Scouting Report: Alan Dzagoev, CSKA Moscow

Alan Dzagoev showed exactly why he is Russia’s brightest new hope with a masterful display on how to use operational space.

I was first alerted to the dazzling talents of Alan Dzagoev during a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in last year’s Europa Cup campaign and it is noticeable to see just how far he has come since then. Still only 19 but Dzagoev plays with an ice cool head and seems to relish the creative responsibilities given to him by new coach Leonid Slutsky.

It was only February since that game at Villa and CSKA Moscow have since moved on to their third coach – Slutsky given quite a baptism of fire at Old Trafford. And indeed, things have also changed for Dzagoev as his then partner in crime, Vagner Love, has departed on loan which is a great shame as their telepathic understanding mirrored that of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

But one could still see remnants of that understanding with new striker partner Tomáš Necid in the 3-3 draw against Manchester United as the Czech constantly looked to get into the spaces he hoped Dzagoev will find. The Russian’s ability to thread an eye of the needle passes is particularly impressive but it can at times be his downfall as this can see him ignore the simpler option.

However it’s this recognition of operational space that sets him apart and his movement and passes into such areas caused the Manchester United defence problems no end. Always on the move and looking for spaces to exploit he was the first man on the ball to initiate attacks while his tracking back also had a lot to admire. Making sure he stationed himself in the area where the deep-lying playmaker, in this case Paul Scholes would operate, stopping the United midfielder exerting much influence on the game and ready to pounce on the ball once it became loose.

And for his goal and CSKA’s first, he combined both power and pace to match his ingenuity and skill on the ball. Dropping deep to get the ball, Dzagoev dragged Wes Brown out of position which created the space for Necid to  fantastically weighted a chested pass into his path. His first touch looked to have taken him too far to the left but his close control and quick change of pace meant Jonny Evans was always unsure of the next action. And as quick as a flash, Dzagoev thrashed in a vicious left-footed shot which left Van Der Sar with no chance from the acutest of angles.

The warning signs were clear of Dzagoev’s danger but United continued to give the Russian much room. There was lessons to be learnt for rivals from watching this game as it highlighted the amount of space one can exploit due to Manchester United’s expansive style. And Dzagoev was at it again, as he gradually dragged Evans out of position for CSKA’s second, dummying the ball for Necid to play in the ever-troublesome Krasic and the Serb finished off a flowing move. At times he was reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp, his awareness and anticipation only paralleled on the pitch by Micheal Own surprisingly enough and his dummy especially bringing into mind the fantastic goal scored by Bergkamp against Newcastle, knowing the only free area was behind him to his right before flicking the ball past Nikolas Dabizas.

His understanding of danger areas wasn’t just limited to a creative sense as he also made sure to position himself for rebounds and in one instance his positioning was so perfect, he nearly blocked a shot from his own team-mate.

Dzagoev’s night came to a premature end on seventy-two minutes, being replaced by Daniel Carvalho but it wasn’t before he was involved in the third. His devilishly whipped free-kick found Vasili Berezutski unmarked at the back post and the defender obliged with a strong header to put CSKA 3-1 up. The Russian’s certainly missed Dzagoev’s opportunism as they failed to handle United’s late pressure and in the end succumbed to a draw.

It was also interesting to note the tactical context of Alan Dzagoev’s substitution for Carvalho. His previous manager Zico, was reluctant to play him behind the main striker for balance sake, preferring instead the  Brazilian midfielder in an attempt to achieve the self-conscious symmetry that the 4-2-3-1 gives. He has been linked to Real Madrid and Pelligrini’s insistence on playing two forwards will ensure he will fit in well for the neo-galacticos but he has previously admitted to being a fan of Chelsea. But seeing as the Blues are currently in a transfer embargo, Dzagoev’s best bet would be to remain at CSKA and hone his skills as a world-class striker he so promises to become before moving to Western Europe.

