Posted in Manager Profile

What if Preud’homme…

Joins Bordeaux? As of the point I have written this, even though it seems to be common knowledge, there hasn’t been an announcement as of yet. What a great move for the former goalkeeper though of, and most likely, when it happens. Is this potentially a big step for Belgian managers going into bigger leagues? Rumours were being said last week and when I contacted a European football expert about the possibility, he simply said it’d be interesting, which is true. In football, Michel Preud’homme has achieved a hell of a lot on the pitch and in the dugout.

In case a Bordeaux fan stumbles across this, he has won 3 Belgian League titles as a player, 2 Belgian cups, a Cup Winners Cup with Mechelen and the Portuguese League Cup with Benfica. Has also won silverware with every club he has been with and numerous individual awards as a player and manager! He has fantastic criteria to do well outside of his native land, Holland and Saudi Arabia and make the step up to a tougher, bigger league in my opinion.

This season he has been linked with Glasgow Rangers, which is not only a huge club, but would surely make Scotland a two team league again. He was also linked with the Saudi Arabia national team job as well going into a World Cup, which would’ve been huge! But by biding his time, he may well have landed a big job in one of the top tier European leagues!

Currently, Bordeaux are out of all Cup competitions, 13th in the league and four points off the relegation zone. The dream for Preud’homme would be a decent finish this season, keeping Malcom and getting into Europe next year, maybe a cup? Not much then! But what it can also show is that managers from the Pro League aren’t just good enough for second rate leagues!

Doing some minor research, managers in Belgium either stay in Belgium, move to Holland, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey…WHEREVER! But some of these managers are decent. Some managers in Spain who are below average can’t speak English yet Pepe Mel got a job at West Brom. Why? I don’t know. Okay, that’s one example, but you must see where I’m coming from. René Weiler may be doing what Preud’homme did and just waiting, but he has been successful yet is still unemployed. If Ivan Leko does as well as he has done, at only 39, will he land a better job eventually or just go to Getafe or to Malaga where he knows? Step up in league but not in stature of club in my opinion.

I really hope some of the current managers, if they want to of course, do get a chance abroad eventually, and not just a summer at the African Cup of Nations or something. To see a great path being built in front of them instead of closing a gate in their face, condemning them to average leagues, below the Pro League. I’d love Preud’homme to get the job, if he does get it of course, to hopefully push more leagues to look at Pro League managers instead of some fancy Italian or Spanish name. The Premier League has already proven Dutch managers can’t do it right now, ask Koeman, De Boer and to an extent, Van Gaal, who all got sacked and others after them progressed those clubs. Why can’t Belgian managers take over? Their players are all the rage in England.

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Posted in Transfers

The Japanese Influence

I wrote a thread for a Twitter page recently regarding this topic. Walfoot then wrote something similar to my thread seven hours later but no biggy… Japan is slowly making its way over to the Pro League right now. Over the past 12 months, their influence has actually been nothing but positive. Not that there’d be a negative, although time will tell for Sint-Truiden, but on the pitch, the players have excelled and proven to be some of the best that ply their trade in Belgium.

It’s almost exactly a year since Yuya Kubo graced the Pro League pitches and has been the scourge of many a club in his wake. Skilful, clinical, one of the best players in the division. He hit the ground running and I couldn’t get enough of him. I did wonder how long it’d be before he moved on to say France or Germany. Either scoring or assisting a goal every 3 matches this season, his rate has slowed down, but he did set such high standards to begin with, and almost all these numbers came once Yves Vanderhaeghe came into the club this season.

Six months later, Ryota Morioka came across from Poland and I worried for him, only because of how good his compatriot was. Instead, Morioka has shown him up in some aspects, scoring or assisting a goal in 75% of the matches he has played in this season in all competitions. Obviously it’s all down to the individual.

I mentioned Vanderhaeghe previously, and maybe Phillipe Clement aided the Japanese in the same way? Although before I continue, Vanhaezebrouck must’ve been great for Kubo too. Unfortunately I predict Morioka won’t be at Beveren for long though. Gent are a club fighting for the title whereas Beveren are a good club, but not in the top tier of Belgian clubs. Progression does look likely, but what a joy it is to have him.

