What can Monaco Expect from Group J Opponents Anderlecht
Bar a brief cameo last season, Anderlecht will enter the Europa League from the start for the first time since 2011/12, after a couple of years of dicing with Europe’s elite in the Champions League. Whether their experience there will put them in good stead remains to be seen, with plenty changing at Les Mauves in recent months in terms of personnel.
However, lessons learnt from their Champions League group stage efforts last year can only help – they ran Arsenal close at home narrowly losing and grabbed a 3-3 draw at the Emirates in dramatic circumstances. Despite some encouraging moments though, Belgium’s most prestigious and well-supported club endured a fallow period in 2014/15, ending their three-year stranglehold on the domestic trophy as well as losing the Belgian cup to bitter rivals Club Brugge.
Those failures saw the club usher a period of transition in the summer, selling prized assets Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba to Newcastle as well shifting a fair amount of back-up players. They were also in danger of losing another one of their brightest talents, Dennis Praet, late in the window to Wolfsburg only for that deal to stall.
Another issue that the club have had to contend with is Anthony Vanden Borre. Anderlecht’s enigmatic right-back has found himself ostracised, after a fairly candid interview questioning players, the manager Besnik Hasi and his training methods, and essentially the entire club in one way or another. Vanden Borre, who’s still 27, has a history of foot-in-mouth moments and has been left to rot in the reserves for the time being.
Crucially though, they have held onto key players that can make Anderlecht a title contender once again, perhaps more. As well central midfielder Praet, this is a huge season for Youri Tielemans, who broke onto the national stage a few years ago displaying great passing ability for a 16-year old at the time. For Les Mauves to have a productive season, they’ll be relying upon the two prodigies to make the required step-up, alongside the tutelage of experienced heads like Steven Defour and Silvio Proto in the sticks. Both have yet to be consistently effective in this Anderlecht side that can flatter to deceive, but this should come with more experience.
Anderlecht tend to play a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation, with a settled back four of right-backs. There’s also a potential for a diamond formation in midfield, should Hasi wish to use it. Andy Najar, stalwart Olivier Deschacht, new recruit Kara Mbodj (who’s been a fairly comfortable defender during his time in Belgium for Genk) and Ivan Obradovic at left-back, who signed following his impressive turn for Mechelen last season. There has been murmurs of discontent among fans that 22-year-old Najar is wasted in defence and should play on the wing due to Anderlecht’s lack of creativity at times hindering them.
In midfield, Leander Dendoncker is the shield for the defence and has come along leaps and bounds in recent months. Tielemans and Defour will also be central, with Dennis Praet often having to go out to the right to get the ball. On the left, Argentine Mati Suarez has returned from yet another injury layoff and is slowly finding his feet. Mitrovic’s replacement up top is Stefano Okaka, an Italian international who scored on his first start for the club. It’s still early days in that department, with the departure of Mitrovic felt heavily but Okaka seems to have the capability to make an impression at the club.
Besnik Hasi’s side have started well enough in the Jupiler Pro League, sitting second behind surprise package KV Oostende with a record of four wins, two draws and a defeat. Sunday’s 0-0 at home to Genk wasn’t ideal preparation for midweek but Hasi was encouraged enough by the way his side controlled matters. Anderlecht just seem short of ideas in the final third currently, especially against sides that attempt to shut them out.
Yet here are question marks over Hasi. Despite helping steer the club out of trouble and to a title in 2014 and as well being a decent man manager, his tactics can leave a little to be desired. He seems clueless at times on how to change his side when things go awry. Without a deadly finisher like Mitrovic, Anderlecht lack cutting edge and goals could be hard to come by if Hasi doesn’t offer up different solutions and support for Okaka.
Anderlecht can do well in this competition, but face a tough group with both Spurs and Monaco present. European club football after all should be the acid test for some of these players to make the grade and move onto bigger things. Les Mauves have the savvy about them, gained over recent years to at least make the knockout stage here, but will need to be motivated to do that.