Scout Report Card:
Age 19
Position Second Striker
Height 1.79 m (5 ft 10+12 in)
Weight 11st 9lbs (74 kg)

Heading ­7
Passing 9
Shooting 8
Vision and Awareness 10
Team ­responsibility 9

Value £15m


10 thoughts on “Scouting Report: Alan Dzagoev, CSKA Moscow

  1. Great report, always wanted to read one on him. Do you think he is somewhat like RVP? If he can bulk up and improve his heading, he can become a classy forward.
    Do you see him as a second striker or do you think he can play alone up front?

    1. Hi. As this is an Arsenal site I should have made some link to the club, namely RVP as I initially intended and also some of the few other matches I’ve seen in between.

      The key difference between him and van Persie is seemingly as Wenger said, that RVP never quite looked comfortable as a second striker and tended to operate close to a main forward. Dzagoev operates exactly like a second striker should; he’s clever and efficient in his movements but is also decent in the air and shielding although it obviously needs more work. He can play alone up front in time, either as a false nine or just slightly more unorthodox but overall he seems best suited off the number nine.

  2. I first saw him when Russia went to Dortmund to play Germany in the World Cup Qualification match last October. I was thoroughly impressed, in the first half, the Russian right flank allowed Lahm to raid constantly, the second half when Dzagoev came on there, he had done what i rarely have seen, Lahm totally pinned back. He also started the move that led to the Russian goal. I started a thread on the Arsenal Facebook Group called ‘Talents You think Can Make It at Arsenal’, he was the first entrant, look for it around October 2008.

    Since then, I’ve seen quite a bit of him, normally deployed on behind Wagner Love, but he has also shown a penchant for dropping deep and playing one-two’s to build attacks. For Russia, he hasn’t yet cracked the starting XI, but he is first choice sub for the wide midfield roles.

    I don’t think his deployment will be a big determinant on his production, his technical skills and mature head mean he can play wide or behind one or even two strikers. ‘The Brain’ must probably have remembered how he set up the CSKA goal vs Aston Villa, dropped very deep, danced around Barry with ease and made a devastating pass for Wagner Love. I’ve seen him use both feet proficiently and his set pieces as shown yesterday are very good.

    I don’t think he’ll leave Russia for another season or two, based on the input of Russian journalist Gennady Fyodorov on the World Football Phone In who stated he is a very mature young man, and also based on the fact that in two years time, he will be a much better and effective player, if he moves abroad now, despite his talents, he will be put on the bench for large stretches. I’d personally like to see him at a club like Milan, he has the mentality and champion spirit for them, and Milan will need a creator very soon. In England, Arsenal would be a perfect fit, I don’t see him fitting in at Chelsea unless they tweak their power style of play.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. It’ll be interesting to see that Arsenal Facebook Group although it’s proven difficult to find. He can fit at Arsenal no doubt about that although that would probably be in a 4-4-2 variant.

      Regarding Chelsea, I’ve been impressed by the movement of the forward players and in that instance he may be able to fit in although Dzagoev does seem more central and there is a feeling may clash positionally with the playmaker.

      In front of him for Russia is Arshavin so it seems he’ll find it difficult to break in at the moment in his preferred role seeing as the Arsenal man is captain. He played left for CSKA under Zico towards the end of his reign. He played decently but seemed prohibited as expected

  3. the dummy for the second goal was so brilliant, I had to watch it three times to appreciate the awesomeness of it.

    such mature movement – that should translate well into our system. i also believe that his knowledge would find success in the transition of leagues.

  4. Having watched how Arsh played the tip of a front 3 position and Watched how RVP played it as well, Eduardo has been efficient in that role bcuz he always move to far way from the danger zone thus leaving us pretty much noone to run in behind.

    The best way to play the role is limit your moveent between the width of the penalty box side-to-side and another 10 yards in front of the box to receive and link-play. Also another key is the Use of Operational Space meaning anytime CBs or fullback is out of position, the striker must make a forward run into that position and take a quick accurate 1st touch to get quick shots on goal.

    Also even if they are not out of position, the tip striker can take up positions between the CBs and fullback which effectively render the fullback out of position if the fullback doesnt take-up goalside before the striker receives the thru ball [Check RVP’s equalise against Blackburn home in 6-2 win for example]. For more on Use of Operational Space check

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s