Anderlecht travel to Gent today and it’s a clash between the top two. These are heady days for the Buffalos, an ambitious club who play in a state-of-the-art stadium, the Ghelamco Arena, which also houses a Michelin Star restaurant.Gent have never won the title, finishing as runners-up in 1954 and 2010. Things were looking good five seasons ago when Michel Preud’homme was at the helm. He said he wanted to make Gent a top team but only lasted a couple of seasons before heading off to FC Twente.
Since then, Gent have had seven coaches, including Francky Dury – now back at Zulte Waregem – and Bob Peeters, now at Charlton Athletic. No coach as had any success, for any number of reasons. Now, though, things are looking up. In the summer, Gent appointed Hein Vanhaezebrouck.
Coach with a big reputation
Vanhaezebrouck has had a big reputation in Belgium for a number of years, doing an excellent job at Kortrijk on limited resources. He had a blip in 2009 when he moved to Racing Genk and only lasted a few months following poor results. Returning to Kortrijk, Vanhaezebrouck did enough to be elected Coach of the Year in Belgium in 2012.
Vanhaezebrouck has a reputation for being meticulous in his planning and studies the opposition carefully. He probably tried to introduce too many of his ideas too soon at Genk and he’ll have learnt from the experience. He’s not afraid to change tactics during the game and has put together a squad that contains several players who he knew at Kortrijk.
Andrew Gibney, Editor of the French Football Weekly, met Vanhaezebrouck a few years ago and was struck by how approachable he was. Gibney says he was interested in what they were doing – a charity walk – and “gave them all the time in the world.”
The squadLooking at the Gent squad, it has the appearance of being a team without stars. One player who does catch the eye is Benito Raman – 20 a few days ago. I included him in my young players to follow back in 2012 and he’s now showing what he is capable of. He spent his early days on the wing but he’s now assuming more responsibility just behind the striker. Raman has been named in the Belgium U21 squad whose priority is the 2017 European Championships.
Other than Raman, Gent has a top keeper in Matz Sels (22) and a useful playmaker in Swiss/Bosnian Danijel Miličević. Others, such as Sven Kums, were known to Vanhaezebrouck at Kortrijk.
As for the game, if Gent win they will go top. Anderlecht have injury problems, especially in defence. Sacha Kljestan may have to play centre back and this makeshift back four may find it hard to cope with Raman. Anderlecht will also be meeting up with David Pollet, who had a very short and unsuccessful spell at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium.
Anderlecht have a young and talented squad but results have been poor recently. If they still have their minds on the Champions League ‘success’, Gent may be well organised enough to take the points. If that happens, expect Vanhaezebrouck to take a lot of the credit.