Good morning Insiders, The “Bilo-Syni” (White-Blues) come from Kiev, in the Ukraine and are one of the oldest and top teams in the Russian and Ukrainian leagues. They have won several honours including the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup. Famous players of past eras who have played in the Premiership include Andriy Shevchenko, Oleg Luzhny, Serhiy Rebrov and Andrei Kanchelskis.
For this fixture they will play at the Lobanovsky Dynamo stadium of only 17,000 capacity instead of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev pictured above which holds 83,450 and will be the venue for Euro 2012 Championships, as it is currently undergoing rebuilding for that competition. Dynamo Kyiv have beaten Arsenal in important encounters in the past finally petering out in the Champions league semi finals against Bayern Munich. Recently they beat Spartak Moscow 8-2 to qualify for the group stages, and having finished second in the Ukrainan league to Shakhtar Donetsk. They play in white shirts with a diagonal blue stripe.
Dynamo Kyiv’s fortunes took a turn for the better following the appointment of Russian coach Yuri Semin in December 2007. Semin who was responsible for the success at FC Lokomotiv Moscow has brought with him strict principles which see firm discipline imposed on the players, with adherence to sound applications of the fundamentals of football. The first being possession. If Arsenal give away the ball against this opposition as easily as they have done in some recent encounters, then the game will be less one sided.
Semin’s emphasis on youth in his squad and counter attacking with his strategies represent the main hope for the Ukrainian team this evening. Whilst not having the strongest squad on paper following the departure of some of its older squad members such as Serbian defender Goran Gavracic and Brazilian centre back Rodrigo, Semin has replaced them with players regarded as the future of Ukrainian and Russian football.
In this way, many Dynamo Kyiv fans regard Semin as their “Arsene Wenger” and having dispatched Spartak Moscow 4-1 in both qualifying legs, Dynamo are keen to see how they measure up to Wengers wunderkids. This passion to prove that Kyiv’s renaissance is well under way represents the main danger for Arsenal. Lapses of concentration may be punished and the ability to employ the 4-5-1 formation may have to be reconsidered if the Ukrainian decide to bypass midfield and go for energetic runs down the flanks.
Arsene Wenger has left Samir Nasri and Silvestre in the UK and brought in Carlos Vela for Keiran Gibbs, and Eboue will probably have a late fitness test following his bruised knee suffered whilst playing against Blackburn last weekend. Gael Clichy completes the squad from which Arsene Wenger will pick his starting eleven. The need not to concede goals must be tempered with the real opportunity to win three points and make the prospect of topping the group a realistic proposition.
I would expect to see Adebayor presenting the main threat to Kyiv, as they will have to come to terms with his awkward physical presence. If the Togalese striker can learn to stay onside, then more goal scoring opportunities should come his way, especially as Dynamo’s defence has been weakened by the absence of Moroccan Badr El Kaddouri who is serving a one match suspension. In the midfield, it will be interesting to see if Denilson maintains his place alongside Fabregas. The chances are that he will, as Arsene Wenger does not like to unsettle formations that are on a winning streak.
Defensively, Arsenal will have to cope with the wide pace and the striking capabilities of Oleksandr Aliyev, the leading goalscorer for the Ukrainian under 21 National team. It was Aliyev’s brace of goals against Spartak Moscow which guaranteed Dynamo’s participation in these group stages. He is particularly adept in dead ball situations, so look out for him. I agree with Arsene Wenger in stating that a draw will be a good result. If chances come and are taken, then that in turn will ease the pressure on the squad as a whole, as winning ways can be bolstered by determined defensive performances. My prediction?
Dynamo Kyiv 1 Arsenal 2.
Fabregas the King.