Yes, flying Frank does have a bit of the ‘Jesus Navas’ about him but he does support and provides Anderlecht an outlet where Suarez ghosts around
As I write this, Anderlecht trail early leaders KV Oostende by 5 points with a game in hand. It is early days in a Jupiler Pro League where far more is decided in the last ten games than the first owing to the love it/loathe it play-off system. None of the traditional ‘big’ teams have looked particularly convincing – Standard Liege have already sacked a manager – and typing the word ‘Hasi’ into Google proposes the search term ‘Hasi Buiten’ or ‘Hasi Out’.
However, Anderlecht produced an excellent performance on Thursday night against Monaco when many were pessimistic. It was not flawless by any means but one to give the fans hope. The main differences were the performances of Okaka, Defour, Najar and Praet. Having Okaka in that kind of form surely says to Hasi that he is the man to lead the line. He held the ball up brilliantly and was unlucky not to score himself. The conundrum is how to support him. The diamond/lozenge/distorted square 4-4-2 idea clearly hasn’t worked and its evolution should be filed under ‘failed experiments.’
The decline of Mati Suarez is sad to see. You can see what he wants to do a lot of the time but his body won’t let him do it and consequently his explosivity and danger is greatly reduced. The club has supported Suarez throughout his rehabilitation, even when he has been AWOL or recuperating in Argentina but the player who was to be sold for 15 million euros now looks like a player to be freed. He may still have the odd trick or assist up his sleeve but he looks a spent force.
Defour played in a deep midfield role against Monaco and was back to his best. This is where he should play every week for me. Harrassing, organising, tackling, motivating and carrying the ball from the defence. He played like the leader he was signed to be. The question marks over his fitness have not gone away but he pressed relentlessly until his substitution. Once he went off, the team lost its shape and the match became more of a free for all.
Andy Najar had an excellent game at right back, both defensively and going forward. I personally feel his attacking potential is wasted there though and he should only be played in defence when the opposition’s left winger is particularly quick (someone like Kebano). In fact, looking at the defence more globally, Anderlecht have a winger at right back, a midfielder and marauding left back in the centre and a midfielder at left back. The defence continues to look makeshift and untrustworthy. While Dendoncker filled in well, he is never a centre back, despite what Wilmots may think.
Now onto the Praet Conundrum: its own little sideshow. The assist he provided for Gillet shows you what Praet can do. He works hard and has excellent vision. However, he really doesn’t have the skill set to play wide. Football in Belgium seems obsessed by describing players as a ‘number 6’ or a ‘number 10’. However, these terms only mean anything when certain systems are played. So, to put it into Belgian terms, I’d play without a ‘number 10’ and play Praet centrally with Tielemans with Defour behind them. This would allow the team to play with genuine wide players and stretch the play.
In those wide positions should be Najar and Acheampong. Yes, flying Frank does have a bit of the ‘Jesus Navas’ about him but he does support and provides an outlet where Suarez ghosts around. Failing that, play Ezekiel or Kawaya out wide, coming in from the wings to support Okaka, who surely would like more cross balls. Hasi has options but needs to have the gumption to use them.
I have no idea how Hassan ‘Trezeguet’ fits into all this. I’ve yet to see him play and, to be honest, I’m not sure Hasi will know what to do with him either. Can he play in defence? No? That’s a shame. From what I read, he sounds like a Praet replacement.
So for the trip to the unhappy hunting ground of Charleroi (surely weakened without Kebano and Dewaest?), I’d line the team up like this:
I would have a fit and happy Anthony Vanden Borre at right back but that’s another can of worms that has already been opened. This team though, playing in that setup, should control the match rendering defensive frailties less significant. Are you listening Besnik?