Are we heading for a West Flemish relegation battle? Our club watchers make an interim report during the international break

With only one team in the left column of the ranking, we cannot exactly speak of heyday for West Flemish football. Is there cause for panic? Our club watchers take stock.

KV Kortrijk: 14th place

1. Why are they where they are?

KVK is currently in 14th place, one point above the relegation zone. There are various reasons for this positioning, both sporty and extra-sporty. At the start of the season, the core was not complete and the choice to keep Karim Belhocine as coach after the 6 out of 42 last season caused a stir among the supporters. The machine sputtered more than ever in the first games. However, the quality is enormously present, the collective just can’t figure it out. A lot of will is missing from certain players…

2. Has the board done well?

Yes and no. We saw some immediate reinforcements. Lamkel Zé and Loncar are undisputed basic pawns, other acquisitions have yet to prove themselves. On the other hand, we can ask why many Belgians were pushed aside. Challouk is on loan again. De Neve, De Bruyn, Benchaib etc. barely make it to the core and Mbayo has to make do with substitutions. And don’t forget the case of Jemal Tabidze. Anyway, in the current situation, the board is doing everything it can to keep the Guys in 1A. If Lamkel Zé becomes really important, Leterme and co will have a right to laugh in their fists.

3. Did the coach do a good job?

In this case we are talking about two coaches. Yes, KVK signed for the first trainer dismissal of the season. After six matchdays, Adnan Custovic was allowed to succeed the dismissed Karim Belhocine. The Algerian never got the train going, but Custovic also doesn’t get his team on the rails right away. Both coaches already made some notable and lesser choices, but Custovic ensures a little more peace within the group. He still gets some credit, but urgently needs to get some momentum into the game and get points.

4. What can we expect for the rest of the season?

There will undoubtedly be an exciting battle at the bottom, which will largely take place in West Flanders. The direct West Flemish duels will be a little more spicy than usual. The guys will definitely suffer, but with this core we don’t see KV Kortrijk relegated. Hopefully one Faïz Selemani can focus 100 percent on the Chamber of Commerce again soon, because the tandem Selemani-Lamkel Zé will undoubtedly provide points. Where the Kortrijk residents started well last season and then completely sank, we now hope for the opposite scenario. (JV)

Club Brugge: 3rd place

© KURT DESPLENTER (Photo BELGA)

1. Why are they where they are?

With the program that Club Brugge has been presented with so far, 19 out of 27 is a meager harvest. There are still a lot of spicy posters on the program in the first round, such as Anderlecht, Union, Ghent and Antwerp. The direct qualification for the Champions League ensured that Bruges wanted to peak at the beginning of September, hence the difficult start of the competition with loss of points against lesser names. The 3-0 defeat at Standard last weekend was hard after the stunt in Porto.

2. Has the board done well?

The inevitable outgoing transfer of De Ketelaere dragged on a bit, but Bruges did get some butter in the fish. As a result, it was a bit of a wait at the incoming level and Bruges also missed a few top targets such as Hojlund and Tzolis. But the final balance does look rosy, especially the retention of Vanaken was crucial. Club came out of the summer mercato with a stronger core. Onyedika seems to be the six that Bruges has been looking for for a while. It pulled out all the stops and shattered transfer records with the signing of Yaremchuk.

3. Did the coach do a good job?

A very dubious start, that’s the least you can say about Carl Hoefkens’ honeymoon. On the opening day of the match, Club won with a bit of luck against Genk, followed by a dramatic defeat against Eupen and an unsatisfactory draw against Zulte Waregem. The pressure on the coach increased visibly, but the déclic followed in Leuven. After a lot of personnel changes, Hoefkens played in Leuven with his type team and did not change it in the following weeks, resulting in five consecutive league victories.

4. What can we expect for the rest of the season?

Objectively speaking, Club has the broadest and highest quality core in Belgium. However, a fourth consecutive title will not be an easy task. Antwerp also invested very heavily and wants to break through the hegemony of Bruges. The gap with undefeated leader Antwerp is already eight points. The Great Old has a mental advantage as they only have the competition to focus on while Club may still lose points after European midweek matches. (JT)

KVO: 13th place

Tatsuhiro Sakamoto.

Tatsuhiro Sakamoto. © KURT DESPLENTER (Photo BELGA)

1. Why are they where they are?

With a thirteenth place and ten points, KVO is still among the people. The gap with eighth place – a spot in play-off 2 – is only three points away. In between are ambitious teams that had hoped for more in their season opening, such as Anderlecht, Charleroi and Mechelen. Ostend could have had two to three points more, but narrow defeats against STVV, Standard and Leuven after defensive mistakes, cut a higher place in the standings. The game is good, the execution sometimes not so much.

