By Declan Taylor
Dynamo Kyiv have a reputation for flourishing in the home comforts of Ukraine - as Arsenal will testify after just one point from three visits to Kiev. However, Yuri Semin’s men have bucked that trend. They are pretty handy on their own patch but, this season, have produced their best form on the road.
Arsenal’s opponents secured a vital point against Fenerbahce in Istanbul before beating beating Porto in Lisbon earlier this month with a gritty 1-0 win. The Ukrainians will travel to London sitting pretty at the top of their domestic league safe in the knowledge that victory at the Emirates will take them above the Gunners in Group G.
We spoke to Oleg Zadernousky, the Worldsoccer correspondent for Ukraine and Belarus, about the visit of Semin’s ‘Blue-Whites’, their superb away form and the chance of Dynamo making the knockout stage for the first time in almost a decade.
THE STORY SO FAR
“It is a very special season for Dynamo Kyiv because it is Yuri Semin’s fourth season in charge. Truly speaking in Kiev nobody expected them to play as well as they have done. Last season was terrible for them with six defeats in six games and that is maybe why Dynamo regrouped and invited a veteran coach from Russia. He can understand and communicate with the Ukrainian and Russian-speaking players at the club and he can motivate the dressing room very rapidly. So far he has done that brilliantly because they are still in contention in Group G; Dynamo Kyiv fans didn’t even expect that. They have been waiting since 1999, the era of Sergei Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko.
“There are two sides to the coin in the Kyiv performance against Arsenal last time. The fans were not satisfied fully because Dynamo played such defensive football where maybe eight or nine players stayed in their own half and just a handful of players relied on counter-attacks. The draw in Kiev was positive for Dynamo because they couldn’t lose and repeat what happened last year in the group stage. A 1-1 draw was fair enough because Arsenal created a few chances in the first half and Dynamo Kyiv didn’t really have many goalscoring opportunities, scoring in the end from a dubious penalty. That is why the supporters thought that a 1-1 draw was a fair result in the end.”
MAN OF THE MOMENT
“Despite scoring so many goals in Europe and domestically Ismael Bangoura has been criticised by Dynamo fans. They always want physically strong players who will fight for every ball on every inch of the football pitch but Bangoura can come across as quite lazy. He is very dangerous in the penalty area, but when he loses the ball he doesn’t fight for it. He is a player who doesn’t play with a team mentality but then he scores brilliantly and not rarely for that matter. He is the one player in the Dynamo Kyiv team who can settle the match on his own."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
“At the club the general mood is that Yuri Semin relies on the defensive tactics too much but he is a master of that. He used the same style at Lokomotiv Moskow when he coached them in Russia. It is all based around the defence and using seven or eight players as a defensive shield. He has a new solid defensive line in Taras Mikhalik and Pape Diakathe among others. For Semin the first thing is not to lose, that is why he hasn’t satisfied the Dynamo Kyiv fans just yet. They would prefer to see more attacking potential especially when they are playing at home. I think that scoring goals could be a bit of a problem for Dynamo tomorrow.”
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
“In the Ukraine, all the Premier League games are closely watched by many specialists. We have heard about the supposed dressing room problems with William Gallas, they were very widely covered in the Ukraine. They will use it as motivation because the players will have learnt about this and will see it as a chance for them. It is quite strange that before all the Champions League games, against Fenerbahce, Porto and now Arsenal, the opposition have some major incident in the build up to the game. Fenerbahce were in some really bad form, Porto were seventh in their league and now Arsenal have slipped down to fifth.”
“It looks like Dynamo will allow Arsenal to attack them but then rely on their counter-attacks. Maybe they will create one or two golden chances in that manner. It might be a problem for Arsenal because they haven’t been playing well in defence this season. But honestly Dynamo have been quite lucky; in Porto they created one chance in the whole game and they scored.”
“There is a lot of experience in this Dynamo Kyiv side. People like Bangoura and Diakathe are very experienced and have played more than 10 or 15 matches at this level. The pressure of playing at the stadium in front of such a big crowd might influence some of the squad but others not so much. Dynamo have never really played very well in England and they haven’t won in eight attempts here, the tradition is certainly against them. Maybe a draw will be the best result that they can hope for against Arsenal on English soil.”