2016 CEV DenizBank Champions League

  • I am back from Krakow and finally <...>

    Right, I assume I need to deal with this. I hope, Yavor, you had a pleasant journey and I somewhat understand the bitterness behind your comments given the iconic status of the Trento coach... but I have to say, it's been long time since the "live" impressions sounded so different to me from what the broadcast had delivered. Where I agree is that it was by far more intense F4 then a year ago and indeed the Trento coach had done some decent analysis as for where to serve (deep into zone five). The young Trento setter does indeed look very driven and works superbly on the net. Also, and I have to be honest here, it is not good when the CL is won by the same team twice in a row and absolutely catastrophic when this happens for three consecutive years.

    Having said that, I find that you are slightly "underanalysing" things. It is kind of clear that Kazan had a problem with one key position and almost paid the price for that. So I would say everyone was roughly in the same position in this respect. Had there been Kaziyski/had Nelli been fit/Djuric been less chubby... many things could have happened had Muserskiy been fit, you know :). Let us skip this sore loser business.

    Regarding the final itself (and this is very much true for the semi as well) Alekno's problem is that his team plays a brute-force volleyball and neglects elementary block-defence. In fact the only game where I could see Leon running for the ball or doing some kind of cover was the away match vs Skra. In part it is the lack of an equal rival, in part it is due to the contracts that have been extended, but the Kazan team was unbelievably wasteful. The only people to defend for Zenit were Salparov and Butko, sometimes assisted by Ashev or Mikhaylov. Zenit has lost practically every net ball in the final. I don't think they feel the need for it, if you see what I mean. I don't envy Alekno in the coming year as there will be even less motivation in his squad. He needs more fresh blood.

    Regarding how invincible Kazan was. It is tempting to say that Trento was "almost there" but then one would argue that Rzeszow in the semi was almost there too - had they been a bit more focused in the second set at 8:3. And Skra even beat them in Kazan - and where is Skra now? One thing I am positive about is that, in the tie-breaker, Zenit won one transition out of six and Trento none out of one. In other words, a more hard-working/motivated team would have ended it at 15:8. I would not praise Stoychev's "homework" too much. Apart from the targeted service in five I haven't seen very much of the homework really. Remember, they were in a better position as they knew fairly well who they going to play against in the final. Just take a look in the stats, have you seen these figures before? First two sets to Mikhaylov from the Siberian genius Kobzar went out of tempo, so Max just rolled the ball to the other side. He killed the rest 24 sets at 75%. Leon had 67% in five sets. I guess the home plan by Stoychev was (i) serve in five and (ii) wear helmets? Of note, Rzeszow, that was "destroyed and annihilated" a year ago had Mikhaylov and Leon scoring at 37% and 44%, respectively. They also had 6 blocks in 3 sets, just as many as Trento in 5 sets. Oh, just in case, in the game vs Nizhniy Novgorod (relegated from the Superleague) on 09 Mar 2016, Leon had 48% and Mikhaylov - 59%...

    You see, my vision is that the Austrian Italian team intended to outzenit Zenit as both teams seemed to play very similar volleyball: power serve, scarce middle attack, defence-free. Although the Trento OHs did exceptionally well against organised block, not worse than Leon+Anderson, it was uneasy to win a game like that. As yet another Rus proverb says, you can feed the wolf as much as you like but the elephant would still have a bigger one :). Things were running fairly smoothly until the moment when a couple of kill-blocks made Djuric instantly tired (8/10 in set 1, 0/8 in set 4). Now that was possible because Trento has practically rested their middle attack after the first set. Secondly, Djuric was attacking many "emergency balls" set into a random location by his prodigious setter. If you don't believe me, just take a look how many times Djuric stepped over the three-meter line. He's been "only" penalised three times for that. On the good side, the youthful setter scored 9 points and got the prize (that looked like a 0.5L bottle of vodka to me), which he can show e.g. to his mom. Why I have to give a credit to Butko is that he avoided this Grankin-style cr*p and played a routine and hard-working game with a very balanced setting, tough service and some superb defence. In a game like that, every dig counts. Butko's vis-a-vis dug only one ball (AFAIC) and had a problem chasing the balls around the pitch after suboptimal receptions - see last points in sets 4 and 5, which could have been successful transitions for Trento. Again, the chap is very impressive on the net. With a good reception, he easily tears the block into pieces as he meets the ball very high and the blocker has to react to that. But. Many setters can do this when the ball is delivered straight on top of their head.

