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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!

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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. 

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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! 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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! 

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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! 

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Player Profile: Stef Peeters

After my extremely popular player profile last week, hopefully this can be the same. Throughout this season Sint Truiden have found it tough. After winning their first match, things may have looked​ promising, but it was a false promise. Staying either 10th or lower all season, it may have felt difficult to stay positive, but amongst all that doom, there has been some rays of light.

Joining at the start of the season from MVV Maastricht, Stef Peeters has remained a constant throughout this term. Plying his trade mostly in Holland, he has looked very good back home in Belgium. Since coming back he has contributed with 5 goals all season (including one in the play offs against Beveren), switching between orthodox and attacking midfielder, which isn’t bad settling back in at a new club. But with his attacking role, he has been sublime on the assist front. 

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Creating eleven goals, that means that he has been involved in just under a goal every two games, whether direct from himself or teeing up a teammate. Being on set pieces too, that’s helped, but without it being pinpoint, there’s no point being on them if you can’t pick out a teammate.
If there was to be a downfall to Stefs game this season, it may be disciplinary, with 6 yellow cards this season. With that he picked up a suspension on Boxing Day. Whether that was deliberate for Christmas or not only he’d know. Of course I’m joking…But with somebody so key to Sint Truiden in a lot of ways, he needs to be on the pitch. After explaining how vital he is, scoring the odd goal, being in the top 5 assist makers this season in the Pro League. Hey, even captaining the side a couple of times, it shows that Ivan Leko thinks of him as a leader within the squad!

With Lierse up next, it will be a tough match. They’ve shown real determination against, for me, the 2 top teams in this group, only losing 1-0 last time out with a last minute winner from Mechelen. Yet on the other hand, STVV have been impressive. Four points out of 6 including a last minute draw away at Standard, you have to say they’ve performed well and will look to continue that form against the second tier side Saturday, with Peeters leading the way!

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Player Profile: Frédéric Frans 

Usually I tend to write about attacking players or play makers in this segment, but to prove I try not to solely focus on the glory makers and creators, I thought I’d focus on a player who has been ever present all season for De Pallieters, and somebody who surely doesn’t only love the club, but must be loved by the club. Frédéric Frans.

The Belgian has played in every match this season in the second tier of Belgian football and with that, he has shown quality and desire. I was originally thinking of following on from what I did Tuesday where I focussed on goalkeepers, but sometimes, goalkeepers are just one cog that keeps the wheels turning in getting results. Sometimes it is to do with the men directly in front of them through all means of stopping the ball hitting the back of the net.

Other than a 2 year spell in Scotland’s second city at Partick Thistle, Frans has spent his entire football life at Lierse. But sticking with the here and now, I chose this player because of the task ahead. Lierse travel to the AFAS Stadion and they’ll have to show real grit and determination to keep another clean sheet! Last week was tough as well, yet they managed to keep Standard Liege to nil, and that goes down to a great team effort, especially defensively. 

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Lierse had the best defensive record in the second tier thanks to Frans. I say thanks to him above certain other defensive teammates because he did feature in every match. To play every match is a fantastic achievement when squad rotation is a major thing now, showing he is possibly irreplaceable if he is out of the line up. The only problem is maybe the lack of goals at the other end. Obviously he gets paid to keep goals out, but through set pieces, you’d think he may nod in the odd goal, and who knows, this weekend could prove me right, as set pieces are a dying art in football when they are so key to results. 
Now in his prime too, I’m sure he’ll want the team to push on from last week, and along with that, continue next season as they’ll probably feel they are definitely in the shake up to get promoted next season surely. But until then, Mechelen are the Lierse and Frédéric Frans focus and along with it, his and their 12th clean sheet of the season!

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Player Profile: Hamdi Harbaoui 

With the remainder of the season kicking off tonight, I thought I’d write about somebody all of Belgian football would know about over the past decade. Once top goalscorer back in 2013/14 with Lokeren, he’ll hope to continue to find the back of the net with age. 

Hamdi Harbaoui has had a topsy turvy season and thankfully for him, the Tunisian will be glad it will continue in terms of minutes played. Starting the season in Italy at Udinese, he played zero minutes with the Italian side before coming back to Belgium with a stellar move to Anderlecht. Not that it was hell in Italy as he’d only just joined, he’ll maybe feel less homesick and comfortable back in Belgium.

This is where I think it may not have been as great for him. After scoring on his second appearance for the team from Brussels, he only managed 8 appearances and managed 174 minutes in total in the Pro League. His saviour… Charleroi. 