And now does the expectations rise on the fresh blood coming in this transfer window? Yuta Toyokawa went straight to Eupen from Leeds on loan and the striker will definitely need to do the same as the others in this post. Eupen, just 2 points adrift at the bottom, will need to utilise all their players in a way to survive. It’d be a huge achievement and the player could become an unlikely hero between now and mid March. Along with Yuta, STVV have signed Takehiro Tomiyasu to go with their Japanese owners! Looking at some numbers, he seemed undroppable for Avispa when he was there. At the other end of the table to Toyokawa, he’ll help Sint-Truiden maintain their top 6 position in the league, playing in all sorts of defensive roles.

Belgium has always been a stepping stone League, where players move on to bigger things eventually, or do extremely well where they are now. Are the days of buying Japanese, Chinese, Korean and so on players still a marketing tool? Obviously these players can do well right now, but commercially are they an asset? In a league like the Pro League, when countries aren’t fighting for TV deals, maybe they still are? Because these players are so great, surely they’re simply bought for their talents and aren’t another Junichi Inamoto, Ryo Miyaichi or Park Chu-Young, speaking from my club’s experience.

DMM.com may have had something behind the Tomiyasu deal because of the link? Or maybe it’s fantastic scouting? Like I’ve said, time will tell, and for the players sake, I hope everything goes well!

Posted in Mid Season Grading

KAS Eupen – B-

This is just so typical of me. I get to the very end and I think ‘…can’t be bothered’. The last of my 16 gradings during the winter break and I’ve actually given Eupen a B-. Why give the bottom club the most generous grade since Lokeren in 11th place? Because there was no expectations of them. I had them down to be in the bottom two before the season even kicked off and you can’t say they haven’t battled in every match.

The club lost Henry Onyekuru to the Premier League, that’s how good he is. They’ve had an influx of academy players as per usual all needing to adapt and learn the language, and other things have gone on. The changing of the management. Claude Makélélé will have to adjust to the quality of his players. It’s been a season of change which has brought about possibly the inevitability of relegation.

That’s the great thing and worst thing about Eupen. They’re simply a parent club to an academy which in turns becomes a feeder club to whoever wants their players! Unless you bring in Mbaye Leye, Verdier, Luis Garcia, you’ll never have experience unless you spend almost the entirety of your career there. Obviously Verdier has gone, which is more joy than sadness.

This season has seen the production of good players still coming through on the conveyor belt. Wagué, Lotiès, Afif on loan, Tirpan looks decent. Obviously not all of those came from Aspire, but there is some sort of point in there.

You can see a clear difference between Condom and Makélélé in performances. In the Spaniards matches, there was an average of around 4.5 goals per match. Since Makélélé has come in, even though he has just 1 win, his average is just over 1 goal per match and has claimed 6 points in 7 matches. Could’ve been more if they held on against Club Brugge! Maybe Makélélé’s thinking is survival this season and then get his points across in pre season?

Performance of the Season

Could it have been that draw against Club Brugge? I can’t do that. You can’t say a draw because that’s pitiful on my part. I’d go with 4-1 win over Mechelen because it was a proverbial 6 pointer and Eupen won the battle! Eric Ocansey was on song and a rarity of a Verdier goal was seen! A score line which was great, a superb home wins which the fans would’ve loved!

I’m worried that if Eupen go down, will they bounce back? When I went there the facilities were some of the best I’d seen in the league. Clean, modern and the way they bring through players is good for football, even if they’re not Belgian. Hopefully they’ll find their way but I won’t be surprised if relegation does happen.

Posted in Mid Season Grading

KV Mechelen – C-

I’ve already said over the past couple of days, I’m not heartless enough to give a D grade. I guess if I say that, the C- I do give could well be worse. A lot, and I mean around 50% of teams have been disappointing, but some came out of their slump (Anderlecht, Gent) and some didn’t, and that includes Mechelen. A team who have got good players. Players who could play for, or in Bandés case, will play at bigger clubs, but you’re second bottom!

Last season I enjoyed what Mechelen were doing. The loss on the last day though, knocking De Kakkers into 7th has really sent the club into a downwards spiral and they’ve continued that this season. Starting off as draw specialists, they’ve managed just 4 wins in the league all season. Now losing Bandé soon and already losing Croizet, the team need some help and quality from somewhere.

What I had noticed is that in most matches, I could predict the substitutions made by Janković. You’ll be 2-0 down and then it’s ‘Oh God…errr…bring on Kolovos, Bandé and Drazic’. Why wasn’t Bandé starting nearly every game, get into a decent position and then become defensively tight? Instead of chasing nearly every game?