    Finally, I think you're being too tough on Kurek. Many of the errors he made to give valuable points to Kazan were in fact emergency balls after poor receptions. With a static three-men block in front, one has to look for the options and take risks.

  • Thanks for the opinion, first of all! When you watch a tournament live, but not as someone with access to stats, you usually follow the game based on impressions. These could be checked/proved/changed later when you actually see the stats. If there is any need for that, of course. I don't think I "underanalyse" stuff but I would accept criticism if it is the case indeed ;) You say I got things wrong and yet you agree with most points, or least with half of them. But you as a Russian probably have a different opinion (than us) about the Russian champion and you might be focused more on their performance instead. I shared what I think and what I saw and let me also shortly get to some points we both made.

    I have to start with Stoychev because, I think, you weren't even here in the forum when he was dominating with Trentino. I am not a fan of Trentino or Stoychev in particular, I recognize good things and valuable work when I see examples of such. Actually, I even had my doubts concerning his overall greatness when they were winning with a star-studded squad, these doubts vanished almost completely in the past two years. The reasons are clear, I believe. Having said this, I think you see that my reaction is not based on some teenager-like appreciation for what a Bulgarian could do abroad.

    It was a good scenario maybe that Zenit had to face exactly Trentino in the final because both teams' European story is/was turning into dominance for a certain period. But my reaction came from all that hype about Zenit and their status of the world's (allegedly not true because of Cruzeiro's recent results but let's leave that aside now) best team now. When I compare this super Zenit to Stoychev's super Trentino, although admitting several similarities, I truly believe the Italians' game system was certainly better and they were a more threatening team than this Zenit. Hence my reaction to people boasting of Zenit's supremacy. True, they have trophies and results to prove their point and I honestly say I am not disappointed with their second win in a row, for they are a team composed of great players nonetheless, but I am just not that impressed. As I said, this is my opinion.

    Now, I never said Stoychev didn't make mistakes or that he didn't fail to close the match in his favour. But you didn't tell me where Alekno's strategy was in this final and what other job he did apart from shouting at (waking up) his players. Which presumably means that Stoychev had, in fact, done more as a coach than Alekno in this F4. Stoychev, to me, had done a great job positioning his players in defence, for example. But it didn't work all the time. Also, sore loser mentality is, I hope, foreign to me and I have (almost) never showed it here in the forum or anywhere else. The fact is this - the following group of players: Antonov, Urnaut, a not-recovered Djuric, and van de Voorde were close to beating the mighty Zenit. Which says a lot about the person who put them together and made them play like a team. On the other side of the court there were at least 4 world-class players. Both teams didn't use middles that much in the final, absolutely true, although it was quite typical for Zenit and a bit unlikely for Trentino with Giannelli. Yes, they rely on power, but it is much more valid for Zenit, you can't say that entirely for Trentino who have Urnaut alongside the more "brutal" Antonov. So I could easily imagine what could've happened with a healthy squad or one additional player on the field. And I don't care they lost, I care because they fought an uneven battle and were winning it for an hour or so. Yes, I know, now you are going to give examples with Guberniya, Ural Ufa, Lokomotiv Kharkiv, Stroitel Minsk, etc, in meaningless games from the Russian league, which Zenit won well in advance, by the way, but a team's real value comes in finals, like Champions League, Russian Cup finals, you name it.

    Last, I don't think I am too harsh on Kurek. He has the physical gift to play above any three-men block and to score 25+ points in every match but what I have barely seen from him is win a match at the end of a set. He has done it on several occasions with the NT, it seems like a burden on club level. Despite the decent numbers, Kurek didn't enjoy such a nice F4. And just like we both mentioned, results matter in the end.