By Chris Harris
It's not often that a team managed by Arsène Wenger gets a football lesson but that's exactly what happened in Kyiv a decade ago.
With Andrei Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov in their prime, and a certain Oleg Luzhny galloping down the right flank, Dynamo outclassed Arsenal, winning 3-1 in the Ukraine just a fortnight after causing the Gunners no end of problems at Wembley.
It was no disgrace for Wenger's side - Dynamo could and should have gone all the way in the Champions League that season but were eventually beaten by Bayern Munich in the Semi-Finals.
Dynamo beat Arsenal again on home soil in 2003 and an emphatic 8-2 aggregate victory over Spartak Moscow in this season's qualifiers suggests that, although they lack stellar names, the class of 2008 are no slouches either.
For an insight into Arsenal's first group stage opponents, we turned to Jonathan Wilson, Eastern European football expert and author of 'Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football'. Read on to find out how good the current Kyiv crop is, why the 1999 vintage was the end of an era and the enduring influence of legendary manager Valeri Lobanovsky.
Jonathan, why isn't the game being played at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium?
The game will be played at the Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium instead of the Olimpiyskiy Stadium because they're rebuilding the main stadium for the Euros. There are all sorts of problems because it looked like a redevelopment. The initial plan was to redevelop it but then there was an issue with the business and shopping centre near one of the stands that blocked off one of the safety exit routes. So UEFA said you can only have 45,000 people there. There were months and months of arguments about it. Is it going to be knocked down? Who's going to pay the compensation? Eventually they have knocked it down and they're now finally getting on with the rebuilding.
What shape are Dynamo Kyiv in?
I think they are in pretty good shape. They had a pretty bad season last year, they lost all six Champions League group games I think with a goal difference of about 15. They were well beaten by Man Utd home and away, I think 4-2 in Kiev, 4-0 at Old Trafford, and I think that really brought to a head an issue that had been going on since Lobanovsky died in 2002.
What was the issue with Lobanovsky?
The thing is, with Lobanovsky, it's quite hard for us to understand the scale of the figure he is, he's not just the 'father' of Dynamo Kyiv, he's the father of Ukrainian football as a whole. And he pioneered the use of computer technology in terms of analysing games and working out training programmes. He was so advanced in that regard.
His great genius was that he could evolve, he adapted to how football changed and, as Peter Reid famously said, to stand still in football is to go backwards. Lobanovsky was very aware of that and he was able to sustain his success over three decades. He won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1975, he won it in 1986, then he got a team to the Champions League Semi-Final in 1999. So he was very good at evolving and adapting.
The problem is, since he died, because he's such a big figure, every coach who has succeeded him were all players who played for him and all of them, instinctively, whenever they faced a problem, asked themselves, what would Lobanovsky have done? The problem is a) it's very hard to second guess what a dead man would've done and b) Lobanovsky himself would not have done the same thing twice, he would have recognised the different circumstances required, the different solutions.
So I think Dynamo kind of got a bit bogged down with doing what they've been doing in 2000, 2001, when they were in decline anyway.
Can they emulate the great 1999 side?
I think that the 1999 side with Shevchenko and Rebrov and Luzhny was very much a last flowering of the old ideas and the old generation. Those were all players who came through the state-funded youth academy and they don't exist anymore. Actually to be fair to Ukraine, the new president has done enough to pump money back into the academies and I think we're starting to see good young Ukrainian players coming through again.
I think in two, three or four years we'll start to see the Ukrainian national team really rise. But that team in '99 was very much the end of that generation. Those are the players who had come up through the academies, who had grown up in the Communist system and did what they were told, especially by Lobanovsky.
How much have Dynamo improved since last season?
I think that the club's failed policy of trying to second-guess Lobanovsky reached a culmination last year with the terrible Champions League performances and a pretty poor performance in the Ukrainian League. It was only towards the end that they really kicked on to finish second. They needed a radical break and what they did, they brought in a Russian, Yuri Semin, who got rid of a load of the old players and radically altered the way they play. I think you're really seeing the effects of that this season.
Dynamo are only second in the league but have only lost once in seven games so far. They look a much better side and they beat Spartak 8-2 on aggregate in the last qualifier so they are a good side and a much better team than they were last season.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Sep 2008