The Standard-Anderlecht clash at Sclessin today brings together Ron Jans and John Van den Brom, twoof the five Dutch coaches in the Belgian first division. The coaches at two of the country’s leading clubs have had differing fortunes in their first couple of months in Belgium.
Jans has certainly shown himself to be the better linguist but Van den Brom has won hands down on the football pitch. Anderlecht are unbeaten in the league, just tucked in behind Club Brugge, while Standard go into the ‘Clasico’ on the back of four straight defeats.
Jans recently said that he is not the problem and there’s some truth in that. He has been let down by a disastrous transfer policy that has – post Steven Defour and Axel Witsel – failed to bring in any players good enough to dominate games in the Jupiler League.
In Jelle Van Damme, Standard has a leader and a battler, someone who will always give 100%. Apart from him, they have players like Yoni Buyens, William Vainqueur and Nacho Gonzalez who could be useful as members of a supporting cast but who will never have the class to carry the team.
Admittedly Standard have had injuries and have lost Imoh Ezekiel and Michy Batshuayi through suspension, but they’re both teenagers and hardly dependable. And why did Standard invest money in Marvin Ogunjimi, a player who will always be searching for someone to blame when things go wrong.
Standard have lost the plot since the days of Defour, Witsel, Milan Jovanovic and Dieumerci Mbokani. One hopes that Jovanovic was not right when he recently said that Standard need Luciano D’Onofrio to return. That would be desperate indeed but the omens are not good.
The two Standard escapees – Jovanovic and Mbokani – have had good seasons so far in the league. Both struggled in mid-week in the Champions League game against Malaga, a match that showed that while Anderlecht are well-positioned for a title challenge, they are far from being a force in Europe.
Van den Brom has done his best – within his limited spending capacity – but he lacks players in key positions. One of those is the creative midfield role. If Anderlecht are to play 4-4-2, and Van den Brom does like to do that, then Kanu is the only real option in midfield to partner Biglia. That could prove problematic in the coming weeks.
The alternatives to the Brazilian are Dennis Praet (too young and fragile), Ronald Vargas (unfit and possibly injury-prone), Massimo Bruno (untested), Sacha Kjlestan (nacking creativity) and Fernando Canesin (doesn’t have the confidence of the coach). The other problem in that system is that Tom De Sutter gets involved. He’s another player who will always struggle in Europe or against top clubs in the league.
So it will probably be 4-3-3 when the big games role around, and that will leave Mbokani to complain about no support, as he did in mid-week. There are other question-marks over certain players in the Anderlecht first string – Guillaume Gillet, Olivier Deschacht, Jovanovic – but they’re good enough for the Jupiler League.
The match is likely to be a reflection on the current state of affairs in the league, as players of any decent ability are reluctant to play in Belgium as the wages and television coverage are not sufficiently attractive. Maybe Standard President Roland Duchâtelet was right when he said that the only answer – to the financial state of the Belgian game – was a Belgo-Dutch league. That’s unlikely to happen however, given that the Dutch have recently engaged in a new long-term TV deal.
As for the match itself, Standard have won six of the last 10 ‘clasicos’ at Sclessin but most of those were when the home side had a squad to be proud of. Today’s game is likely to go Anderlecht’s way and that could be bad news for Ron Jans.