Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Stefan Drazic

Last weeks PP was nothing more than a disappointment regarding Nicolas Verdier. That is unfair as Eupen haven’t adapted to the loss of Henry Onyekuru at all, but I digress. The young Serbian Stefan Drazic has joined the Pro League and started fantastically well. Scoring after 7 minutes on his debut against a Standard Liege team, who I thought, would be challenging this season, and still might.

Mechelen have had a tough start to the season. Not because they haven’t won, but because of the opposition. Playing against Standard, a Ryota Morioka inspired Beveren and a spirited Gent side who claimed their first point of the season, De Kakkers have remained unbeaten, which isn’t actually too bad in my opinion. The Serb has taken to life at the AFAS Stadion quite well, claiming that goal in the first match, and an assist too.

Last term in the Serbian SuperLiga, he joined FK Vozdovac, based in his home city of Serbia, and performed reason well at his new club. There for one season before moving, he notched up 9 goals in all competitions and 1 assist. Vozdovac finished 7 in the table (basically mid table), which was the same place as the season before, but there were 4 more league matches played last season due to a new league setup, which Belgians will all know about themselves!

Up next for Mechelen is a tough match against promoted Antwerp. Both teams have been extremely respectful to eachother on Twitter, but it’ll be a battle on the pitch. Antwerp have had a mixed start, winning, losing and drawing their matches so far, but in honesty, I believe they’ve had an even tougher start, playing 2 of last season’s top three already, and taking 4 points off of them! Last week was a reality check, losing 5-3 at home to Genk, when at one point they were 5-1 down. This is why this match is so fascinating. One team looking for their first victory, whereas the other is looking for a response from a setback.

More than likely, it may end in a draw, mainly because Antwerp will hope to keep it tight in my opinion, but I may be wrong? Mechelen will need to find their form of last season, which was impressive. They’ll also need to have the courage of their convictions and play with a little less fear and have the confidence to take the game to Antwerp tomorrow night! And with Stefan Drazic, they may well have found a gem. If he carries on with his decent form of a goal and an assist, he could prove a steal ahead of Mechelen’s rivals and maybe be the difference, not just this weekend, but in the future too…

(All pictures courtesy of Getty Images)

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Nicolas Verdier

Looking across the matches in the Pro League, I felt which team needed three points the most? Of course, 3 points is vital to every club. Every club needs a win, and the way sackings are occurring, managers need them more! And really, possibly none more than Jordi Condom.

That’s where Nicolas Verdier comes in. The 30 year old Frenchman is, of sorts, the replacement for Henry Onyekuru. Since the Nigerian has left, goals will need to be spread around the team or picked up by an individual. For the Pandas sake, they’ll hope it’s Verdier.

Eupen have had a terrible start. Eight goals conceded isn’t great, but then again, they have had the 2 teams sitting top of the table right now. As tough a start as Antwerp, yet Antwerp have dealt with their matches far better. Nicolas Verdier was not only signed to replace goals, but hopefully add experience through his age. With such a young squad at the Kehrweg stadium, his experience, sprinkled with some others, will be pivotal this term.

With a modest career, his never performed at a ‘big club’ mainly making his big break when he signed for Mechelen in 2015. Scoring 9 goals in the regular season last season, including one against Eupen, he’ll hope to do better this season, mainly because he’ll surely get more minutes, plus, with tche amount of goals Eupen managed to score last term, it’ll be either down to the individual being clinical when the chances come, or Eupen being that attackingly open (most likely a mixture of both). 

With Kortrijk up next, Eupen would like to start their season as of tomorrow. Any result can literally happen between these 2 in my opinion, with Kortijk being more unpredictable compared to last season, as in they may be more consistent? All I’m hopeful of is a good match and for my sake, for Verdier to at least put in a performance for this post, and, for an evenly contested match.

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Zinho Gano

I’ve been thinking about who to write about this week because I was thinking another goalkeeper. But going back to last season, I think 2 of my last 3 or 4 have been about goalkeepers. Plus, Zinho Gano deserves some of my attention if I’m honest. Well…That’s what I believe.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Last week the tall Belgian (although I swear I’ve referred to him as Brazilian) was fantastic. Away at Genk he stole the show, albeit in a 3-3 draw, but his composure in the last minute to level the match looked a fine and level finish. With his 2 goals in the match, that put him in the UNIBET team of the week, along with my Player Profile from last week! 

Gano has a few strings to his bow too. Very good in the air, wiry, can get in behind defences and physically strong. Perfect for Beveren who are fortunate to have him, although similarly, he is lucky to have Beveren. Personally, I thought the lanky front man finished the season and play offs very well, especially after the tough start to the play offs that Waasland Beveren had. 

