Zenit St. Petersburg Will Be an Improved Side, Despite Many Losses

Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst IJuly 21, 2009

For Zenit St. Petersburg, things have gone from grim to downright ugly over the past six months. Following a well-earned victory over FC Moscow, the wheels completely fell off for Zenit in the Chechen capital.

Peter's men, a side built on defense, gave up three goals in a 3-2 loss to Terek Grozny and wasted countless opportunities to get back into the match.

But the roster that took the pitch against Terek was only a shadow of the Zenit from just a few months ago.

Playmaker Andrei Arshavin departed for Arsenal before the season began. Team captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk joined the German side, Bayern Munich. And veteran Turkish striker Fatih Tekke and Portuguese attacking midfielder Danny both went down to injury.

However, while Danny is out until 2010, Tekke was cleared to play yesterday.

Along with detrimental changes to the roster, the team is losing one of the most successful managers in club history, Dick Advocaat, to the Belgian National Team.

The situation has been so ugly that for the past several months the club has been playing with only one active striker on the entire roster: Russian international Pavel Pogrebnyak, more playfully known as "Pascha." Pogrebnyak leads the team in scoring almost by default.

However, it's not all bad for the city on the Neva.

Despite the losses, the team still sits in sixth place overall in the Russian Premier League and remains the most dominant home squad in the land.

Yesterday, management signed Belarusian international striker Sergei Kornilenko from Tomsk to a five-year contract. While it may not attract a lot of attention in terms of news, Kornilenko has a knack for finding the back of the net at any level of competition.

A few Kornilenko stats here:

  • age: 26
  • position: forward
  • height: 6'1" (1.85m)
  • previous clubs: Dinamo Minsk, Dynamo Kiev, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Tom Tomsk
  • earned 30 caps for the Belarusian national team since 2004
  • top scorer in the Belarusian Premier League in 2003 with 18 goals for Minsk

If nothing else, Kornilenko will be able to provide Pogrebnyak some rest from time to time. And at best, Kornilenko could be a reliable second option up front on a team with many talented midfielders who are adept at supplying balls inside.

It is possible that Tekke will be heading out soon as well. The Turkish attacker will be 32 in September and rarely plays more than the final 20 minutes of a match.

Aleksandr Dyukov was probably thinking ahead with the signing of Kornilenko, as he has a similar nose for the goal as Tekke, and a little more height.

However, there are still a few more changes that will come to the Petrovsky before the summer has ended. A new manager is needed, another striker would be nice, and a playmaking midfielder to fill Miguel's void would be excellent.

Dyukov still badly wants to make an impact move, and he might have the perfect candidate lined up.

Rumor has it that he offered Chelsea close to 10 million Euros for veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko, who could certainly make a splash for Zenit. There is no question that, even at 32 years old, the former Ballon d'Or recipient can still play at the highest level of football.

Shevchenko doesn't have a place in Chelsea's starting XI, but that doesn't mean he couldn't find a place on Zenit's roster. Although it's not his home, Russia would be more of a homecoming than heading back to Italy.

In attempts to lure Shevchenko to St. Petersburg, Dyukov has probably mentioned Zenit's plans to open a brand new, 62,000 seat arena in early 2011.

But how effective that incentive was remains to be seen.

Fatih Tekke has been cleared to return to the field, but it is up to Advocaat to decide if he is ready for action. Zenit will play what could possibly be its most important home match of the season when Russian leader, FC Rubin Kazan, comes to St. Petersburg on Saturday. Chances are, if Zenit is ahead late, Tekke will play. 

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