It's usually not a great thing when the best way to describe a season is turbulent, but that's exactly how CSKA Moscow's 2009 campaign went.
After bashing Aston Villa out of the Europa League in February and taking the Russian Super Cup with an extra time victory over Rubin Kazan, CSKA had many reasons to be optimistic for the new season. However, every time where it felt like the club was finally gaining some traction, they would be handed another loss from a lower level side.
Momentum-killing losses to Tom Tomsk, newly promoted Rostov and Kuban Krasnodar dulled any early successes. The final blow in a run of mediocrity was delivered after the June break in the Russian Cup, a 1-0 loss to 1st Division side Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast that knocked the Army Men out of the competition.
It also helped none that star midfielder Yuri Zhirkov had departed for Chelsea, leaving a gaping hole on the left side of the field. Not even a month later, leading goal scorer Vagner Love departed on a year long loan for Palmeiras.
However, CSKA management decided a change needed to be made after a string of losses to city rivals Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow and Rostov again. Brazilian coach Zico was relieved of his duties and replaced by former Real Madrid boss Juande Ramos.
But during Ramos' time as manager, CSKA lost nearly every meaningful match. Losses to Wolfsburg, Manchester United and Zenit St. Petersburg didn't dig his grave, but dropping points to relegation side Spartak Nalchik and getting humiliated by FC Moscow did. Only 47 days after being appointed manager, the club fired Ramos, clearly unimpressed by the progress.
Russian Leonid Slutskiy was the next in line to try his hand at righting the quickly sinking ship, but his time was limited.
He made every second of it count. In only his second match as a manager, CSKA headed to the famous Old Trafford, where they scored three goals in 50 minutes against Manchester United, eventually walking out with a stunning 3-3 draw. From that point, Slutskiy lead CSKA to victories over Besiktas and Wolfsburg to ensure progress in the Champions League.
He also finished the RPL season in style, knocking off second-place Spartak Moscow 3-2 and locking up a Europa League berth for 2010.
Already taking no time to utilize his funds, Slutskiy added stellar defender Kirill Nababkin and Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda in December. But his 2010 roster still has some work to do, so let's take a look.
Overview: Any time you see No. 35 between the posts, a level of confidence sets in. CSKA has a tremendous luxury at the position, thanks to Russia's best goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev. He has been the first choice keeper for CSKA since his 17th birthday and he has already accumulated an entire trophy case at such a young age.
But the question remains, when will he make the move? He has been attracting attention from great clubs all over the continent who are interested in his services. But following CSKA's recent Champions League success and 2010 Europa League berth, Akinfeev might feel like he still has unfinished business.
One thing is certain though. No matter who the manager of the Army Men is, Akinfeev will be starting every match. He was between the pipes in all 30 Premier League matches in 2009, and CSKA has so much faith in him that they don't even see a need to pay a veteran backup.
Towering 20-year-old Evgeny Pomazan will serve as Akinfeev's apprentice in 2010, and if No. 35 does depart at any point during the season, Pomazan would be a capable netminder as he has already represented Russia at the U-17 and U-21 levels.
Possible Additions: Nothing major is on Leonid Slutskiy's shopping list, and if CSKA is to sign a goalkeeper in January, it would be a low-key addition.
Players Departing: Possibly Igor Akinfeev (Chelsea, Arsenal, Fiorentina, Manchester United, basically any club with a lot of cash and an interest in adding an elite goalkeeper).
Position Grade: A+. When a manager has the luxury of a world-class goalkeeper that wants to play every single match, he has very little to worry about.
Overview: Possibly one of the best stories during the 2009 season was the emergence of 18-year-old left back Georgi Schennikov. During the 2008 campaign, the scrawny kid was given a promotion from CSKA's youth squad in order to gain some experience in Cup play and as a fill-in against relegation sides. But he hasn't ceased to impress and was named third best left back in the Russian Premier League for 2009.
