"Year on year, we provide players for the first team." How the CSKA youth team trains talents and wins

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CSKA youth team head coach Andrey Aksenov talks to us about the exhibition match with Amkal, communication with Aleksandr Golovin, his wish for Fedor Chalov to win the RPL top goalscorer race again and looks back at the Youth Championship win.

"I was happy to respond to the idea of playing with Amkal”

Amkal is an amateur team. Had you heard about it before?

– Yes, I have friends who play for this team, I worked with some of the guys when I was already a coach. I have known Dima Egorov for a long time, and Vanya Baranov studied with me when I worked at the CSKA school from 1999. I see what they produce, train, and what this team is about. I know that this is a team of bloggers, so I was initially aware of Amkal.

How did you like the game against such an opponent who is focused more on bringing the show?

– In fact, I didn't see such a big show. The guys just love football, they are trying to popularize it through their YouTube channels, Instagram accounts and various social platforms. They also tried to play good football. It is clear that they had a desire to win.

How did the option to play against such an opponent come about?

– Dmitry Kortava from the Russian Football Union came to me; he is responsible for the development of the Youth Championship. When we were invited to play such a match, I responded to this idea with pleasure. We took it as a normal friendly game before the start of our championship, given that during pre-season we had almost no opponents.

A lot of attention is focused on Amkal all over Russia. Should there be more such projects?

– Of course, especially if it popularises football in our country. I am glad that these guys love football, and I think with their help we can popularize this sport. I talked to the coach and the guys after the match, and a lot of teenagers follow this team. I think that they instill an interest and love for football in our country.

"Golovin had a period when he wanted to go home more often"

By the way, one of your students, Fedor Chalov, also starred with football bloggers. Haven't you seen?

– No, I watch other programs more. I would even call Fedya more my graduate than my pupil. I had quite a lot of famous graduates when I worked at the school: the same Golovin, Chernov, Makarov, a large galaxy of players who won the European Championship. Then Chalov, Khosonov, and Maradishvili appeared.

Many players have passed through us, but they are probably more my graduates. The students have been studying with coaches for many years, and our system is so built that the players do not study with one coach for more than two or three years. In fact, it is always interesting to watch their development and formation, how they grow and what they do in the future, and how they play. We are all happy for them.

Chalov was the top scorer of the RPL two years ago, then his performance dropped. Has he ever had such downturns in your team? How were such problems solved with him?

– Fedya, in fact, has quite a subtle nature. It needs a special approach. He always feels the trust of the coach, and when there is trust and understanding of what and how to do, Fedya is always in good shape and pleases us with goals scored. Young players are prone to ups and downs, it's hard to spend every year at the very same level. I really hope that this year he will show himself in a different way and become the top scorer of both our team and the RPL.

Aleksandr Golovin is also your graduate. Do you often discuss with him his performances at Monaco?

– No, we communicate more in terms of life, not about games. We also maintain a good relationship with his parents, we correspond. We have a more friendly relationship.

Does he consult with you in terms of life, even after moving to Monaco?

– We talked about this move, but I think that Sasha has become old enough to make such decisions. Therefore, he probably takes support more than any advice from me.

Golovin went to the Euros at the age of 20 under Leonid Slutsky. Are that Golovin and the current one completely different people?

– Of course! He is growing in terms of his skill, and playing experience is already slowly beginning to come to him. Sasha has become more rational on the field, making the right decisions, and I think that during his time spent in the French Ligue 1, he already feels confident in himself. Undoubtedly, he has leadership qualities, and I am sure that these qualities will soon be fully manifested. We can already say that he is one of the leaders of Monaco. He has a great future ahead of him.

From the point of view of psychology, what was he like when you were with him and what has he become now? Have you always been psychoactive?

– Initially, when he came to us, he had problems. There was a difficult adaptation period: he always felt that he missed his parents, friends, and communication. But over time and with age, he began to find friends here as a good circle of communication appeared. He had such a difficult period when he always expressed a desire to go home as often as possible. When this happened, we made the right decisions, and if he had such a desire, we let him go.

He knows how to deal with failures correctly. Was this the case before?

– We are talking about a young player. When he was 16-17 years old, of course, there was still no experience, it was very difficult for him to deal with this. But I think that he has matured a lot, and there are no such problems anymore.

"Maradishvili, Chernov & Chalov congratulated me on the victory in the championship"

Which of your pupils are you following? How often do you communicate with them and discuss games?