I feel slightly guilty because I honestly think he is a decent player. He gets on the scoresheet often for a team where they aren’t expected to win regularly and he does himself proud in some performances. The reason I feel guilty, before I digressed, is because I feel slightly hungover still and I’ve written this later than I’d hoped! 

Courtesy of Getty Images

Beveren vs Mechelen is a match where both teams are aiming to get their first wins. Phillipe Clement has seen his side come back from a setback, which is one positive. But has also seen his side go from a 2 goal lead, to a one goal deficit in 35 minutes of football. Mechelen on the other hand need to learn that once you’re in a winning position, hold it for at least longer than a minute!

Big game at the Freethiel where the big players need to step up. For Beveren’s sake, they’ll hope it’s their talisman.

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Sinan Bolat

Back with a bang, the Pro League is back and the action can’t come quicker or faster at you, especially if your name is Sinan Bolat. The Turk has come back to Belgium out of the football wilderness where he has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus and hasn’t settled since moving to FC Porto from Standard Liege 4 years ago.

Now…the problem is that he is a goalkeeper. No, that isn’t the actual problem. The problem is that there is only one position to fill when you’re a goalkeeper. I’m gambling on Bolat actually starting in the match to find out which Champion is better? The Division B champions who haven’t played a competitive match in months! Or Anderlecht. No introduction. Just simply Anderlecht. 

With no actual form to go off of, match rustiness could possibly be a factor. It’ll be a factor for both sides of course, but Bolat had a season to forget pulling on the gloves for half a season last term for Arouca in Portugal, on loan from Porto, and well, it wasn’t his fault that the team faultered frankly. The weird thing is, I honestly believed this match would happen. First match of the season. Royal Antwerp vs Anderlecht. I don’t know why, I just thought it wouldn’t shock me. The fixture list throws up all sorts of fixtures but I honestly thought this would happen.

Courtesy of Getty Images

I’ll look stupid (which isn’t difficult) if Bolat doesn’t start. But with his top flight experience in Belgium, hopefully the Great Old will call upon his experience in the Pro League to not only help them out tonight, but for the season too, and aid in the development of the squad. To those who don’t know the league.

I’ll leave you all with the thought of Onyekuru, Teodorczyk, Stanciu and Ganvoula M’Boussy tearing down on goal. Good luck!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Nicolas Penneteau

At this point I was reluctant to actually do a PP for this round of matches. There’s not a lot to play for in one aspect, but then I thought a group of eleven players could take the title to one last match, and one player in particular needs to be on top form Thursday night. Nicolas Penneteau!

Courtesy of Getty Images

The 36 year old has been nothing short of fantastic in all honesty this season, mainly due to the fact that the 10 in front of him have equally been as impressive. Building on their 8th position in the league last season on 39 points, to finishing 6th on 49 points in the regular season, he has been part of all of this season, except for the first match due to a suspension carried over from the season before.
Claiming 11 clean sheets too, including one recently against Thursday’s opponents Anderlecht, the Frenchman must instill confidence throughout his defence, with years of experience in Ligue 1 behind him, as well as his steady consistency since joining Charleroi in 2014. 

It’s sometimes tough to talk about a goalkeeper unless you are one or were one. I’ve always believed it is the most important position on the pitch as well as the most damning. We all know goalkeepers can be remembered more for their errors than their match winning saves, plus, their versatility is slightly limited as they tend to just stay in one position on the pitch. But without a quality goalkeeper, you can lose points throughout the season due to costly mistakes. Real top goalkeepers, and I include Penneteau in the Pro League, can win you 6-8 points a seasons from certain match positions, and maybe even 10 points depending on how the team is really performing, especially in the last ten minutes of a match.

Being able to have kept clean sheets so far against Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Zulte Waregem, along with Mechelen and Standard Liege away too this season shows he is a real big game player. Not only do they accumulate to just under half his tally, anyone who has watched the Pro League this season should know goals are scored at an alarming rate sometimes, so to keep out those 5 clubs is a big achievement in my opinion. I mean Ludovic Butelle not only was top of the Clean Sheet charts until recently, his been dropped for Horvath, showing that if you don’t do it consistently enough, managers can be ruthless in their selection. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

With Les Mauves visiting the Stade du Pays De Charleroi, I’m sure a fantastic Thursday atmosphere will aid the team in getting a positive result on the night. And Les Zèbres will hope that Thursday’s will become a common night for football with Europa League action coming their way next season. I predicted that they’d finish 3rd in PO1 before a ball was kicked and that’s still on the cards as we have 6 points to play for! The club raise their game for big matches in Belgium and Penneteau seems to relish stopping that ball going over the white line! 