With 25 matches played, including five Champions League starts, Schennikov proved that his time as Russia's top left back may not be far off. Although he was struck by a bolt of horrendous luck during the biggest moments of his life, trying to hold off Manchester United at Old Trafford and having Antonio Valencia's tying goal deflect off his head, his first full season was a complete success.
Long-term Lithuanian fullback Deividas Semberas had his moments, but at 31-years-old, Slutskiy clearly favored the teenager later in the season. However, his uses are far from finished, as his versatility makes him a resourceful backup.
At right back, Slutskiy will have a handful of options. Aleksei Berezutskiy, Chidi Odiah, newcomer Kirill Nababkin and Semberas can all play the position well. Odiah was clearly not favored, only making 13 league appearances against several very poor clubs, while Berezutskiy remains more of a natural center back.
Nababkin however, was named the 3rd best right back in the RPL as a member of FC Moscow last season. The 23-year-old will most likely be the projected starter for 2010.
Possible Additions: Kirill Nababkin (FC Moscow, transfer completed).
Players Departing: Possibly Chidi Odiah.
Position Grade: A-. CSKA now features two backs named to the RPL Top 33 players from 2009, and the depth is also very good. But with a young back line, there is always room for improvement.
Overview: Ideally, the strength of any great team should be its center backs. They are the heart and soul of the defense and can often act as secondary goalkeepers in the box. CSKA features one of the most powerful, yet dynamic center lines in the league.
Led by Russian internationals Sergei Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutskiy and Aleksei Berezutskiy, there is no shortage of size and experience. The familiarity between these three players and Akinfeev is unmatched around Russia. While the trio not only provides mostly superb defense, they also have proved they can score some goals as well.
Ignashevich hits a very effective free kick, and has scored quite a few times like such. Vasili is a force to be reckoned with around the opposing net with his header.
Also waiting in the shadows is highly lauded Serbian 17-year-old Uros Cosic, who is being hailed by many as the next Nemanja Vidic. Cosic looks to make his RPL debut in 2010 and Leonid Slutskiy seems very excited at being able to put the talented defender through his paces.
Possible Additions: None.
Players Leaving : Vasili Berezutskiy (Blackburn).
The English side has expressed an interest in signing Berezutskiy, but it is unlikely that Blackburn would have the appropriate finances or that he would have an interest in moving away from a club now in the Champions League knockout stages.
Position Grade: A-. The group is very talented, but aging as well. They should be good to go in 2010.
Overview: Without much doubt, this is the spot that has prevented CSKA from being a truly great team and a major reason why a team with this much talent only finished fifth in 2009. Only two men on the roster are remotely capable, and both will be in their 30s during the upcoming season.
Evgeni Aldonin has been the first choice defensive midfielder, appearing in 28 of 30 matches during the season. But his success has been up and down. He has fallen out of favor with the national team, and rightly so. His play has not been what it was in 2006 when he was Guus Hiddink's first choice.
33-year-old Bosnian international Elvir Rahimic has shown that his uses are almost none, as CSKA tried their very best not to have to rely on him. Youngster Pavel Mamaev has also taken his shot at the position, but his defense induces hair-pulling at best.
Possible Additions: None. The club was very high on returning an old friend, Rubin Kazan captain Sergei Semak, but Semak penned a new contract that will keep him in Kazan until he is 36.
Players Leaving: None.
Position Grade: D+. Aldonin is still talented, but it is very clear that the position is not heavily utilized by Slutskiy. He has even gone to formations with five defenders to eliminate a defensive midfielder.
Overview: A feast for any European eyes.
At the spearhead of CSKA's attack is 19-year-old wonderboy Alan Dzagoev, who has not only proved to be one of the best players at his position, but one of the best players in the entire league. And at such a young age, he has already transformed himself into a big game player, scoring three times and assisting another in Champions League play.
Joining him are Brazilian Daniel Carvalho and Nigerien Ouwu Moussa Maazou, who provide superb talent and depth. Also rejoining the team is 19-year-old Sekou Oliseh, who returns from a loan at Midtjylland.
