Manuel Veth –
It was about one year ago that Saul Pope asked the critical question about new Krasnodar head coach Murad Musaev: could he lead Krasnodar to the next level?
Krasnodar owner Sergei Galitsky fired Igor Shalimov in April 2018 and replaced him with the 35-year-old Murad Musaev.
At the time Musaev was an ‘unknown’, but had a pedigree in the club’s impressive youth set-up and has also coached Russia at under 18 level. At the time, most pundits believed that he would need no time to adapt to a new environment, and even has six games this season to get used to his new role.
Galitsky’s enthusiasm for the appointment rung loud and clear: “I’m proud that a lad from Krasnodar is in charge of a Premier League team…it’s very important as we’ve lost our national identity,” he told television programme ‘8-16’.
Murad Musaev – The gamble is paying off
Now ten months later and days ahead of the restart of the Russian Premier Liga season Galitsky will hardly be disappointed. Krasnodar have gone from finishing fifth last season and losing star striker Fedor Smolov to Lokomotiv Moscow this summer to a championship contender. Going into the second half of the season Krasnodar are just one point behind giants Zenit from St. Petersburg.
Impressive, considering that Krasnodar are in a bit of a rebuild at the moment. But the Bulls took full advantage when Zenit did their almost traditional stumble after a strong start into the 2018/19 season.
Zenit’s almost annual meltdown is as likely as finding Casino tips in this great review in the past few seasons and whether the 2018/19 season will yet again feature another meltdown remains to be seen. One thing seems certain, however, Krasnodar seem ready to capitalise should Zenit stumble.
That is largely due to Musaev’s play during the first half of the season. Krasnodar have, in fact, been impressive.nUnlike many other teams in Russia Krasnodar under head coach Murad Musaev like to dominate possession. On average Krasnodar had 59.38% possession this season.
The club also leads the Russian Premier Liga in goals scored (31), passes played (9381), through passes (206), key passes (53), passes into the final third (1215), passing rate 14.3, passing rate (14.3), smart passes (157), progressive passes (1651), progressive runs (292) and deep completions (297). The Byki, in fact, lead the league in 11 out of 12 key passing construction stats.
Zenit may have made all the big money signings. They re-invested the millions earned from selling Leandro Paredes to Paris Saint-Germain by bringing in Boca Junior midfielder Wilmar Barrios, Shakhtar Donetsk defender Yaroslav Rakitsky and Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun.
In fact, Tim Bogdachev recently suggested on the Futbolgrad Podcast that those three transfers will win Zenit the league.
Krasnodar, however, have been clever on the transfer market as well and in Kristoffer Olsson may have signed the missing piece in Musaev’s attacking puzzle.
With a pass completion of 87.1%, the midfielder is a player, who rarely makes a mistake in the centre of the park. His performance in Sweden’s 2-0 victory over Russia in the UEFA Nations League, in particular, stood out.
In that game, the central midfielder completed 63 of his 70 passes and five out of his six long passes. Kristoffer Olsson also managed to complete five out of his seven dribbles won 56% of duels and made five interceptions. Remarkably that performance came in a game where the 23-year-old was forced to switch from playing in central midfield further up the park on the left-wing.
In other words, Olsson rarely makes a mistake, which is key for Krasnodar going forward. Indeed, the rest of the world got a glimpse of what this Krasnodar side is capable of when they eliminated Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League last Thursday.
After a 0-0 draw in the home leg, Krasnodar withstood the pressure in the BayArena, with Shapi Suleymanov scoring a late goal that although cancelled out by Charles Aranguíz, was ultimately enough to see Krasnodar go through on the away goal rule. Those two games, which were the first competitive games of the calendar year, highlighted another important aspect of Musaev’s play.
Hold and attack
Midfield stability, passing but also breaking forward are key in his style of play. Usually, lining up in a 4-3-3 Krasnodar, as above-mentioned, are a bit of a rarity in Russian football. But it is not just their ball playing dominance that makes Murad Musaev stand out as a head coach.
The 35-year-old has managed to integrate many young prospects to deadly effect. Suleymanov is one example. Described as the Russian Paco Alcacer, for his ability to come on and score within a few minutes, the 19-year-old Suleymanov has scored every 36 minutes in the RPL and every 52 minutes in the Europa League.
Suleymanov is not the only young key player in Musaev’s setup, however. In Ivan Ignatyev Krasnodar have one of the brightest attacking prospects in European football — he is another speedy forward, who can turn possession into quick attacks.
Other players that fit that profile is the Brazilian winger Wanderson. Educated in the Red Bull academy system, Wanderson had offers from all over Europe but opted for Russia, and Krasnodar, in particular. Against Bayer he was deadly at times on the right-wing and more than likely will have himself played back into the notebooks of major clubs.
Finally, there is the Swede Viktor Claesson. The attacking midfielder can play both in the centre of the park but also on the wing. Aged 27 the World Cup star now leads this side and against Leverkusen was excellent.
Hence, overall, Krasnodar may not quite have Zenit’s star name power. But the Southern Russian side have plenty of quality and in Murad Musaev one of the most interesting coaches in Russian football. His dominant possession style of football, in fact, is a hint of Ajax Amsterdam, Pep Guardiola and Valery Lobanovskiy.
In other words, Murad Musaev is one to watch going forward. Coaches originating in the post-Soviet space do not often venture abroad, but that does not mean there is no invention in that part of the world — as Lobanovskiy, Kurban Berdyev Viktor Goncharenko have highlighted. Murad Musaev could now become the next name on that list.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.