The 32 year old probably missed out on league starts due to the impact Lukasz Teodorczyk has made for Les Mauves, which is understandable really, but Charleroi knew what they were doing snapping up a potent and reliable front man to see them into Play Off 1. Playing every minute for Les Zèbres, he has helped the team maintain their 6th place finish and in terms of minutes played, he has managed 810 minutes in comparison.

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Harbaoui has pitched in with 3 goals in 9 starts for Charleroi since joining, including one against this weekends opponents Oostende. I’m sure he’ll feel refreshed and raring to go after all Pro League teams took a break from league football recently.
Speaking of this weekends opponents, Charleroi have managed to do the double over De Kustboys already this season, with both matches finishing 2-1, and with the match being at the Stade du Pays De Charleroi, I’m sure the home side will definitely fancy their chances of getting 3 points and maybe a goal from Harbaoui along the way will help!


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Speaking of Goals…Erwin Vandenbergh

Today I seem to have decided to write about goalscorers, currently in the present and not too distant past, but then I decided to write about one of the best. Erwin Vandenbergh.

If you look at his physique, and you’ll see later, he looks like a stick figure. Somebody who probably may not have made it today physically perhaps, but he was somebody who probably also would’ve been worth millions due to his knack of finding the back of the net. In fact, he reminds me physically of Thomas Müller.

Born in Ramsel, a nearer club to start his career would’ve been Westerlo, and it’s no surprise his son Kevin started his career there, but Vandenbergh senior started off at Lierse S.K. His breakthrough season was the 1976/77 season, the season after the Pro League top scorer happened to leave Lierse, Hans Posthumus, went to pastures new, back to Holland with NEC Nijmegen. 

Starting at an early age, the prodigious striker took 4 seasons til he really started to show his real goalscoring quality, netting 39 goals for a Lierse side that finished 6th that season. He went on to win the Taureau D’or another 3 seasons in a row, 4 consecutively. The unbelievable thing is that, a lot like my Taureau D’or blog today, he finished top scorer, but didn’t win a league title! Okay, at Lierse fighting against Club Brugge and Anderlecht, who were fantastic at home as well as in Europe at that time, when he finally moved to Anderlecht, he still didn’t win a league as top scorer, finishing second.

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In that spell of fantastic personal glory, he managed 108 goals in 4 seasons, obviously averaging 27 goals a season. The year he joined Anderlecht, as already stated, they finished 2nd, but… he did manage to win his first piece of silverware helping Les Mauves win their first UEFA Cup beating Benfica in the final. Vandenbergh managed 7 goals in that seasons UEFA Cup, making him the second top scorer and what helped Anderlecht was having Kenneth Brylle Larsen pitch in with 5 goals himself in that seasons tournament.
After that cluster of Golden Boots, he eased off as top scorer, and 2 seasons after that European success, he won his first of 2 league titles. Of course with trend, he wasn’t top scorer the first title winning season, but bucked the trend the following season, winning his 5th Taureau D’or scoring 27 goals that season and winning his second and last league title.

After being unbelievable in Belgium, he moved to Lille in France and joined up with compatriot Phillipe Desmet. After finding his feet in his first season, Erwin wasnt amongst the Ligue 1 top goalscorers. His strike partner however did chip in with 13 goals that season. Thereafter, Vandenbergh seemed to slightly adapt, helping Lille progress in the league each season, starting at 14th when he joined, then raising to 12th the next season before achieving the clubs highest finish whilst he was there, finishing 8th. Along with the higher finishes, it’s no surprise he added more goals, scoring 11 league goals in the 1987/88 season, and then 14 in the 1988/89.

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After a poor season all round for the club and personally, the 1989/90 season was to be Vandenbergh’s last season in France. The goal scoring throughout his time was dominated by Jean-Pierre Papin, before returning back to Belgium with Gent. Along with his return he picked up where he left off, winning his 6th and final Taureau D’or, and helped his new club finish 3rd. After that season, he never hit the heights again and ended his career back in Brussels at Molenbeek. 
In club football, the Belgian was just fantastic. His goals dried up nearer the end of his career, but that was inevitable. What we should celebrate is a natural goalscoring talent who dominated in terms of goals, but unfortunately for him, lacked in honours at team level. Sixth on the all time list of top goalscorers with an impressive 252 goals in his career in the Pro League, some way off the all time record holder Albert De Cleyn, but to win the award 6 times is outstanding, and it could’ve been more if he didn’t move abroad?

Well played…