Fab seven: who raised Rubin from bottom of Russian championship

According to the results of this season in the Russian Premier League, Rubin returned to the race for a place in European cups without any picture, with many questions from fans and mass media. Moreover, a victory in the main away match between Ufa and Kazan almost deleted all the questions to the head coach of Kazan players Javier Gracia. At the same time many football experts are inclined to attribute the lion's share of merits not to the coach but his players whose technical skill obviously allows Rubin to count on a position in the top 5 of the Russian Football Premier League. The sports staff of Realnoe Vremya presents seven players whose efforts helped Rubin to finally leave the top 20 in the standing and get closer to the European cup by 4 points.

1.Jonathas (Brazil) – forward

The big forward has scored goals in sixth matches in a row. He played in all of them in the starting line-up. Play in the air is Brazilian's forte, of course. At this stage, Rubin's game is mainly built on flanks with endless crosses to the penalty area where Jonathas is especially good. It is not the case of the forward's dimensions. It is clear that 190 cm is a good help in a battle for high balls. Here it should be noted that Jonathas has a good jumping ability and trained header because not all forwards are able to use their heads to score a goal. The majority of them just place their heads under the ball.

The big forward has scored goals in sixth matches in a row

If you think that Jonathas is an updated version of Portnyagin, he is far from it. Just remember the Brazilian's goals to the net of Zenit, Krylia Sovetov or Terek. Moreover, Jonathas is quite skilful like the majority of Brazilian players. It is seen better when he possesses the ball. Obviously, he has all chances to overshadow very Rondon because it was easier for the Venezuelan to play at Berdyev's well-knit Rubin. We can only rub our hands in our expectation and guess what else Jonathas is able to do when (and if) Gracia's Rubin reaches a better state. First of all, it terms of game formation.

2.Sergey Ryzhikov (Russia) – goalkeeper

Coaches come and go. Administration of Rubin-Kazan changes even more often. Only one thing has not changed during 8 years. The name is this constant is Sergey Ryzhikov who has already celebrated his 36 th birthday. In this season, the Kazan club had a fever so that one of the favourites of Rubin made successful mistakes. Nevertheless, a confident performance of the Kazan custodian inspired his mates to do deeds in other parts of the pitch.

A confident performance of the Kazan custodian inspired his mates to do deeds in other parts of the pitch

Examples are not far to seek. In the last match in Ufa, Ryzhikov not only cleared a penalty shot at the most important moment (3-2 in favour of Rubin) but also saved several balls and did not let Goncharenko's guys do a deed playing in minority. In this season, only a lazy person has not told off Rubin's defence. Only two clubs – Arsenal from Tula and Tom – lost in the championship more than the Kazan players. It is doubtful that only Ryzhikov can be accused because he has had three clean sheets in this uneasy season. Rubin will clearly make a mistake if it won't extend his contract with the acknowledged leader. Let's remind you that Ryzhikov's contract with the club expires this summer.

3. Taras Burlak (Russia) – defender

Only few people expected the player to cement a position in the first eleven of Rubin when Taras was returned from his loan in Samara. What is more, it was rumoured during the off-season period that Burlak would be sold. But these rumours calmed down during friendly matches when Gracia started using the 'passport owner' to the max. It is clear that the limit on the number of foreign players in the Russian Championship appeared here. And the young player has many slips in the position. However, it is also seen that Burlak is improving. His combination with Peruvian Carlos Zambrano causes less reproach among other options that Javier Gracia generously used.

It is also seen that Burlak is improving

The situation in the team is becoming simpler for Burlak because of inexpressive performances of Sergio Sánchez and difficulties of Solomon Kverkvelia. It seems that the latter has not got used to work in teams with a serious competition for a place in the first eleven.

4. Maksim Kannunikov (Russia) – forward

After the successful first season at Rubin (under Bilyaletdinov), Maksim started to give way. The majority of experts explained it by difficulties while finding an optimal position for the player. Admit that Kanunnikov's speed and skills did not allow him to perform all the functions of a lateral player that winger must do in modern football. It became obvious when Chaly was in the team. Kanunnikov's nine in ten dribbles in the flank ended with a stoppage of the ball and its pass to the back wing or an inaccurate cross to the penalty area. Only a short and poor 'roster' of the Kazan club saved Maks from bench warming. In addition, Maks often scored goals.

