Upon his arrival at Chita, Daniil immediately got his limited staff working on pulling through the performance data for the team from the start of the season till now. This would then give him an idea of what the team was good at, what they were lacking in and how he could make subtle changes to the way that they perform that could propel them forward in the next year.
Some long shifts in the office reflecting on past performances, Daniil finally had himself a folder filled with statistical analysis filling him in with everything concerning Chita’s squad against the rest of the league and where he had to shift his focus.
The team general performance polygon was an eye-opener for Daniil. He knew that he could rely on the side’s ability to tackle and to find their man with a pass but that was about it. Way below average for shots on target led Daniil to look into why this was the case and if he could fix that issue then he would improve the goals per game and expected goals per game stats. The issue is then shoring up the defence, being worse than the league average was worrying, especially when Chita was equally as bad at the other end. The current staff also found 5 key areas that they thought would be interesting to look at:
Daniil was very alarmed at some of these stats and he knew he was in for a total overhaul here come the summer. In the short term, he had to try and get players capable of improving these numbers drastically, but with the financial constraints placed upon him, he knew it was going to be tough.
The number one question on Daniil’s mind was “How do I turn this around?”
Immediately Daniil looked to the previous manager’s philosophy to see if there was anything there ringing alarm bells. It looks as though they were accustomed to playing a 532 which didn’t seem to do the job defensively, whilst it already left the attacking 2 a bit isolated. Daniil had a quick glance at the squad and decided that his 4231 would be the answer, although he was lacking a punishing central attacking midfielder.
Whilst knowing what his side needs to improve on, Daniil had a squad overview to see who was imperative to keep a hold of over the coming months. With very little financial backing, Daniil needed to try and cut to deadwood from the squad so that he can improve his fortunes going forward.
Daniil had three talented youngsters playing their way into his squad, but the biggest challenge would be to keep a hold of Sergey Gilyazutdinov beyond the winter transfer window. With interest from the First Division, the 18-year-old was trying to ignore the speculation surrounding his future, but his contract expires at the end of the season so Daniil intended not to become too attached. And as expected, Sergey was going to be on the move come the summer. Khimki offered a smaller financial package for the 18-year-old’s signature; £10,000 upfront with £3,000 in add-ons, including a 35% of the next sale, a friendly and a loan back till the end of the season. Metallurg Lipetsk offered £20,000 upfront and 35% of the next sale along with a loan back till the end of the season.
Not before long, Neftekhimik got involved with the bidding war and offered £32,000 with a further £7,000 in instalments with the same loan back clause and percentage of next sale like the previous two clubs. However, there were teams interested in him with the future in mind and had offered pre-contracts. Daniil was hoping for a quick buck here and now. Sergey wanted his chance at Neftekhimik and decided to accept their offer; he got his big move and Chita got some financial gain from his sale also.
With the sale of Sergey confirmed, Daniil had some money to play with, but he never felt required to splurge the cash. Instead, he opted to increase the wage budget to allow for a couple of free-agent players to come in should he require their services. He also knew he could pick up some good pre-contract deals for the summer. However, he did bring one face immediately in to give depth on the left-wing, along with another in the summer:
Vladimir joins immediately following a year out of football after leaving Zenit during a youth intake. A lot of work was still to be done, but Daniil knew he could get the best out of Vladimir at this age. Anzor will be joining up with Daniil come the summer and will give that different dimension behind the lone striker.
10 games to get through before Daniil could have a total revamp of the club from playing staff to backroom staff. 10 massive games for the players to prove their worth and that they are deserving of a contract. However, it was not to be all sunshine and rainbows for Daniil.
Despite having a look at the squad and being quietly optimistic about finishing at least in the top 3 of the Losers Stage, things went south very quickly for Daniil’s new side. Consecutive draws against Energia Luki (0-0) and Zvezda SPb (1-1) was soon followed up by a 3-1 defeat at home to Krasava. The fans were unsure on how to take these results, as both Zvezda and Krasava were in the opposite group, whilst their previous manager also managed a draw against Energia Luki.
Daniil was putting this down to a new style of football and gelling together, but it had to click sooner rather than later so he had a solid platform to build on during the summer. A further 2 defeats against Murom (3-1) and Khimik Dzerzhinsk (2-1) left Daniil actually questioning himself; was he right to come this far down? Was he ready for a total revamp of a club with no finances?
Finally, there looked to be some light emerging for Daniil. A long trip to Moscow to square off against group leaders Chertanovo. Renowned for their youth academy, Daniil knew this wasn’t going to be an easy game but maybe with some luck his side could finally pick up some steam. Falling behind midway through the first half, however, left Daniil questioning how big of a defeat this was going to be. Getting into the interval a goal down was going to be crucial, and Chita did just that. And were actually unfortunate not to take much more from the game in general. A valiant second-half performance saw new signing Pilipenko grab his first goal for the side as Chita closed out a 1-1 draw with the group leaders. Was the momentum finally shifting in favour of Daniil with a handful of games remaining?
This time, it was the turn of a Moscow side to travel to the Lokomotiv Stadium in Chita, as Daniil hosted Kairat Moscow. With some confidence starting to build amongst the ranks, Daniil was looking forward to this one knowing that he had to start winning games to propel the team away from the lonely relegation spot – Chita was joint-bottom of the group by this point after a run of 0 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats. Pilipenko eased some of Daniil’s anxieties in the opening 22 minutes before a second was converted moments before half-time. Daniil was delighted with the 2 goal advantage, knowing it would be near on impossible to throw it away, but he did want to kill the game off as early as he could in the second half to ensure no potential slip-ups. Chita did eventually get their third of the afternoon, but it came in the 90th minute, just before Kairat grabbed a consolation goal. Daniil’s first win since taking over at Chita, and was a fairly dominant and massive victory as the season began to wind down.
Daniil had to prepare his team for a journey to Yaroslavl, where they would end the current week’s fixtures knowing what result they had to get from the game. Tied on points with Zvezda SPb going into the game week, with 6 points to play for, the pressure was all on Zvezda and that was just how Daniil liked it. Zvezda did go on to lose their game, meaning a draw was going to be enough for Torpedo Vladimir and FC Chita to stay up, but Daniil wanted to ensure he moved the team as far away from relegation as possible. Thankfully, the players echoed that message and blew away their hosts. Yet another impressive performance saw Chita go home with the 3 points after defeating their hosts 2-0 and secured their survival for the following season. The only thing wedged between a club overhaul and Daniil was a final home game against Volna NN. A meaningless mid-table clash between two sides, Daniil advised the players that this was their final chance to prove they have a future beyond the summer; and the players rose to the challenge.
A dominant first-half performance meant young goalkeeper Pogosov had nothing to do for the full half, whilst gilt-edge chances were being carved at the end other end of the pitch. Gilyazutdinov, in his final game for the club, converted inside the 6-yard box in the 3rd minute, and that was to be the only goal of the game. Chita scored an xG of 2.21 against the visitor’s 0.11, it really was a one-sided affair – Ionin in goals for Volna saved 10 of 11 shots on target and could walk away with his head held high. The victory consolidated 6th place for Chita in the group, a position Daniil was delighted to settle with given the start to his tenure as boss.
A lot of work was still to be done at the club, and Daniil knew that this was the moment to seize the opportunity to carve his own side. Daniil was aiming big next season and he was delighted to be involved once again on match-days. Daniil’s focus is back. Daniil is back.