Oleg Shatov Leading the Charge for FC Zenit
18th July 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
After Russia’s hugely disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, Oleg Shatov, one of their star men, has quickly gotten over the disaster courtesy of some timely distractions.
The birth of his second child was fantastic for him and his family, quickly putting things into perspective that it wasn’t so bad after all. “We arrived back on the 21st, and then on the 22nd my wife gave birth to a second son, so our thoughts are only on this. For me, my family is the most important thing in my life,” Shatov told the FC Zenit website.
“So I immediately switched my attention, not to forget about everything, but football went by the wayside.”
He then added: “Those who look only to the past, will have no future. I am 25 years old and I like football, and the Russian team as a whole has a future there. From any bad experience you can learn a lesson and go forward.”
Now almost a month on, his happiness on a personal level and his admirable attitude have seen him shine in Zenit’s preseason. He’s been scoring, assisting and influential in setting up many others through his wicked blend of technique and intelligence.
This was beautifully illustrated in Zenit’s recent 4-1 thrashing of Swiss giants, FC Basel, last week, where the set-piece specialist supplied an exquisite assist for Javi Garcia’s slick glancing header and played a key role in setting up the two penalties his side were awarded and subsequently finished.
From his left wing position, Shatov’s clever movement never allowed his direct opponent, Egyptian Omar Gaber, to settle into a pattern of how best to deal with him. Shatov dropped deep to link play, ventured into true no10 positions, sporadically switched to the right and occasionally hugged the touchline.
His variations were calculated and always had a purpose.
Whether by creating space for his fullback, Igor Smolnikov, getting into ideal positions to combine with his teammates or finding space to give himself a perfect platform to use his inventive dribbling ability, Shatov’s unpredictability provided a constant source of menace to the Basel backline. They just couldn’t come to grips with the elusive Russian’s movement and technical brilliance, as the former futsal star’s imagination in the final third consistently manufactured many chances for his colleagues.
With Zenit, who finished an unsatisfactory third in the league last season by their lofty standards, having sold Hulk, missing the silky Danny through injury and certain that Axel Witsel will leave, the time is right for Shatov to really step up and prove what a tremendous player and leader he is.
Judging by his strong recent comments, he looks determined to do exactly that. “I want to see 11 captains, 11 soldiers, 11 men who know their role and are hungry, ready to go and get results,” insisted Shatov.
“In spite of everything, injuries and other obstacles, we need to show we’re a team willing to give it our all.”
As new Zenit manager, former Shakhtar Donetsk legend Mircea Lucescu, aims to propel the side back to the top of the Russian Premier League, you can guarantee Shatov will be an integral figure in his plans.
At 25, happy with life off the field and entering his footballing prime, there’s no reason to suggest Shatov can’t lead his team’s charge back to the summit of Russian football.
He’s certainly got all the tools required to turn Zenit’s dreams into a reality.
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