– It's purely individual for games. We communicate more with all the guys on life in general. I am happy for their success, they are happy for ours, for my success. In fact, after each matchday, I look at how many guys have played, and what their impact was on the pitch. I try to keep track of all the guys I worked with.

Did the graduates congratulate you on your victory in the Youth Championship?

– Many did, such as Maradishvili, Chernov, and Chalov. As I have already said, this is mutual: I am happy for their success, they are happy for mine.

The tournament was held in a new format. Did you like it?

– It was an interesting structure. I liked it more that in the last matchdays, the 10 strongest teams – five from one group and five from another – met each other. Every game was held at a high level, all the opponents were preparing well for each other. It was interesting to take part in such a tournament.

However, it used to be much more convenient in terms of logistics: we played a day earlier than the first team, communication was closer, and flights were chartered. Now we have to fly regular flights and almost all the time we live on a different schedule to the first team.

The league decided to play the day before the games of the first team, but again there will be completely different opponents than the first team. We will once again see how everything will happen, we will see all the pros and cons of the tournament. Probably, after the second year, it will be possible to give a full assessment of this competition structure.

In May, the boys played for the first time at the VEB Arena, and it was a title-decider against Spartak. Was it hard to set them up for this match?

– I think there is always excitement, especially when they play at their club’s main stadium and a large number of fans have come. But I think it only played to our advantage, because all the fans at the stadium supported the guys and drove them forward. They quickly coped with the pressure and didn’t feel it – it disappeared either at the starting whistle, or after the first 10 minutes.

During the whole season, the team lost only five matches, but were still fighting for the championship with Zenit and Krasnodar until the penultimate matchday. Has the level of the Youth League increased with the appearance of teams from the JFL?

– Now it's hard to say whether this happened due to the JFL teams. In fact, both Zenit and Krasnodar have a fairly strong level, they all have a good academy side, so there was a struggle almost until the last matchday. But when there are more such teams, I am sure that our guys will grow at a great pace.

"Every six months, 50-60 percent of our players change"

Ilya Vostrikov, the top scorer of the championship, left CSKA for Chaika from the FNL-2. Is he ready for a new level?

– Time will tell, and the fact that he has outgrown the level of the Youth Championship is unequivocal. Unfortunately, the competition system does not provide for further participation in the youth team, and besides, we do not have a team that is older in age.

I am sure that it is very early to draw conclusions about players who have just turned 18-19 years old. The formation of a football player can take place up to 23, even 24 years of age. After all, our players need to be waited for and properly brought through to senior football. Of course, it is difficult at this age to immediately compete with first-team players, but there is no doubt that Ilya has very good qualities that he can use in the near future and become a good player in the FNL and, maybe, in the RPL.

For the team’s second-highest scorer, Vladislav Yakovlev, it wasn’t the first time at the senior side’s training camp. How satisfied are you with it?

– We always have good working relationships with the first team. This is a credit to our club, because we have a very good line of work, and we are always in close contact with the first-team coaches. We have always had good communication with Viktor Goncharenko, with Ivica Olic, and now we have exactly the same good relations with Aleksey Berezutsky.

I think we will always discuss the pressing problems and the development of our players. They always said that Vlad trains well and everyone is counting on him, and this can only make me happy. I wish all our players only good luck and success.

In general, is Berezutsky satisfied with the work of those young players whom he took to training camps?

– Yes, I always try to get the opinion of the head coach. We are happy with all the guys, they consider them promising, but this potential needs to be developed, and the guys need to continue their career in senior football. In this regard, I think some of them were sent out on loan in order to gain experience in senior football and return to our club more established.

You are probably used to big changes in the youth team between seasons. How quickly do you manage to establish contacts in the updated team for the new season?

– In fact, this is a sore subject, because every half-season 50-60 percent of the players in the squad change, sometimes it reaches 70. Therefore, we always have to return to the starting point, where we are with regards to conducting technical and tactical work with young players.

Of course, the transition from youth football to senior football is not easy, and I think that we manage to cope with it well. Year on year, we still produce players for the first team, but this is our primary task, which we try to cope with.

How will the work between your coaching staff and the coaching staff of the main team be built during the season? Are there any differences from other coaches?

– I think everything will go through communication. We have an analytical coach in our youth team. We are trying to do everything exactly the same as in the first team, and we have the same line of building the training process. I think nothing should change, only improve. I really hope that this will influence the work in the youth team, and our players will move to the first team.

Photo: Denis Tyrin/CSKA, Konstantin Rybin/RPL


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