Monday, August 02, 2021
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The latest football news from 90 Minutes Online

Belgium Pro League: The Entertainers

Jupiler Pro League Logo

Despite being the 13th smallest country in Europe, Belgium has had a loud impact on football this year and prior. Kevin De Bruyne yet again a key cog in the Manchester City machine, Youri Tielemans’ rocket to win the FA Cup for Leicester and Romelu Lukaku shining while firing Inter Milan to their first Scudetto since the 2010-11 season. This article will provide insight into the league in which all three started their careers.

 

 

The Pro League has proven to be one of the most eye-catching leagues in the 2020-21 season. There seems to be an openness and a forward-thinking approach to the football that is played, making for weekly spectacles up and down the country.

 

 

Teams of the Season

 

  • KV Beerschot
  • Player of the Season: Raphael Holzhauser- 16 goals & 16 assists 

 

For a large portion of the season, the surprise package was Antwerp based KV Beerschot who looked to attack from the word go. De Mannekes bombarded their opponents with high pressure and man to man marking which led to both a high tally of goals for and against, scoring 58 and conceding 64 goals.

 

Form started to drift in December, which coincided with speculation that manager Hernán Losada would be leaving for the MLS. Beerschot ended the season in 9th place just missing out on a chance to qualify for the new Europa Conference League.    

 

 

  • RSC Anderlecht
  • Player of The Season: Lukas Nmecha- 18 goals

 

“In Youth, We Trust” is Anderlecht’s motto and they have stayed true to it, especially this season. The youngest side in the league, at an average age of 22.2, assures them of youngest side status along with the second-youngest coach in the league in Vincent Kompany, at the time of writing.

 

During his first full season as manager with his boyhood club, the former centre-half had his team playing expansive football which requires the full-backs and wingers to be capable attackers and the midfielders to be versatile, the result of the style was a healthy third-place finish in the regular season. 

 

 

  • KRC Genk
  • Player of The Season: Paul Onuachu- 33 Goals and Jupiler Pro League Player of the Year

 

The North-Eastern side endured a difficult start to the season, only taking ten points from a possible twenty-four in their first eight league games, subsequently leading to the sacking of then-manager Jess Thorup.

Genk opted for a coach who has plenty of experience managing in the Low Countries in John van den Brom who, successfully guided the side to a 4th place regular-season finish.

 

Van Den Brom was able to get Genk playing on the front foot by basically deploying his whole team in the attacking third, barring the centre-backs, which led to 67 goals scored but also left them vulnerable to counter-attacks and thus 48 goals against. Genk have perhaps the best-attacking trident in the whole country in Paul Onuachu, Théo Bondonda and Junya Ito. The trio scored a staggering 53 goals which equated to 79% of Genk’s total goal tally.                       

 

                                                                          

Play-off madness

 

After the regular 34 game season, the top 8 were divided into two groups of four, The Championship Group (1st to 4th) and The Conference League Play-off Group (5th to 8th), with every team involved seeing their points halved. Each team play three games home and away

                                                                          

 

The Championship Group

 

Club Brugge, who rather stumbled to the title by beating their bitter rivals Anderlecht on the penultimate day of the group, will go straight into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. Runners up Genk will go into the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Third place Royal Antwerp will enter the third qualifying rounds of the Europa League after winning the direct shootout vs Anderlecht on the final day, leaving Anderlecht with a spot in the group stages of the Conference League

 

 

                                                            

The Conference League Play-Off Group

 

The format for this group is much easier to understand as the winners of this group are the only team who get a stab at a European tour. Genk finished top of this group and as a result, The Buffaloes were able to qualify themselves for the Conference League group stage ahead of KV Mechelen after a pulsating race for the top spot that went down to the wire. KV Oostende and Standard Liège were not able to leave their marks and finished 3rd and 4th.

 

All of the above led to a concoction of football madness. The Championship Group produced 38 goals and the Conference League Play-Off Group produced a staggering 50 goals, just in 18 games!

 

 

                                                                         

Youth

 

The average age of all players playing in The Pro League is 25.3, which is younger than any of ‘Europe’s top 5 leagues. Youth tends to come with naivety, shown here by the 2.99 goals conceded per game in the league during the 2020-21 campaign. For comparison Eredivisie and Danish Superliga both have an average age of 24.9 with an average of 3.01 and 2.9 goals per game, respectively.

 

This season has seen players such as forward Noa Lang (Club Brugge), striker Jackson Muleka (Standard Liege) and keeper Maarten Vandevoordt (KRC Genk) break out and make names for themselves in convincing fashion.

 

The willingness from managers to put trust into their young players has proven to be an unbelievably valuable idea in the present and future, as players with bright futures tend to perform well in a short time bracket before being sold on quickly to help the club in action financially. In Belgium, this seems to be the go-to model with many clubs choosing to put money into their academies and therefore leading to a constant conveyer belt of talent. 

 

After the long-awaited European Championships, fans in all corners of the world will hope to see more open and upbeat football across the country from Charleroi up to the coast in Oostende.

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