2. Has the board done well?

In contrast to the competition, KVO won few new players, but they are (as good as) basic pawns. It is striking that Fraser Hornby, Osaze Urhoghide and Dillon Phillips are all hired (with option), which actually goes against the original philosophy of the board. The chance that they will be permanently recruited does not seem great. The rapid contract extensions of Bätzner and Capon, among others, are without a doubt positive. Still, the core, especially at the back, remains quite tight. An extra defender was not a luxury.

3. Did the coach do a good job?

Yves Vanderhaeghe and his staff cannot be blamed. He manages to keep all players satisfied within the broad core and also dares to give young people opportunities, such as Berte. Vanderhaeghe also succeeds in linking willpower to fun offensive play and results. Don’t forget: KVO plays – except for one or two positions – with the same core as in the difficult last season. In short: the realistic approach pays off, the players pick up on his message.

4. What can we expect for the rest of the season?

As we predicted earlier, KVO should not have any significant problems, provided a great drive and fighting spirit. But then a first half such as against Cercle Brugge must absolutely be avoided. That’s where the shoe pinches a bit: sometimes the team only gets going after Vanderhaeghe gives a scolding. Before the World Cup break, KVO has a changing program: against top players Genk, Union, Antwerp and Club, and competitors Seraing, Zulte Waregem Kortrijk and Westerlo. It is immediately clear where three-pointers have to be picked up. (TVA)

Cercle Brugge: 17th place

Kevin Denkey.

Kevin Denkey. © (Photo BELGA)

1. Why are they where they are?

First of all, the difficult calendar, the injuries of the past few weeks, as well as the long-term retirement of an interesting player like Edgaras Utkus, who can be important both defensively and in stagnant phases. However, this should not be an excuse. The scoring ability must be increased. Against KVO there were two goals, it could have been three and remarkably the number of goals of the entire season would have already doubled. The number of chances was also less enforced and they swallowed too easy goals.

2. Has the board done well?

According to the technical director, Thomas Didillon (on the bench at AS Monaco) and Rabbi Matondo (substitute at Rangers) were replaced by keeper Radoslaw Majecki and in the front by three players: Emilio Kehrer (injured), Ayasa Ueda (working on his integration) and Yann Gboho (played too little). To date, they have not been able to live up to expectations. Among the other newcomers, it seems especially the Brazilian Heitor cannot replace his compatriot Vitinho.

3. Did the coach do a good job?

There has been a negative trend since the end of last season, both in terms of points and performance. Winning once was not in line with expectations. Perhaps Dominik Thalhammer wanted to continue to look good to many, without making drastic choices. Since the arrival of AS Monaco as owner, not a single coach has finished a season. Not even Thalhammer, who was fired on Monday, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, due to the disappointing results. It is now up to his successor Miron Muslic to present better figures with the youngest team in the Jupiler Pro League.

4. What can we expect for the rest of the season?

The core has enough qualities to be higher. But once you’re at the bottom, it’s hard to get out of there. At Cercle they too often make a comparison with the vintages in which preservation could still be achieved. You might even consider that things could go wrong. Hopefully the players with experience, even if there are too few, will get their backs. In addition, the hard core of supporters may well encourage the team for a full match instead of attacking them and players individually. (ACR)

SV Zulte Waregem: 18th place

© (Photo BELGA)

1. Why are they where they are?

Simple: it has only won once and drawn twice. Then you get this, a paltry 5 out of 27 and the red lantern. Okay, the start was difficult with seven teams from the top nine in the first nine games. It started well, however, with a home win against Seraing and a draw at Club Brugge. After that, the level went down, especially the lack of attacking threat is a problem. On stationary phases, the Boers swallow goals very easily and the ball resistance must be better in midfield.

2. Has the board done well?

In principle yes. The club brought in thirteen new players. That was also necessary in view of the many departures and the requested transfer fee was also obtained for Dompé. “I am convinced that this team is stronger than last season,” said Eddy Cordier in the media. “They already show that in training, now it has to be on the field and it has to yield points.” Toptarget Ndour was brought in on transfer deadline day, which was not cheap. Essevee doesn’t have a lot of money, but accepted what was available and tried to bring in young players with potential.

3. Did the coach do a good job?

Again, yes. Club icon Sammy Bossut already indicated in a conversation with this newspaper that everything is now clear. “Everyone is equal before the law, whether you are young or old.” A tough preparation was completed, because “in modern football you have to be physically more than okay”, is one of Mbaye Leye’s hobbyhorses. The Senegalese had to wait a while for offensive reinforcements, so those automatisms have to be fine-tuned. He also has plenty of credit, after those six defeats.

4. What can we expect for the rest of the season?

That it will be a long season for Essevee. Trainer Mbaye Leye is also aware of this. “We knew this could happen, especially given the tough schedule. This is a new project, with new players and a new framework. We’re not efficient enough, that’s proof that things aren’t going well. That worries me a bit.” Leye gets time during the international break to start the turnaround. A trip to Westerlo and the arrival of OHL should provide confidence, because on Saturday October 15 there is already the derby against KV Kortrijk. (JC)

The article is in Dutch

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