When you go through the team, there are quality players. You have Coosemans, you’ve definitely missed Vitas, Rits, Matthys and I know his a Ferrera signing, but play Ganvoula. If he was deemed good enough to sign for Anderlecht… Rotten at both ends of the pitch, keeping just 4 clean sheets all season and not scoring in 8 matches. You’ve even needed Coosemans to bail you out with a cross, gaining an equaliser!

Performance of the Season

I think there could only be one match and it was positive at both ends, even though you conceded 2 goals. Taking a 3-0 lead, and Pedersen being the hero with the goals, the team managed to score 3 goals and defensively saw out the game even though it was obvious that confidence is low. It was something to build from. Beating Oostende in the next match showed that!

My feelings about this season is that Yannick Ferrera didn’t help. How can the team be relegation battlers when I saw them as fighting for top 6? Maybe I’m wrong I don’t know, but the team look lacklustre, out of sorts and the team may have needed this month off to reassess and regroup and get their act together.

Posted in Uncategorized

Golden Oldies

Cheesy title. But anyway, I thought about this yesterday. In the past I have done an under 21 team of the season. A league full of talent who gets snapped up early, why not give credit to a team full of players who are 30 or older?

And in goal, where I and you will tend to start all teams, it’s a no brainer. It has to be Nicolas Penneteau. The Frenchman was good last season, but has seemed to have gotten better. At 36, his experience is key as it is in all goalkeepers, and is still one of the best goalkeepers in the league.

The defence is tricky. I’m unsure on formation just yet. I want players who have played a lot of matches preferably rather than someone who occasionally comes in as back up. I’ve gone a bit Charleroi heavy but the team who are second, why not use their players in this team? My right back will be Javier Martos, with Stergos Marinos just next to him. Solid so far in my opinion and with Penneteau behind them, a solid foundation so far.

Just in the back four is Nicolas Lombaerts. A wealth of experience and quality, he fits in nicely next to Marinos. And at left back, I’m adding ‘youth’ although there were so many left backs to choose from, I’d have to roll a dice rather than toss a coin. Olivier Deschacht gets the nod. Anderlecht haven’t been amazing but he is still so reliable. Originally I considered Pocognoli because of his performances in a poor side this season, but in the end, the 36 year old will slot in.

Going into midfield, I’m choosing 3 players to go into midfield. Other players may deserve it more but because of quality above everything, in a neat, tight central three we have Sébastien Siani, Faris Haroun and Steven De Petter. I’ve actually edited this because I put Kaya in originally, but I can’t miss out Haroun and where Antwerp are in the league.

Haroun, like many here, would be key with the amount of experience and leadership, and then Siani sitting and patrolling in there. Strong with quality. I couldn’t not pick De Petter because he has been ever present for STVV and they are in the best position in the table compared to the other two, meaning he must have influence in there for sure.

Up top I have one name immediately, and then another sprung up top for good reason. Actually, I’ve decided to pick someone else too who’ll have to do a job for me out wide of a front three. Attacking on the right, Teddy Chevalier. No brainer really if you ask me. Has been outstanding, especially recently.

The focal point has to be Mbaye Leye. Always been quality in the Pro League and has been since moving to Eupen, despite their position. Actually, changed my mind. I’m moving Thomas Buffel out wide left. Usually on the right, he’ll have to do a job on the left. Also had to be in because he is another leader and mentally strong as well as technically good!

Looking over that team, I’d be really happy if that was assembled. Quality with experience. I reckon they’d finish top 6 for sure!

Goalkeeper

Nicolas Penneteau

Defenders

Javier Martos, Stergos Marinos, Nicolas Lombaerts, Olivier Deschacht (Right to Left)

Midfield

Faris Haroun, Sébastien Siani, Steven De Petter (Rotating)

Attack

Teddy Chevalier, Mbaye Leye, Thomas Buffel (Right to Left)

Posted in Mid Season Grading

Zulte Waregem – C-

I’m not that heartless to give a club a D grading. Would it have been unfair on Essevee? I don’t know, but the run the club have been on after a superb start of the season, before the Europa League kicked off, you’d think it was a fight with Club Brugge for the title. Now in 14th, yes, 14th, the club have been unbelievably poor.

I have been asking the question about Francky Dury getting sacked from the club throughout the entirety of December. I don’t like this hire and fire system in Belgium right now, so it’s credit to Zulte Waregem in keeping him. Going into his 15th season as a manager at Zulte, with a brief gap in between, he is trusted and also, who else do the club get in right now who can do better?

