zenit has missed Andrei Arshavin's creativity and playmaking ability in the early stages of the 2009 campaign.
The powder blues have played to a decent 5-3-3 record through the first 11, but are far from satisfied. In their biggest match of the season, Zenit fell hard at Luzhniki National Stadium against fellow Russian giant CSKA Moscow.
When Arshavin finally left for Arsenal, he left manager Dick Advocaat with the daunting task of replacing the hometown hero. But the answer was fairly obvious.
Danny tried to emulate his creativity, but could not show the scoring touch. Lumbering center-forward Pavel Pogrebnyak has never been that kind of playmaker.
And now, Advocaat has made the decision to leave Zenit to take the reigns of the Belgian National side. The Little General lead Zenit to the UEFA Cup just over a year ago.
I'm pretty sure Belgium does not have a player like Arshavin either.
But Arshavin and Advocaat may not be the only powder blues to depart in 2009. The Petrovski faithful could in fact, be looking at a completely different squad in a couple months' time.
Team captain and veteran Ukraine national Anatoliy Tymoschuk has already announced his departure, and he will head to German club Bayern Munich in July. The Ukrainian shot down a potential move to England for Bayern.
Pogrebnyak could also be leaving Russia. The 25-year-old has already played for seven different Russian clubs, including Tomsk, Yaroslavl and Spartak Moscow. Despite not moving to Blackburn in the winter, he is still drawing and expressing interest.
He has not hid his interest in following good friend Arshavin to the Emirates.
"I'm pleased that the club is interested in me. I think that for any player to get the opportunity to work with Arsene Wenger would be a big step forward." said Pogrebnyak.
The only catch there, seems to be whether Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor stays or goes.
As the summer comes around, Turkish delight Fatih Tekke is also on the market, but it does not seem likely that he will be going anywhere.
That would seem to leave a lot of holes.
Call it a Chinese Fire Drill. Call it a move out day.
For a squad that has never lacked offensive production, talented offensive players are now at a premium for the powder blues. Most offensive forces not named Pogrebnyak are sitting out with ailments.
Although a strong push for Juventus forward Vincenzo Iaquinta fell through, it didn't seem like management had too many backup plans in line. The Italian goliath and Giovanni Cobolli Gigli deemed Iaquinta was too important to lose.
But all news is not bad news for Zenit.
Towering 24-year-old Belgian national defender Nicolas Lombaerts is very close to returning to the lineup. He has missed considerable time with a nagging knee injury, but he says it has helped him immensely in becoming familiar with the city.
Zenit will take on perennial cellar-dwellers Spartak Nalchik on Sunday, and 20-year-old midfielder Alexey Ionov will again be in the lineup. The young phenom has proven that he is much too talented to continue to play for Zenit-2, but he has not be able to find a starting role until now.
He will start in his third match of the season, and will attempt to assist Pogrebnyak up front in the task of attacking Nalchik's surprisingly staunch defense.
The boys from Nalchik have allowed one of the fewest amounts of goals in the league, but they also don't find the net very often, as they boast six goals in 10 games. Four of those came in a washout win over Perm at the end of April.
Good thing for Nalchik, however. Zenit has not had much success taking the road in 2009, winning only once in six away matches.
No matter how chaotic the next few weeks could be for the former Cup champions, their play needs improving, and quickly. Two gigantic clashes at home against 3rd-place FC Moscow and 1st-place FK Rubin Kazan loom ahead.
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