Dynamo Kyiv manager Serhiy Rebrov’s third full season charge has so far not been an easy one. After starting the Ukrainian Premier League campaign with five straight wins, Dynamo surprisingly fell 2-0 at home to Vorskla Poltava on August 27. This was followed with a 1-1 away draw with rivals Shakhtar Donetsk in a match that took place in Kharkiv, then two more home defeats at home: 2-1 to Napoli in the Champions League (read Dynamo Kyiv’s full Champions League preview here), and 1-0 to Zorya Luhansk in the domestic tournament.
After such a dreadful spell, the word “crisis” began to creep in to press conferences, interviews, and newspaper headlines. On September 18, the day of the Zorya defeat, Rebrov staunchly denied that his side were in dire straits, telling reporters “where did you get the idea that you are in a crisis? I do not consider us to be in a crisis.”
Despite Rebrov’s comments, the facts are difficult to ignore. With the defeats to Vorskla and Zorya, Dynamo lost two home matches in a row in domestic competition for the first time since the 1997 and dropped down to third place in the league. While last season Dynamo recorded a clean sheet in 70% of their matches, so far this season Rebrov’s side have conceded in eight out of twelve.
Two days after Rebrov publicly denied a crisis Sport-Express reported that Dynamo’s next league match against Olimpik was a must-win, and that anything less than three points would see the unceremonious end to his time at Dynamo. Dynamo president Ihor Surkis denied these rumors and reaffirmed his support for the under-fire manager. Nevertheless, Surkis also acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, saying that “it would be stupid” to ignore the crisis on hand.
Dynamo ended up emphatically defeating Olimpik 4-0, lifting some of the pressure from Rebrov. Last Tuesday in Istanbul they rescued a point against Beşiktaş in a Champions League group stage match, and on Sunday Dynamo defeated Zirka Kropyvnytskyi 2-0 for their first home victory in the league since August and moved back to second place.
But this apparent return to form does not suggest that Rebrov has solved the problems at Dynamo. For the first two seasons of his successful tenure—in which Dynamo twice won the league—Rebrov was often the subject of attacks by critics who maintained that it his Spanish assistant Raul Riancho who was in actually in control of the squad. These rumors, which were spread by such prominent figures as former Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu and controversial pundit Viktor Leonenko, were categorically denied by both Rebrov and Riancho, both of whom maintained that the former was in charge of all aspects.
This past summer Riancho departed Dynamo to join the staff of newly appointed Ukraine national team manager Andriy Shevchenko, leaving Rebrov without his assistant. Back in August Oleh Fedorchuk, a former player and journeyman manager in Ukrainian football, commented on the changes at Dynamo:
“The departure of Raul demonstrates who was in charge at Dynamo. For Rebrov the moment of truth is approaching. We will see if it was him or if it was someone else who last season achieved the results. The strength of any manager is determined by how they emerge out of a crisis.”
While the immediate crisis may be over, Rebrov’s legacy as Dynamo manager is still very much up in the air. Without a steady improvement in both results and quality of play, questions will continue to be asked about just how much of the credit Rebrov deserves for the side’s success over the past several years.