The optimism surrounding Leonid Slutsky's appointment as head coach for Rubin Kazan last year essentially translated into dramatic performances on the field. Rubin Kazan finally found themselves in the upper echelons of Russian football when they finished fourth in the previous campaign.
Slutsky-ball, which was popular during his tenure with the Russian national team, revived Kazan's fortunes after an eight-year absence from the European scene. It was a massive step for Kazan - a club that has struggled recently to keep pace with the Moscow-based clubs.
Rubin Kazan's lack of summer signings
Qualification to European championships primarily requires every team to add depth to their squads. For Kazan, that was not the case.
Part of the problem was that the club has struggled to keep pace with its expenses. Every season since the 2016-17 campaign has resulted in a positive net spend in the market. However, the club's failure to land European football hit them hard.
Despite European qualification, fears of inadequate compensation for a higher transfer budget forced the club to pursue austerity. Slutsky did not get the purse he needed to add depth to his squad.
The result was fairly obvious - an exit from the 3rd qualifying round in the Europa Conference League.
Too many draws against low-league teams
Three of Zenit's four draws have come against newly-promoted and low-league rivals. They drew against FC Ufa, Krylya Sovetov, and FC Khimki. More importantly, in all those games, they were leading. To add insult to their wounds, they lost both their league matches against newly-promoted Nizhny Novgorod.
Leaky defense hurting Kazan a lot
The results against lower-league teams underlined the problem that has ravaged the club for so long - a leaky defense. Last year was an exception of some sort. Out of the 16 matches they won, ten were by a one-goal margin.
More importantly, they managed to win their games against low-league teams - Khimki, FC Ural and Arsenal Tula. These victories are vital for any Russian team with European ambitions, given the congestion and quality of the Moscow-based teams.
The departure of full-back Oleg Danchenko has left a void on the flanks, given Slutsky's preference for a 3-5-2 set-up. It has forced Slutsky to adopt a back-four formula, something that has not worked so well.
Apart from Danchenko, Pavel Mogilevet's free transfer to Nizhny has also exposed their defensive frailties. Mogilevets served as the holding midfielder; and last season, his partnership with Abilgaard was instrumental in Kazan holding onto those results.
The failure to address these departures in the summer has subsequently resulted in Kazan's decline once again.
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