Apologies all for the late Season Review. Schoolwork and personal business came up and prevented me from completing it earlier.
This season featured one of the closest title races in RPL history. Lokomotiv and Zenit traded the lead for much of the season, before CSKA moved into first place in the second last matchweek and held on to take their second consecutive title. At the other end of the table, the significantly weakened Anzhi went through the entire first half of the season without a win and were ultimately relegated after being touted as title contenders at the opening of the season.
1 - CSKA
2 - Zenit
3 - Lokomotiv
4 - Dynamo
5 - Spartak
6 - Krasnodar
7 - Rostov
8 - Rubin
9 - Amkar
10 - Kuban
11 - Ural
12 - Terek
13 - Tomsk
14 - Krylia
15 - Volga
16 - Anzhi
The Surprises of the Season:
Anzhi started the season as title favourites, but financial issues with owner Suleyman Kerimov forced the club to sell most of their top earners. As a result, the team sank down the table and they were unable to get a win before the winter break. Their form took a turn for the better after returning from the break thanks to signing a number of players on loan, but it wasn't enough to even drag them away from top spot.
Lokomotiv were expected by many to finish in midtable thanks to their lack of significant transfer movement over the summer, but the consistency of the side helped them lead the table for much of the season. Their form started to tail off in the final few weeks, causing them to ultimately drop below Zenit, and then a loss to CSKA on the final day sealed their fate in third place.
Spartak looked very much like title contenders at the beginning of the season, thanks to their deep strike force and capable midfield, but injuries in the centre of defence devastated the squad and led to a drop of form in the second half of the season. Manager Valeri Karpin lost his job after a poor run of results, however the side's form failed to take a turn for the better and they ultimately finished in fifth.
Rostov started the season as a rag tag bunch of loanees, but managed to string together some fantastic form and pulled off some incredible upsets. Spartak loanee Artem Dzyuba was the second top scorer in the RPL and Arseni Logashov was one of the better defenders in the league.
Team of the Season:
My team of the season is based on the number of appearances of each player in the Team of the Week in my Matchweek Recaps and is as follows:
GK - Yuri Lodygin - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Lodygin was a new signing at Zenit and went straight into the starting XI ahead of veteran keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev. Lodygin was prone to a few errors towards the end of the season, but was otherwise very solid and won the St Petersburg side points all on his own.
RB - Arseni Logashov - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Logashov started the season under contract to Anzhi, but was sold to Lokomotiv who immediately sent on loan to Rostov, where he shone as one of the team's stars. He was first choice for the entire season and built a great partnership with Timofey Kalachev down the right flank, but somehow his form was not enough to warrant being called into the World Cup squad.
CB - Vedran Corluka - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Corluka was solid as usual, and with him as an important cog, Lokomotiv's defence went on to be the best in the league. The Croatian did ultimately cost Zenit the title when he gave the ball away for CSKA to score in the final match, but errors like these were few and far between.
CB - Vladimir Rykov - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Rykov went on loan to Tom Tomsk from Dynamo Moscow and was easily the side's best player for the entire season. Another undeserving snub from the Russian World Cup squad, and a player that should see interest from a lot of RPL clubs after the end of his Dynamo Moscow contract.
LB - Vitali Denisov - 7 appearances in Team of the Week
Another key cog in Lokomotiv's excellent defence, Vitali Denisov was dominant driving down the left flank or defending solidly under pressure.
CM - Axel Witsel - 3 appearances in Team of the Week
Witsel was Zenit's standout player for the second straight season, defending incredibly well while also being a great creative force. The Belgian was under some doubt about taking the full defensive load on his own, but performed the role well and kept other, more experienced, midfielders on the bench.
CM - Oleg Ivanov - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
The third undeserving snub from the Russia squad, Oleg Ivanov, proved to be the best box to box midfielder in the RPL this season. It was Ivanov's first season since 2009 in which he was definite first choice, and he took the opportunity well, scoring 4 times and providing 2 assists in addition to his solid defensive work.
RW - Zoran Tosic - 6 appearances in Team of the Week
Zoran Tosic could be heralded as the man who won CSKA the title after his match-winning goal on the final day, but this was only the icing on the cake for the Serbian winger, who excelled yet again this season. He combined well with Mario Fernandes down the right flank and stepped up to become one of CSKA's most important players after the departure of Keisuke Honda, scoring 11 times in 27 games.
AM - Alan Dzagoev - 6 appearances in Team of the Week
Dzagoev had something of a stop start season thanks to injuries and suspensions, but still managed to get on the scoresheet himself 3 times, and set up other players a further 4 times in just 18 games. In addition to this tally, he was played deeper than he traditionally has been, being molded into something of a deep-lying playmaker, and this looks to be his role in the squad going forward.
LW - Jose Manuel Jurado - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Jurado started the season fantastically and, despite his form taking a turn for the worse along with the rest of Spartak in the second half of the season, the Spaniard still managed to score 8 times in 29 games.
ST - Seydou Doumbia - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
Doumbia continued his difficult return from injury after missing much of the 2012-13 season due to a back problem, and managed to play 22 of the 30 possible games this turn. In these games, the Ivorian scored 18 times and assisted 7 further goals in an impressive tally for any player, let alone one who had struggled with injuries for more than a year.
GK - Igor Akinfeev - 3 appearances in Team of the Week
RB - Mario Fernandes - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
CB - Xandao - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
CM - Christian Noboa - 3 appearances in Team of the Week
AM - Wanderson - 5 appearances in Team of the Week
RW - Hulk - 3 appearances in Team of the Week
ST - Artem Dzyuba - 4 appearances in Team of the Week
Thanks for reading everyone. Now that I have some free time, you should expect to see my preview for Russia in the upcoming World Cup before they kick off against South Korea on Tuesday.