I guess we’ll have to see…

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Ruud Vormer

Let me set the scene here…0-0, Last minute, with a packed out (hopefully) Jan Breydel Stadion and Ruud Vormer steps up to send a free kick into the top corner and close the gap to 1 point with 2 games left! Well, because I’m as unbiased as I can be, I just hope it’s a great match and the best team wins, but I’m sure the belated birthday boy will like to keep all three points in Bruges.

The Dutchman has been fantastic since joining the club from Feyenoord 3 years ago and with every season he becomes more and more important to Michel Preud’homme. Playing in the centre, he is pivotal in starting attacks and stopping attacks. All round midfielder. However, being a team player he has filled in when needed in defence too.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Being ever present all season, it shows how vital he is, although we all know that. Missing one match all season through illness in the regular season, he was involved in a goal every 2 matches for the side, scoring 8 and assisting with 7, which is pretty decent in my opinion, helping the side get the upper hand finishing second, aiding them in a play off position. The best thing is that he has scored in big matches against teams around Club Brugge as well this season, also scoring in the Belgian Supercup!

Going into the play offs however, he hasn’t found the net thus far and chipped in with one assist, but Brugge have just started to come good at a time when they need to be, especially with Anderlecht up next, and Vormer will hope to right a wrong after his last appearance against Les Mauves getting sent off on half time, due to lack of discipline in my opinion.

But, with me saying how important he is to the club, he has skippered the side twice on his return, proving his major importance and leadership when he wears that armband.

I had to pick a top player in a top game and Sunday has major importance. If Anderlecht win they win the title. A draw would suit Anderlecht too, meaning nothing less than a win for Club Brugge will do. They can finish second which isn’t awful in regards to European competition next season, but with the title up for grabs, Vormer and co know 3 points is the objective!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Tom De Sutter

With not long left in the season, this striker is known throughout Belgium and the Pro League very very well. Playing at the top 2 clubs in the land within his career, which he may look on as mainly having bad luck rather than anything else, the tall, stocky Belgian has been exceptionally good in parts as well as unlucky now and again.

Now plying his trade back home in his native land after a spell at Bursaspor, Tom De Sutter at 31 will probably look to finish his career in the Pro League now. Winning titles and cups at Anderlecht and Club Brugge, he is now at Lokeren, hopefully, trying to turn their luck around and add some fantastic experience to those around him.

This season hasn’t been fantastic​ though for him individually, averaging a goal every 6 matches in the regular season (4 in 24 matches) which maybe the reason they just couldn’t find the scoresheet as a club, especially in the 2017, and with his ability up front, he averaged an assist every 8 matches. However, in the play offs he has been exceptional, doubling his goal tally for the season within the 6 matches played! 

Courtesy of Getty Images

With injuries in his past, his composure up front, as well as leadership and eye for the odd goal, as well as bringing those into play around him are the major reasons he is vital for Lokeren. Maintaining his place week in week out is key for personal reasons as every year now edges away at the big man’s career.

Hopefully his next victims in terms of a victory, Mouscron, look like an easy target for him after the side have picked up in form, and Mouscron have faultered more often then not. He’ll aim to get on the scoresheet once again, and personally, that is a possibility, making up for his lack of playing time against them in the very recently, yet crazy match where Lokeren through away a victory, with a 90 plus minute winner, before it was snatched from them 2 minutes later!

To sum up, he is a certainty in my opinion to start and has to as the upturn in form coincides with De Sutter’s form, and if they are to continue their form now, going into next season, the big man has to be one of the first names on the team sheet!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Yuya Kubo

When I write about players in a Player Profile, I usually write about players who will influence a match or deserve a shout out in a way where their consistency should be recognised. Yuya Kubo has been both. He has been a revelation since joining in January from Young Boys in Switzerland and Gent have just progressed, largely thanks to him!

The Japanese has settled extremely well at Gent. After picking up an injury at the back end of 2016, he lit up the Ghelamco Arena on his debut with a magnificent free kick against then leaders, Club Brugge. The set piece specialist scores all types of goals, whether from a dead ball, poaching a goal like on Tuesday against Zulte Waregem, or mazey individual efforts against Mechelen which could be described as Lionel Messi-esque. 

Still only 23, and of course Asian, he settled down well in a completely different culture, of course probably not too disimilar to Switzerland, but the league is totally different in terms of difficulty and structure. After picking up his injury though, it seems that he doesn’t always complete 90 minutes, but usually by then his job is done. Along with where he is from, he is already indispensable to the team. The point being sometimes players from that part of the world can be bought for marketing reasons, but this is most definitely for footballing reasons!

Courtesy of Getty Images

Scoring 8 goals in just 12 matches, an incredible return for somebody who has just hit the ground running. Able to play up front, off the striker or cutting in from the left, he can show flexibility to make room for Coulibaly or Moses Simon without putting himself out of place in the process. With that said, De Buffalo’s host Anderlecht on Sunday. A huge match where a victory would put them just 2 points off of the leaders with 12 points still to play for! What makes me think though is that with this form, as a team and individually, where would Gent be in the Europa League if he were eligible to play, or even if he started in July 2016 in this form?