At the moment Maksim is the second sharpshooter after Jonathas

We should pay tribute to Javier Gracia who found the best place for this player. Kanunnikov badly used his chances and created a good pressure on the defence of Rubin's opponents. At the moment Maksim is the second sharpshooter after Jonathas. And only his injury in Ufa ruined the player's call-up to the Russian squad for friendlies. Moreover, it is said the Spanish specialist chose the 4-4-2 as key formation because of Kanunnikov. The 4-2-3-1 is an indirect prove that Rubin started to use in Ufa right after Maksim's injury.

5. Denis Tkachuk (Russia) – midfielder

And Denis Tkachuk will certainly train in Cherchesov's team before the matches of the national team against Qatar and Romania. This fast hard-working classic winger quite unexpectedly earned a seat in the starting eleven. While Lestienne is coping with problems in his personal life (according to our information, the Belgian has a tension with his wife), Tkachuk is reigning in the left wing of Rubin's attack in every match.

Tkachuk is ideal for the game model of today's Rubin

To reach a new better level, Denis needs to do a smidgen – to learn not to demonstrate his mystical accuracy at terrible moments. He uses his accuracy to shoot directly to the goalkeeper with a maniacal perseverance, not to any other area of the opponent's goal. So Tkachuk is ideal for the game model of today's Rubin, which is based on dribble in flanks and crosses to Kanunnikov/Jonathas.

6. Yann M'Vila (France) – midfielder

Of course, Rubin unforgivably extended the French midfielder's comeback to the first team of the Kazan club. His stubbornness in head-to-head fights, positional and tactical intelligence together with the highest culture of pass (by our championship standards) helped Rubin when the club started to get out of the crisis.

The Frenchman has played from the kick-off in the last 4 matches

In the last season, M'Vila played 37 matches for Sunderland in the EPL. For comparison, the most publicly promoted new player of Rubin Alex Song can't brag about the same statistics. He has only 12 matches played at London's West Ham. The last games of the Russian Football Premier League prove the English statistics. The Frenchman has played from the kick-off in the last 4 matches. Meanwhile, Alex Song is having hard times. He was in the first eleven in Ufa but failed the start of the second half and was substituted by Caktaš. The Cameroonian had started to play several games from the bench.

7. Ruslan Kambolov (Russia) – midfielder

The main 'bull terrier' of Rubin-Kazan is starting to train with the main team after he had a ligament injury. When Kambolov first appeared on the pitch, the Kazan club considerably improved its game in the centre of its defence, and Ozdoev occupied a seat on the bench that was 'crying' for seeing Magomed during the greatest part of the last and present season.

When Kambolov first appeared on the pitch, the Kazan club considerably improved its game in the centre of its defence

When the 4-4-2 is used with two central halfbacks, both performers must have defensive skills. At the beginning of the season, a disequilibrium of combinations Caktaš-Ozdoev and Song-Ozdoev did not allow Rubin to control the game even in home matches with middling teams and outsiders. You probably remember how Rubin improved when Kambolov appeared on the pitch: Alex Song immediately got an opportunity to play in attack more often and conduct in the centre of the field. Now, when the Cameroonian gave way, Ruslan will become an ideal addition together with M'Vila.

Who has been 'forgotten'?

Of course, Nabiullin, Bauer or Zambrano could also appear on the list. However, despite a great goal in Ufa, the first player needs to enhance his direct duties – in defence. The Swiss player is both good in the opponent's goal and unconfident near his own posts. Gracia substituted Bauer for a nominal central player Sánchez for a reason. Bauer's flank resembles a sieve of Ufa attacks. Finally, Zambrano is demonstrating his minimum level. Everything looks quite convincing in comparison with other defenders of Rubin, but we have the right to expect much more from 'one of the leading defenders of Bundesliga' (according to the director of the Kazan club Ilgiz Fakhriev).

By Artur Khalillulov. Photo: rubin-kazan.ru