The players do seem emotionally committed to the cause. They never give up and have been occasionally unlucky. But mentally, not emotionally, but mentally, they slump if things don’t go their way occasionally. They look like they let things come over them too much and don’t react positively. Ill discipline has also crept in recently which needs to be fixed. Like most I’m sure, the signings of Harbaoui and Marcq could prove to be outstanding. Both quality players in the Pro League and will dig deep when you need them too. Some key injuries have happened too in key positions, like goalkeeper and defensively.

Performance of the Season

Is have to go with Standard Liège away. This is obviously just Pro League performances, but confidence oozed throughout the team and Onur Kaya ran the show. The team weren’t in the heads and looked more expansive and expressive. With nothing to lose, as I don’t think Waregem will go down, the team needs to enjoy their football more than worry.

I still think anything can happen between now and March concerning which Playoff groups teams will be in. Can Essevee make the top 6? Why not? The league has condensed massively into a 9 point mini league for me and I still truly believe anything could happen.

Posted in Mid Season Grading

KV Oostende – C-

This is a tough one to write. This is a team that achieved a lot last season. Cup final loss, which was extremely unlucky. Finishing in the top 6 and claiming a Europa League spot defeating Genk in the Playoffs. It was great. The first time De Kustboys qualified for Europe and their reward was Marseille! For me, the only team who could hold their heads up high despite the earliest of exits.

But then as the Pro League season began, they were just not great at all! It took until the ninth match day before Oostende managed their first win, against Kortrijk. Before then they’d lost six matches, gaining just two points. It was atrocious. Oh, and they’d also lost their former manager Yves Vanderhaeghe too. To be fair, after such an awful start, credit to Adnan Čustović for steadying the ship on such choppy waters.

The Bosnian has tried his best with such a great opportunity, stepping up to manager in a turbulent season to be fair. Players angling to leave. The owner has bought another club and the rumours that there’s discontent in the changing room. Franck Berrier wants out and was moved to the B team. Siani is rumoured to want to leave and Canesin isn’t wanted. Out of the cup against an average team who looked like they wanted it more.

Zinho Gano hasn’t lit the world alight yet, but he was a great acquisition. Nicolas Rajsel has unfortunately been injured, another really good signing. And Silvio Proto was sold to Olympiacos, although I’ve never rated him if I’m honest. The team needs reinforcements but with an owner probably saving his money for Anderlecht, nothings happening, and seeking players would only line his pockets? Maybe I don’t know, but that could be the case.

Performance of the Season

One came to mind before I looked through the 20 matches played so far. The 3-0 victory over Charleroi was a great performance. Even though that was within Les Zébres blip, I still thought the visitors would win. Brecht Capon stole the show with a hat trick, and that result acted as a bit of a catalyst, as the team went on a great run, gaining 14 out of a possible 18 points, winning 4 in the process!

Reading this back, I genuinely feel sorry for Oostende. The possibility of losing more players. No real hiring of a manager but rather promoting from the old. The owner has moved on too. If these Manchester City rumours are to be real, then there could be light at the end of the tunnel. They do spend money in positive ways and it could help the club long term. I think the town would love a big club. I have been Ostend before when I was 14 and I really loved the place. There are possibilities and they can be taken advantage of if the right ownership comes in. This season is a write off, but next season could be one to remember. I believe that.

Posted in Mid Season Grading

KRC Genk – C-

This could be my worst grade so far. I’m onto day 12 as Genk are, of course, twelfth in the table, and I’m sorry, I have been extremely disappointed this season. I’ll go into more depth soon, but I had such high hopes for this season. I actually felt the disappointment of not reaching the Europa League would’ve helped. Going through who went out, some negatives as in John-Paul Boëtius went back to his parent club and Timothy Castagne went to Atalanta. But some good players came in, and with Albert Stuivenberg getting a full season, I really felt De Smurfen would get into the top 6 easily!

It has been a weird season in general though. I don’t know how I’d feel as a Genk fan. You try and keep up to date with certain things and I just feel the players have cheated the fans. How can you beat Antwerp, Anderlecht and Club Brugge?!? But lose to Mechelen, Standard twice and draw both matches with Eupen? As a cliche, the buck stops with the manager. But I’ve played and you have personal and professional pride.

You have too many good players to be in your position. I love Alejandro Pozuelo. You have Samatta, Trossard and Schrijvers. All good, BIG players. But instead I look at Ingvartsen, Vukovic and even Aidoo. New players who seem more proud to be at a big Belgian club and enjoy it. That’s my opinion (obviously) but they’ve put themselves about in a positive way. Phillipe Clement hasn’t done enough, if not anything in the market yet which could be surprising. Managers like getting in their own players, that’s why you hire them before the window. But he has high standards and doesn’t take anything less than 100%!

