- Name: Denis Cheryshev
- Nationality: Russian
- Age: 24
- Position: Left Wing
- International Caps: 7
- Preferred Foot: Left
- Current Team: Real Madrid
Cheryshev was born in Russia but quickly made the move to Spain to join the youth ranks at Sporting Gijon where his Father played. After spells in the youth system at Sporting Gijon and Burgos CF, Denis Cheryshev was signed by Real Madrid – one of the giants of world football. Cheryshev rose through the ranks at Real Madrid and played 102 times for their B side, known as Castilla, but has only ever made 1 cup appearance for Real Madrid. After an unsuccessful loan spell at Sevilla, Cheryshev spent the 2014/15 season on loan at Villarreal and was largely impressive, leaving many to wonder what comes next for the Russian wide man and more importantly just how good is he?
Cheryshev is a very powerful winger whose tactical flexibility and intelligence, particularly in the final third, make him a very exciting prospect in the modern game. He lined up and often played as an out-and-out winger in Villarreal’s 4-4-2 system but also showed the ability to quickly transition to a more central role to make him more unpredictable to the opposition. The Russian never looks to overcomplicate his game and can be accused of being very one-footed so being able to use his positional intelligence to mix up his game is key to his success. This was helped at Villarreal by playing with forwards who would rotate happily – Vietto, Uche and dos Santos are all forwards who can double up as wide players.
Cheryshev actually started as 1 of a front 2 in the 4-2 win over Rayo Vallecano before moving wide later on and grabbing 2 assists. A better example of his flexibility however was Villarreal’s 2-0 win at home to Athletic Club – Cheryshev was up against Oscar de Marcos. Realising early on that de Marcos could match him for pace and was happy to defend wide, Cheryshev had to switch up his tactics. His answer was to, on occasion, create a momentary front 3 with Uche and Vietto forcing Athletic to defend as a tight unit and allow for space out wide as well as in behind. Cheryshev also made the same move twice in quick succession; as one of the forwards made a move wide, Cheryshev would come short then race into the space in behind – breaking through the heart of the Athletic defence off of the long ball.
This move lead to Cheryshev opening the scoring against Athletic:
Cherysev’s role in the Villarreal team was to be one the team’s main source of penetration. Always thinking on the front foot and looking to move the ball quickly, Cheryshev’s power in his running and with him always looking to move the ball on as quickly as possible, Villarreal were able to turn defence into attack very quickly. Villarreal often looked to variate their attacking approach, mixing it up from a more direct approach to a slower more compact approach looking to penetrate from just outside the opposition penalty area.
Both these approaches suited Cheryshev’s style. His incredible desire and pace when transitioning helps with a more direct approach: allowing an out ball for the defenders and other midfielders to hit early. Flying forward when transitioning also often lead to an overload in the attacking third. With Cheryshev’s tendency not to overcomplicate and his relationship with the forwards (In particular Vietto, 4 of his 9 assists in the 14/15 season were to the Argentinian) Villarreal were able to move the ball quickly from a good position to a genuine goalscoring opportunity.
Cheryshev’s direct and powerful style is more suited to the counter attack but is also very effective with a more patient approach. His favoured move of a quick pass and running across his marker into the space in behind or out wide is big in helping pull defences around to create space. Cheryshev’s value above other direct, powerful wingers is his ability to create opportunities with a single touch in the final third: his appreciation of space and the runs of his teammates means that even when not heavily involved in a move, Cheryshev can play a vital role by providing the key pass and even assist.
His assist for Mario Gaspar’s goal vs Espanyol displays this:
Cheryshev also has great reactions and instincts when in and around the opposition penalty area: often reacting to loose balls to hit snapshots or low crosses leading to sustained pressure on the opposition goal and sometimes a goal itself. His goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp showed his impressive reactions – managing to turn home Mario Gaspar’s cross shot.
Cheryshev is a great weapon but far from complete. As a player who runs a lot on instinct and power rather than intelligence and flair he has a natural tendency to waste good opportunities; shooting at bad times or looking to force an attack against a strong defence. Cheryshev also has issues with discipline and injuries: his defensive play on the whole is good but he often rushes into unnecessary challenges looking to turn the ball over and as a result received 7 yellow cards, Villarreal’s 3rd most booked player in La Liga. The Russian has had a few injuries in his time too, unsurprisingly his all action style has lead to one reoccurring muscle injury having suffered with 4 separate thigh muscle injuries in less than 2 years.
Assuming Cheryshev moves from Real Madrid which seems likely then his next club is a huge decision. A player of great talent but in need of real managing: his all action style and clear power could see him well suited to the Premier League or Bundesliga. I could see him very well being an effective plan B for a team like Liverpool or Borussia Dortmund; his flexibility in attack means he could quite comfortably play a very simple role even in a complicated system before coming alive when it comes to pressing, transitioning and working with flexible forwards who look to rotate and drift. Both Dortmund and Liverpool look to attack with variety but struggled last season to open defences up. Cheryshev would provide a very different option to anything either team has – an outlet as well as bold movement that can create space centrally for the more flair players.