After plundering over 400 goals as a player, Georgian striker Shota Arveladze is in his first season as an assistant coach and if initial signs are anything to go by, his success as a player could be replicated as a trainer.
Arveladze finished his playing career last year and immediately secured himself a role as assistant to Louis van Gaal at his old club, AZ Alkmaar. The Dutch side have dominated the Eredivisie title race and are nine points clear with six games left. "There is a great team spirit at Alkmaar which is helping us get results," said Arveladze. "We are playing attacking football, but you cannot underestimate the role of the head coach." If AZ do go on to win what would be only their second national title they will automatically gain entry to next season's UEFA Champions League. "I think we can be successful in the group stage, but it is too early to talk of going further," said Arveladze.
The 36-year-old has scored more goals in professional football than any other Georgian, striking 411 times for club and country during his career. He played for Trabzonspor, AFC Ajax, Rangers FC and AZ, where he spent two seasons under Van Gaal, scoring 36 goals in 60 league matches. At the moment, Arveladze is unable to take his place on the bench alongside Van Gaal during matches as he has not secured his coaching licence. "I will take the A category licence exams in the summer and after that will start studying for the next level," he added. "I must say that it feels very unusual to be in the stands."
Although inexperienced in coaching terms, Arveladze is still well versed in one discipline: the art of scoring goals. After striking twice in the 3-0 win against FC Groningen, 23-year-old AZ striker Graziano Pellé put his success down to working with the three-time Georgian Player of the Year. "Shota is my nightmare," the Italian joked. "He follows me every minute and works very hard with me to make sure I take my chances."
Arveladze, who struck 26 goals in 62 internationals for Georgia, has watched with dismay as his national side have picked up just two points in five FIFA World Cup qualifiers but feels the coach needs more time. "It isn't good but I think the federation should extend Héctor Cúper's contract as it is impossible to build a team in just six months. He needs time and I'm sure that everybody will see the results of his work in due course."
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