Performance of the Season

You have to say against Club Brugge. Beating the runaway leaders was a great result, mainly because the fans at the Luminus Arena haven’t had much to shout about. It’s all been away, so I’ve picked the big home victory. Beating Anderlecht away is always big, but not this season with the state they’re in themselves.

As harsh as I may have been, I really kept up with Genk’s Europa League journey and was purring over their Playoff form last season. Maybe that’s why I’m down on them this season. Luckily, this campaign is far from over though. A semi final in the Croky Cup still to play and five points off the top six. This season is far from over, and Clement has an amazing second job on his CV with a huge challenge to relish, and maybe even silverware?

Posted in Mid Season Grading

KSC Lokeren – B

Yes I know, another B. I can’t give them a better grade than those around them, but I don’t think you can give them less because they have performed well, even though they’re eleventh. The team I think occasionally play like Stoke City in the Premier League. Determined, stubborn but can occasional punish you if they get the chances. Peter Maes has done well since his arrival.

I was on a plane home this summer and when I turned my phone on, I was in disbelief! Okay, five goals conceded in two matches, but to sack Runar Kristinsson was extremely harsh if you ask me. Why give him a pre season and then not trust him? But anyway, Maes has done well, and winning the Wasico in his second match helped a lot too, although the fans all loved him already.

Obviously I don’t watch every Lokeren game, but whenever I do, to prove how good their defensive side of the game is. I feel their two stand out players are Davino Verhulst and Ari Freyr Skulason. Both have been exceptionally good this season for the Tricolores. Beyond them, there’s like a group of good performers, but no other real other stand outs for me beyond Verhulst and Skulason. Maybe Söder?

Performance of the Season

To be fair, there have been a couple of really good results, but I think I’ll go with the recent 2-1 away win over Antwerp. I didn’t see that happening at all. Antwerp have been really good this season. But to take the lead twice, react after disappointment so quickly in the match and hold onto that lead for half an hour. Superb really because of Antwerp’s position in the league. The other options for me were the away wins at Beveren and Zulte Waregem!

Lokeren have plugged away and have secured their place in the JPL for this season. Their run in is extremely tough, but with their fighting spirit, who knows how they’ll do? They can nick points from places you never thought. I just think they have to turn the Daknam into a fortress. To do so well away, what if they turned their home into a place nobody wants to go to? Fans would love it.

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Will this BeNe League Work?

Doing casual research, without putting too much effort in, I’ve looked at the history of this ‘BeNe League’. It has been done in women’s football and the format was that 8 teams play each other in Holland and 8 teams play each other in Belgium. The top four from each then go into their own league and same for the bottom four. Eventually the top 2 went into the Champions League blah blah blah.

Now. I am unsure about this because going by women’s football, are there enough sustainable teams to do this or were there some created especially? The Pro League and Eredivisie has teams already, and their second tier and so on. How does this league decide who gets what in each country and do they discard 8 teams from Belgium and 10 teams from Holland?

I’m so uncertain about this because obviously the big clubs are all for this. This cross border competition is a great idea if I honestly didn’t care, but I care about Belgian football obviously. If teams begin to get forgotten about, what will happen with those clubs? A low standard domestic league with a poor cup competition? It’s the equivalent of Scotland losing Celtic and Rangers. It’ll ruin Scottish football and this could do for the rest of the Pro League and Eredivisie.

On their day, I do think it’s tough to call who’d win right now if Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Charleroi, Gent etc played Feyenoord, Ajax, PSV and whoever else. Zulte Waregem bested Vitesse over 2 matches this season, but like I said, on their day, in a one off. I just feel this could be for the Dutch teams long term because of the 3 clubs I’ve already mentioned. All 3 have six European Cups or Champions Leagues between them, having a greater pull worldwide, and having Anderlecht and etc come to town will be better for them, especially if they embarrass our clubs more often than not.

Going back to the women’s football paragraph, Standard Liège’s women won a title, but the Dutch sides dominated. Once the changes the format to just one league, they ran away with the league every season, with Standard being the only Dutch representatives in the top half consistently. Women’s football in Holland is big. They’ve recently won the European Championships over Denmark. But will they best the men? This won’t happen til 2024 supposedly whilst they arrange the European qualification situation. If I can still be bothered to consistently write rubbish until then, I’m already dreading what could happen to the rest rather than the ‘best’.