Former Russia head coach Leonid Slutsky was appointed as the head coach of Rubin Kazan earlier this year. The move seems to have paid good dividends for the Tatarstan club.
Rubin Kazan have fallen down the pecking order of the Russian first division ever since their last European competition appearance in 2013-14. The club failed to finish in the top 8 for each of their previous five seasons, stretching back as far as 2015-16.
Whether it was the case of missing salaries or over-paying players, Rubin Kazan was a club in a mess before the pandemic hit. Ruben Rochina was one such player, who remained one of the best paid in the league despite barely getting enough game time.
This season has begun on a much more promising note for Rubin Kazan as they racked up eight wins from their first eighteen, securing 27 points with 12 games to go. This feat is unique for the club, which barely manages to cross the 35-point mark through an entire season.
Last season, Rubin Kazan had eight wins from 30 league games and finished 10th with 35 points. They have breached the 35-point mark only once in their previous six seasons in the first division.
Rubin Kazan's ability to convert draws to wins has been one of the features of their performance in the Russian league. While they lost an equal number of games as they won, they have been able to reduce their number of stalemates.
Slutsky's man management at the forefront of Rubin Kazan's turnaround
Slutsky's man-management skills have come to the fore, with marquee signing Dorde Despotovic slamming seven goals in 15 appearances for the club in his maiden season. The arrival of Oleg Shatov from Zenit St. Petersburg has given Rubin Kazan a strong physical midfield that ranks as one of the best in the country.
The experienced trio of Shatov, Dimitri Tarasov, and Hwang has allowed Kazan to match their opponents with extreme physicality. It was a much-needed improvement for the club since the last pairing of Mogilovets and Nikita Makarov was often too silky and sloppy to Kazan's chances.
Shrewd business in the transfer market has aided Slutsky's style of play, which bases itself on a water-tight defense and deployment of a strategic 4-5-1 formation. Despotovic's presence as a target man has solved Kazan's goal-scoring problems tremendously. This season they have slammed 24 goals so far, in stark contrast to last season, where they found the net only 18 times in 30 outings.
Apart from remarkable improvements in different statistical areas, Kazan have earned some massive victories already this season. They became only the second team after Dynamo Moscow to beat the mighty Zenit this season. They also picked up full points from difficult away fixtures to CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Moscow.
The sleeping giants of Russian football finally seem to come to terms with the standard of football expected of them. For the die-hard Tatarstan fanbase, Kazan's recent run of results has been of a welcome relief. Few could have expected things to improve so quickly under Slutsky's reigns. For sure, he is the best thing to happen to the club since their last title-winning manager, Kurban Berdyev.Published 16 Dec 2020, 20:19 IST