Newcomer Keisuke Honda will look to fill a second starting role in the center of the attack.
Laying in the wings are two phenomenally gifted players in Serbian Milos Krasic and Chilean Mark Gonzalez. Krasic proved that he is one of best right wingers in Europe during CSKA's Champions League run and can disect any defense at any level. Former Liverpool left winger Speedy Gonzalez, who transfered from Real Betis during the summer, suffered an injury blow in early October and was unable to finish the season. However, he should be fully prepared for training camp.
Possible Additions: Keisuke Honda (VVV-Venlo, transfer complete), Diego Souza (Palmeiras), Seydou Doumbia (BSC Young Boys).
CSKA has been monitoring the 24-year-old Souza for some time now and are prepared to offer the Brazilian club €6-8 million for his services. The versatile attacker received his first call-up to Brazil's national team in 2009 and is looking for a move to Europe.
22-year-old Ivorian attacker Seydou Doumbia has already agreed to join CSKA, but not until the summer. He has been a goal-scoring machine during his time with Young Boys with 16 goals in 13 matches so far in 2009/10.
Players Leaving: Milos Krasic (Juventus, AC Milan, Internazionale, Manchester United), Ouwu Moussa Mazzou (Standard Liege, Braga), Alan Dzagoev (Real Madrid).
Milos Krasic is most likely to move anywhere but has declared his allegiance (for now) to CSKA until the World Cup. But with many suitors and a potentially sky-high transfer salary, one of the clubs could make him an offer he simply can't refuse. But for the time being, he will not be leaving CSKA.
Mazzou wants more playing time, and feels like a move away from the cluttered CSKA midfield would be best for his career. While a loan deal is most likely, he may chose to stay around, knowing that CSKA will be playing many more matches during 2010 than a season ago.
Real Madrid has been targeting Dzagoev for nearly a year now, but the young superstar insists that he will not be joining the Spanish giants any time soon because he feels his play isn't good enough for a starting role yet.
Position Grade: A. One of the best in Russia, if not the best.
Overview: 2008 Russian Premier League scoring champion Vagner Love is gone. But somehow the forwards have managed to make do without their dynamic striker. Led by a platoon of Tomas Necid and Guilherme, CSKA might not get nearly the goal totals as they used to but the effect hasn't decreased by much.
Necid quietly lead the team in goals, tied with Milos Krasic with nine. But the young Czech steadily improved as the season went on, and built off his success even more when Guilherme arrived on loan from Dynamo Kiev. He closed out the RPL season with four goals in his last three matches.
Although the two were rarely on the field at the same time, as Slutskiy/Ramos/Zico all favored a 4-5-1 formation, the addition of a second capable striker took the pressure off Necid to perform every week.
Possible Additions: Jô (Everton), Andriy Voronin (Liverpool), Lacina Traore (CFR Cluj).
When Jô made the jump from Brazil to Europe, his first stop was with CSKA Moscow, where he had tremendous success. He scored 44 times in 53 total appearances with CSKA. But his move to England hasn't worked out as planned. He is currently suspended by Everton and could move back to CSKA on loan.
Liverpool plans on an annual yard sale, cleaning house with some unwanted players. Andriy Voronin appears at the top of that list, as he hasn't had much fun at Anfield. As always, no Ukrainian is guaranteed a spot on a Russian team, but Voronin would certainly have a better chance at CSKA than with Liverpool.
Lacking a true vertical threat up front, Lacina Traore at 2.03m (6-foot-8) would be an ideal addition. The 19-year-old Ivorian isn't completely refined at his trade, but he has experience in European play.
Players Leaving: Ricardo Jesus (on loan to Larissa), Ganiyu Oseni (on loan to Esperance Tunis).
Position Grade: C+. Not an incredibly deep position, but it doesn't need to be in the formations Leonid Slutskiy wants to play. But at least one more striker must be added to the mix for 2010.