Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Soviet Union experienced a season of great amplitudes, from high to low. On one hand, it was a season of great international success – Dynamo (Kiev) won the Cup Winners Cup. On the other hand, there was humiliation of the national team, losing to Turkey 0-1, and it was Soviet defenseman the goalscorer – in his own net. Now, club football is one thing and national team another, but… the Soviets introduced new concept this year and Dynamo Kiev and national team were exactly one and the same. New concepts – or reforms – were constant features of Soviet football: something introduced, aiming improvement, then abandoned – there was no end, and 1975 was no exception. All teams were to list players with constant numbers this season. The purpose of this novelty was unclear – it had nothing to do with improving the game. At the time, it was rare and unusual practice – apart from the World Cup, only USA used individual constant numbers. Ajax abandoned the practice already. Anyway, it was the new Soviet rule and because of that I’ll put the seasonal number of every player when showing the squads bellow.
The other news was about the national teams: for the first time A-national team and the Olympic team were clearly separated. This had little, if anything, to do with old grumbling from the West about Eastern European countries pretending that their football was amateur and fielding the same squads for every international occasion. The real purpose was ‘scientific’ notions of improving the Soviet game, particularly Lobanovsky’s views, for he was appointed national team coach as well as coaching Dynamo (Kiev). In a nut shell, national teams had to be organized like clubs: same players to be involved. Kiev became the core of the A team and Spartak (Moscow) – the core of the Olympic team. Thus, Lobanovsky used even Kiev’s reserves in the national team, with very few additional players from other clubs (who rarely played). The Olympic team used bigger variety, but still the ‘skeleton’ was based on Spartak. Results were mixed bag, but certainly not a great improvement, which brings back the club football and prevailing attitudes.
Since players’ numbers hardly do anything to better performance, the season was painfully similar to the previous seasons: low scoring, no risks, and stubborn preference for ties. 6 out of 16 teams scored less than a goal per match. None achieved 2 goals on average – the champions were the highest scoring team with 53 goals in 30 games. True, it was more then the previous year, but not by far – the ‘improvement’ was 4 more goals. As for ending in a draw… 9 clubs ended 1/3 or more of their matches in a tie. The champions ended with 9 ties. Actually, only one club preferred winning than secure point from a tie: Ararat (Erevan) finished with only 4 ties. The bottom of the league was also familiar story: the same clubs moved up and down year after year: SKA (Rostov on Don) returned to First Division in 1974 only to finish dead last and to be relegated back to Second Division in 1975. They were joined by Pakhtakor (Tashkent) (which provided players for the Olympic team!), who returned to First Division in 1973. Dynamo (Minsk), relegated in 1973, won promotion after winning the Second Division, joined by Krylya Sovetov (Kuybishev, today – Samara), who were relegated in 1969. The ‘newcomers’ were soon to go down once again, replaced by other clubs of the same ilk – too strong for Second Division, yet, too weak for the First. The decline of Moscow football continued (Spartak ended 10th and CSKA – 13th!) and the shift to the South, particularly Ukraine, was firmly established with 6 in First Division and Ukrainian clubs finishing 1st and 2nd.
And one of the Cup finalists was from Ukraine as well. Since goalscoring was not the forte of Soviet football, Oleg Blokhin was the best again with 18 goals (2 less than he scored in 1974), but the distance between him and the next scorer increased – Boris Kopeykin (CSKA) scored only 13 goals. In fact, only Blokhin was consistent – this was his 4th consecutive year as best goalscorer of the country. Behind him were different players every year, though.
By now, the champions were very, very familiar: Dynamo (Kiev). Their 7th title.
Top, left to right: V. Lobanovsky – coach, V. Veremeev (10), A. Konkov (2), S. Reshko (5), V. Zuev (15), O. Blokhin (11), L. Buryak (12), E. Rudakov (1), O. Bazilevich – coach.
Middle: G. Spektor – administrator, A. Puzach – assistant coach, A. Petrashevsky – assistant coach, M. Fomenko (4), V. Kolotov (9), V. Onishtchenko (8), I. Malyuta – team doctor, V. Berkovsky – administrator.
Bottom: P. Slobodyan (24), S. Kuznetzov (13), V. Muntyan (7), V. Troshkin (6), V. Matvienko (3), I. Zhutnik – masseur.
The squad was completed by goalkeepers V. Samokhin (17) and M. Moskalenko (18); defensemen A. Damin (16), V. Kochubinsky (21), S. Katalimov (19), and A. Boyko (20); midfielders O. Serebryansky (24), V. Sinelnik (16); and strikers V. Shevchenko (14), N. Pinchuk (27), A. Marchenko (23), and V. Lozinsky (22).
Dynamo deserves a few words, for it was internationally successful and Lobanovsky became a legendary coach with controversial methods. First of all, Dynamo had the power – political back up largely – to take whatever Ukrainian players they wanted. Konkov and Sergey Kuznetzov were recruited from Shakhter (Donetzk) and Zarya (Voroshilovgrad), both national team players. Secondly, Lobanovsky was not yet the sole ruler of the team – curiously, Dynamo had two coaches in 1975: Lobanovsky and Bazilevich coached in tandem. Both shared ‘scientific’ views of football. The famous laboratory was introduced and results from tests and modeling there shaped the game of Dynamo. And, at least partly because of that, Dynamo used a core of players constantly – 12 regulars plus three or four ‘regular’ reserves. The rest of the squad hardly ever played, but the ‘core’ was moved in bulk to the national team as well. It was rather strange team schematically: Rudakov between the goalposts; Matvienko left full-back, and the duo of Fomenko – Reshko in the centre of defense. The right full-back was ‘fluid’ – the defensive midfileder Troshkin played most often, providing vigor on the right flank, but also he was too good to be left on the bench and this was the only available position. However, when real defense was needed Damin or Zuev (less often) were fielded. The midfield was large – Konkov – Muntyan - Kolotov – Buryak – Veremeev. It was the arrival of Konkov which made difficulty for Troshkin – Konkov played strongly and his position was defensive midfielder, with broader operational range than Troshkin, who preferred the right side of the pitch. The other four were attacking midfielders with constructive abilities. Buryak was really the revelation and his great form probably shaped the line – he was too good to be a reserve, yet, he was an extra. The 12th player. Only two men in attack – Onishtchenko as right winger and Blokhin on the left wing. Onishtchenko was more versatile and moved in the centre and to the left wing, but Blokhin was less capable of changing position. The aim was to create situations for Blokhin to score, which worked, but it was risky nevertheless, for in the absence of centreforward, dependence on left winger was limited and predictable. The remedy was found mostly in the greater operational field of fiery Onishtchenko and the usage of tireless Troshkin as a false right winger. Shevchenko and Slobodyan were occasionally used as classic centre forwards and Sergey Kuzhetzov – as a reliable substitute in defense. More or less, the team played 4-4-2, which looked like 3-5-2 against weaker opponents, when Troshkin operated ahead. Perhaps the real problem was having too many midfielders and the coaches find solution in dictatorial rule – players had to do exactly what the coaches said. Buryak on the bench; Troshkin – a nominal right full-back; and Blokhin asked to change positions in order of preventing crowding on the left wing. Authomatism was required, not free creativity and improvisations. The concept was fragile, for it was unbalanced, but generally it was compensated by speed, precise execution, and at least at the home league – by the superiority of Kiev’s players over any other team. Lobanovsky – Bazilevich duo were no fools, though: whenever they sensed tougher opponents, they did not hesitate to field more orthodox players (meaning Buryak firmly on the bench, and may be Troshkin). Nevertheless, it was 12 players team – very unusual not only in 1975.