Club Brugge commits blunders: competition benefits

From a stunt in Porto to a blowout in Liège: Club Brugge experienced a hellish ride last week. However, Carl Hoefkens barely tinkered with his success formula. Not that the sudden breakdown is due to a lack of alternatives, because Vincent Mannaert also put together a strong core in width. Although he would have liked to have added an extra pawn. However, the two top candidates for that vacancy that is still open today shine among the competition. A big mistake?

The 3-0 defeat against Standard was a hard verdict, although a lot of tastemakers remained well below their usual level, mainly in the offensive area. Record purchase Roman Yaremchuk, chosen for the second week in a row over Ferran Jutgla and thus the only substitution compared to the 0-4 victory a few days earlier. Although Andreas Skov Olsen, Kamal Sowah and Bjorn Meijer apparently also had that feat in their legs. Where it kept Porto in check, the national champion was grabbed by the throat in a swirling Sclessin. Certainly after the bolt from the blue by Philip Zinckernagel, who, moreover, once again disbanded his devils after the break. The visitors promptly fell from their pink cloud and couldn’t get a grip on the eager Rouches.

Until then, Club still had things reasonably under control, albeit without creating a concrete target danger. Before that, Skov Olsen’s crosses lacked precision. When they did arrive a bit later, Meijer’s and especially Hans Vanaken’s pre-eminent header specialist turned out to be out of focus. Partly for this reason, the final figures on the scoreboard were somewhat exaggerated, without in any way detracting from Standard’s performance. Ronny Deila’s troops, who came close to barely two points from Blauw-Zwart, outflanked their opponents, especially in the second half. Not only physically and mentally, but also in terms of quality on the ball. Club found no answer to the Liège surrender and had to endure the situation more and more.

In this way, Standard also forced its own opportunities. Often on the counter, with Zinckernagel’s second pearl as the pinnacle. Although the best was yet to come. In the absolute final, Selim Amallah decided to play around with Casper Nielsen and Brandon Mechele, after which Nicolas Raskin also relegated the duo to cones. The ubiquitous midfielder then rushed past Raphael Onyedika, to keep the overview and offer William Balikwisha – whose lights did unfortunately go out for a while – the icing on the cake. Also for Raskin himself, together with Amallah and of course Zinckernagel, the star of the home team, the crown on the work. Almost on his own, the Young Devil won the battle in midfield. And that against the team that tried to recruit him last summer.

Not just like that, of course, because his qualities have been known for some time. Although he was somewhat held back by injuries, Raskin has already collected 87 appearances for Standard since his debut in February 2018. There was the still only 21-year-old calf biter with good feet, which many in Jan Breydel therefore reminds of ex-player Jonathan Blondel, good for four goals and 11 assists. As a booster in the ashes, Raskin has grown into an indispensable pawn in the past two seasons and one of the rare stable factors in Liège, although he also regularly shared in the malaise. For a moment, Deila even threatened to kill him for the subpar start to the competition. He already replaced the crowd favorite against OH Leuven at halftime, against KV Kortrijk and KV Oostende Raskin actually started on the bench afterwards.

Twice, however, he made the difference as a substitute, since then the train seems to have left again. So message understood. Another feather in the cap of the Norwegian coach, although Raskin himself also deserves praise for the way he turned the switch since the mercato closed. Where a break seemed completely unavoidable at first, all noses are back in the same direction. To date, the strong holder still refuses to extend his expiring contract. Will they venture from Westkapelle in January, when Raskin is free to sign a preliminary agreement until further notice, so a new attempt to untie him? With his star role, he further emphasized his application on Sunday. As if he was eager to confront the Bruges board with the facts.

Illustrative was therefore his dribble and assist in the 3-0, where Raskin of all things record acquisition-for-one-day put Onyedika in the wind. Before that, he also proved to be boss in midfield, where Nielsen lost out. A signal that he should not be inferior to them and that Mannaert was betting on the wrong horses? There was no question of an either story between Raskin and the two newcomers in the central axis of Blauw-Zwart. Nielsen and Onyedika were definitely at the top of the wish list, choices that Jan Breydel does not complain in the least. Raskin, in part because of his expiring contract, was more of an opportunity. Someone who Hoefkens still wanted to join, albeit only at the correct price. Probably at most five million, in accordance with its market value.

A bargain, considering his profile, age and Belgian passport, with the prospect of earning much more one day. Still, it didn’t come to a deal. Not only because Standard refused to cooperate, also because the national champion did not fully push through. After all, they did not (yet) see a full-fledged titular in Raskin as a direct successor to Ruud Vormer – with whom he was once at odds and who was even mentioned in a potential swap operation. That role turned out to be reserved for Nielsen. While the other positions are now duly occupied everywhere, he now has to work full-time until New Years – when Mats Rits is discharged from the infirmary. Unlike Éder Balanta, who has been fished up as a backup for Onyedika since the closing of the transfer market, Vormer has been definitively written off.

That leaves as possible substitution options: youngsters Owen Otasowie, Noah Mbamba – both more controlling types – and Lynnt Audoor. It is no coincidence that Onyedika, Nielsen and Vanaken completed the 90 minutes on both Tuesday and Sunday, despite the necessary card load. On a visit to Seraing, in between the victories against Bayer Leverkusen and Porto, Hoefkens proved that he dares to rotate. Even then, however, he did not touch Nielsen and Vanaken. There are no direct replacements for them. A lacuna in the core, although both are marathon men who usually play almost everything. Putting on a purebred number 10 to relieve Vanaken every now and then therefore does not seem necessary. Giving him a breather here and there should nevertheless be possible.

In the absence of the conductor, Hoefkens would now have to be creative, for example by shifting with Sowah or Skov Olsen. Once he has Noa Lang and Tajon Buchanan again, there is more freedom to experiment in the offensive compartment, the young Cisse Sandra also remains an option. All more attacking-minded players, while Vanaken, just like Nielsen – whose alternatives are predominantly more defensive in nature – is a more versatile playmaker. Together with Onyedika, the duo forms a modern and dynamic midfield, an interaction that Hoefkens cannot possibly duplicate with their current duplications – or lack thereof. That is precisely why last summer not only Raskin but also Jurgen Ekkelenkamp was emphatically on the Bruges radar.

A similar type, albeit slightly less pit bull and more stillist. Club even had an agreement with the 22-year-old Dutchman, who, however, suddenly turned his back and moved to Antwerp after all. The right decision, as it turns out so far. Not only did the leader already accumulate a bonus of nine points on the national champion, for whom it is running less smoothly in his own country than in the Champions League, Ekkelenkamp himself also had a significant share in that success with no less than five assists in six competition matches. Its price tag of five million already seems justified. Compared to Raskin, therefore, a backup for Vanaken rather than for Nielsen, although the principle remains the same: both have extremely versatile profiles that would certainly not have looked out of place in Blauw-Zwart’s wide selection.

An opinion that is also shared by Mannaert, because he did not just have a sloppy five million auction to get one of them – there was probably no room in the dressing room for both of them, barring additional departures. It is also understandable that no effort has been made in these files, or work has been done on a plan B. With the rehabilitation of Rits and the reliability of the Vanaken who remained on board, there was no reason to panic yet, the places will soon be expensive enough. At least until the winter break, when Rits is fit again and the European fairytale may be over, however, both Raskin and Ekkelenkamp could come in handy. Unfortunately, they are now making good weather elsewhere. Wait and see if Club will pay those blunders in cash.


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The article is in Dutch

Tags: Club Brugge commits blunders competition benefits

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