With that question asked, the rest he had up until Gent were eliminated from Europe meant he could solely focus and rest up for Pro League matches, and that was certainly Gent’s gain judging by his performances, which has continued into the play offs scoring 3 in his last 3! I do not envy Mbodji and Spajic Sunday with the Japanese fronting the Gent attack!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Samy Kehli

With this midweek set of matches, I felt a number of players could’ve had a mention from me, but because I feel this could be their day, I’ve chosen Roeselare attacker Samy Kehli. The French/Algerian has proven he has been key to the side since joining last summer and has basically been ever present throughout this season in the second tier and in the Play Offs.

The 26 year old, plying his trade either down the centre or right wing has, as I’ve said, been vital to the successes of the club this season, as well as the downfalls, missing out in the Promotion Play Off against Antwerp recently. Wearing the number 10 shirt, it shows what Arnauld Mercier thinks of him within the starting line up as a play maker. 

Chipping in with 7 goals and 4 assists in his first season at a new club, and with it being his first real permanent transfer, I’d say his been reasonably successful, averaging a goal or assist every 1 in 3 matches. Not too shabby really, with surely next season being the one where he can really kick on. With his goals at least, he earned the club 6 points through winning goals this season.

Being able to play in a few positions up top, his versatility is useful to the side if they ever have to switch their style within the match. And he is so key to the side, missing just 4 matches this season. Luckily as well, his injury record has been impeccable which is rare nowadays.

With how the season finished for Roeselare, maybe they can be forgiven for not picking up a win so far, possibly deflated knowing they get a taste against top flight opposition, only to have to play in the ‘B’ league next term. But like earlier, if Kehli is on form, he alone with a supporting cast can kick on and get themselves promoted next season!

With Kortrijk up next, who are hot and cold match by match, or sometimes minute by minute, the hosts may take advantage of that, and at the Schiervelde Stadion, they’d like to also take advantage of familiar surroundings and grab a win, with Kehli at the forefront of things going forward. It’ll still be tough  Chevalier and Saadi up top, but as long as Roeselare capitalise up the other end, this could make for an entertaining match which could prove successful for the hosts!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Mats Rits

It’s weird. You have Anderlecht vs Club Brugge on Sunday yet I’ve decided to go for a player in the second biggest match of the weekend (in my opinion). KV Mechelen versus manageress Standard Liege and, some may say this is an easy selection for a PP, but Mats Rits has been not only fantastic all season, but he seems to especially enjoy playing against the struggling former champions of 9 years ago.

The Belgian has maybe had a stop-start career going by what you read and where he has been, but joining Mechelen 4 years ago, and how close they were to the championship play offs, he may feel back on track with his progression and looks to be enjoying life right now. The young man couldn’t of had a better start to his professional​ career at Germinal Beerschot and had clubs queuing up for him. He joined Ajax which personally, I would initially feel that was a good move as it is a step up in terms of side, maybe the same in terms of playing level with the Pro League, but teams love to cherry pick from Ajax if the player is good enough. 

Now at Mechelen since 2013, this season, even at his age, he is not only a leader but indispensable to the side. Only being subbed twice all season and missing just 2 games through suspension and not selected just the once, he is key to manager Yannick Ferrera and the team in general. The great thing about him is his versatility, where he can play anywhere centrally, across midfield and behind the striker too. The only problem is that with such quality, he could add more goals to his game when playing further forward, scoring just 5 in the league, and 3 of them against this weekend​s opponents Standard Liege! 

Courtesy of Getty Images

Then again, as a midfielder, some might say assists are what he can be in the team for, but with 6 all season (including the play offs) he may feel he’d like to add more assists to this season’s tally too. But in general, that’s a contribution in some way towards eleven goals in total which isn’t bad for a midfielder in a tough league and with a goal or assist, he contributes a goal every 1 in 4 goals scored by the team!

Another thing he may want to work on is disciplinary, being suspended due to 5 yellow cards in the regular season, and the match he missed, the team lost too. The good thing that I’m sure the manager will be impressed with is that he seems to have learned by that and hasn’t picked up a card since. I know I brought up goals and assists, but he is a leader which I mentioned earlier, captaining the side throughout the play offs and other than a setback against Union Saint Gilloise, they’ve won every match since and will fancy their chances Saturday night. 

The AFAS Stadion will be brimming with confidence and getting behind the team to ensure possible European football next season. With that it should hopefully instill confidence throughout the team and hopefully, Mats Rits will thrive off​ that atmosphere, at least for De Kakkers case anyway!