Anji coach Arsen Akaev reports on the last season, relationship on the team and changes the club underwent in the course of the season.
- To be honest, it`s been one of the most difficult seasons in my career - both as a coach and as a player. We faced first game difficulties in the end of the previous season when our star-studded team gained only three victories from 12 matches (Volga, Lokomotiv and Rubin thanks to a last-gasp goal). Unfortunately, the pre-season campaign wasn`t helpful to the team – the opening four matches of the current season were winless.
- Then the club underwent first reformatting. How did it pass?
- Guus Hiddink`s departure shed light on the impending changes. Meulensteen is a sufficient coach, but he`d better work as a head coach assistant. He could hardly manage such squad and it was clear he was a provisional candidate. In early August, when the decision of the strategy change was made, we learnt that the team would be coached by Gadzhi Muslimovich. Almost an impossible mission was set before us – to build a team within the shortest possible time and make them tough to beat. To my mind, this is a unique situation in football when the team undergoes changes in the course of the season.
- Given all that, was it hard to collect points?
- We had matches in which we could earn points and win: home match vs Spartak, the Ural match at home and the Kuban game. At the same time we managed to advance from a strong group of the Europa League which is, beyond any doubt, an advantage.
- After the transfer window 80 % of Anji players were replaced. This time the changes did a power of good.
- The main difference was that we saved time to train at camps. We had a full preparatory campaign, though some players joined us on the final days of camp. Many of them didn`t perform for their previous clubs and we realized they would have to progress through matches, gaining a game practice.
- As the Europa League and Russian league matches proved you coped with the task.
- The team became stronger. This is a fact. They became considerably stronger. We should have beaten AZ in the Europa League, if we had played the second leg in Dagestan, we would have thrashed them.
The field of Ramenskoye was problematic for us. We showed much better football in the Russian league than in the first 19 games, the most important is that we opposed to top eight teams. We didn`t show worse play than our rivals: even in the home CSKA match (0-3). We dominated the opening 15-20 minutes through. The Ural match stands apart, it was hosted in indoor arena. Believe me, it`s really uneasy to play there.
- Anji fans called for the change of the head coach in the last game.
- The fans must realize this will anyway impact the team play, causing over nervousness, fear to make mistake… We always received great support in Dagestan and we were highly motivated there. We don`t want this to be repeated. Especially towards a man who did so much for the development of the Dagestani football.
- What is in store for Anji?
- The whole team makes apology for the past season. Now we must correct our mistakes and promote to RPL and the Europa league.