R. S. C. ANDERLECHT: A BRIEF HISTORY & SQUAD ANALYSIS.

Firstly, if you are reading this post then thank you for giving me a second chance.  In hindsight my opening blog was a bit of a rambling un-structured mess and I am committed to improving both the structure, and grammar in my upcoming posts.

In this post I willbriefly look at the history of Anderlecht, their current state of affairs, as well as analysing the squad in a reasonable level of detail.

History of Anderlecht & The Current State of Affairs.

Firstly, I promise to keep this summary of the history of the club short.  Let’s face it, if you wanted to read up on the full history then you could easily just jump to Wikipedia, where a lot of this information is pilfered from!

Anderlecht were founded in 1908, and whilst this makes them 113 years old, when compared to their Jupiler League rivals they are one of the ‘younger clubs’ in the division.  However, they did not win their first trophy until the 1946/47 season, winning the Belgian Pro League (now Jupiler) for the first time. Since then they have gone to become the most decorated club in the history of Belgian football, winning the title on no fewer then 34 occasions.  They have also won the Belgian Cup on 9 occasions, the last time being in 2008, and have also won the European Cup Winners Cup twice, and the UEFA Cup, once.

After a period of dominance in the mid 2010s Anderlecht have faded off somewhat in recent years.  Last season they finished in 8th place, the season before they finished 4th.  These are Anderlecht’s two lowest finishes in the 21st century, having previously not finished outside the top 3.

Financially Anderlecht are in a bit of a mess.  Whilst I will not go into the details in depth, in a nutshell, the club was bought by a famous and flamboyant businessman, Marc Coucke in 2018.  Previously, the club had been owned by a local brewing family and had been run prudently.  (Below are a couple of articles which explain the situation in a lot more detail for anyone interested).

Vincent Kompany walks into a mess at Anderlecht – can he save them? | Anderlecht | The Guardian

Six clubs in the red, Anderlecht in last position: the worrying finances of professional clubs – Newsy Today (newsy-today.com)

So how is this debt represented in Football Manager?  On the face of it Anderlecht look in a fairly healthy position with a starting balance of €47.7m, however when you dig a little deeper the issues become apparent.  In total the club has seven debts owing, totalling €106m, with monthly repayments of €3.9m.  With Lotto Park holding just 21,500, and an average season ticket price of €450, the first year is going to be a struggle.

*Whilst writing this I discovered that a complicated financial proposal to erase some of the debt has been proposed, but as of yet there is no confirmation that it has been accepted and therefore is unlikely to be changed for the release of the main game. Again, you can read more on this below…

RSC Anderlecht finally out of the woods? A new financial plan should be put in place! – All football (in-24.com)

Anderlecht are a renowned talent factory, and in recent years have produced the likes of Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Youri Tielmans.  More recently, Jeremy Doku has come through the ranks and moved on, as well as Alexis Saelemaekers, who has recently signed a large contract at AC Milan.  When looking at the facilities on offer it is easy to see why.  Anderlecht boast both ‘excellent’ youth facilities, as well as ‘excellent’ academy coaching.  In addition to this the training facilities are ’superb’ and the youth recruitment is ‘exceptional’.  With all this in place it would be an understatement to say that I am not only excited to produce some exciting new-gens, but also develop them.  (see upcoming blog re youth prospects as well as training plans).

Current First Team Squad.

Goalkeeper.
On first inspection we are reasonably well catered for in the goalkeeping department.  Capped (once…) Hendrik Van Crombrugge will begin as first choice.  He has a set of well-rounded attributes without being outstanding.  It is also worth noting that he could currently be the best ‘keeper in the division according to the ‘Season Preview’. 
Unfortunately, highly rated Bart Verbruggen has no chance of attaining Belgian nationality, and just at 18 is a huge prospect.  Belgian Colin Coosemans will stay as third choice for the first season, however we will look to move him on to open up a spot for a younger prospect (of which there are a couple).

Belgian Count: 3 / 5.


Central Defence.
In the short term we are covered in the centre of defence.  Highly rated youngster, Taylor Harwood-Bellis is on loan from Manchester City and is likely to be partnered by another former Premier League player in Wesley Hoedt.  However, as per the terms of the save, neither will be much use to me in the long term as they hail from England and Holland, respectively. 
From a Belgian perspective, 22-year-old Hannes Delcroix appears to be the pick of the bunch, and at 6’1 with heading of 14 should be a decent threat at set-pieces.  Whilst not as physically imposing, and at just 19 Killian Sardella looks like one for the future, and with passing of 14, dribbling of 12 and flair of 12 could well be Libero material if we look to go down that route.  Similarly, 17-year-old Zeno Debast already looks equally adept as both a ball playing defender or deep-lying playmaker depending on how we look to develop him. 

Football Manager 20 / 21 wonderkid Marco Kana can also play in the centre of defence, but at this point I will be looking to utilise him in the centre of midfield.
Additionally, Lisandro Magallan is on loan from Ajax, and is unlikely to see any game time whilst we pay almost €20,000 a week to him (you start to see why this club is haemorrhaging money).  Belgian, Lucas Lissens is a reasonable cover option but lacks the potential of Delcroix and Sardella, and is therefore likely to see limited minutes.
Elsewhere, Elias Cobbaut is on-loan at Parma and has an optional future fee of €4.5m which I hope they will take up.

Belgian Count: 5 / 8.


Right Full-Back.
Nayel Mehssatou looks a real prospect at just 18 years of age, possessing great attributes for the modern full back.  One of the first pieces of businesses will be tie him down to a long-term contract as his expires in June 2022.
The aforementioned Killian Sardella can also fill in at right full-back, especially if we go with a traditional back four.  25-year-old Panamanian Amir Murillo is not up to the standard of the younger Belgian’s, and will be moved on as soon as possible.

Belgian Count: 2 / 3.

Left Full-Back.
Left back could well be a problem position.  On immediate inspection, cultured ex Barcelona / Dortmund midfielder, Sergio Gomez has made the left back spot his own (in real life) and looks the perfect fit in game.  However, as he is Spanish and with no chance of Belgian nationality in the first two seasons, will need to be moved on at some point.
Similarly, Ukrainian Bogdan Mykhaylichenko, whilst a solid looking full back will be surplus to requirements in the first season.  Francis Amuzu is a highly rated prospect at just 21, with pace and acceleration of 16.  However, a right footed left back doesn’t sit right with me and is likely to be utilised further forward.

Whilst we do have one young prospect in the Under 18s, at just 16 he isn’t ready for first team football, and therefore this is going to be a position that we will look to invest in early on.

Belgian Count: 1 / 3.

Central Midfield.
Another position where on the face of it Anderlecht look blessed.  However, looks can be deceiving as the self-enforced homegrown policy could come to bite us in the short term at least.

Fortunately, Yari Vershachaeren remains an option having not moved on in the Summer, and if we run with the tactic I initially have in mind, will be utilised in an attacking role down the middle.  With just 12 months left on his contract, he is another player I will be looking to tie down for the long haul.  Similarly, previously mentioned Marco Kana is still just 18 and possesses real strong mental attributes, as well as a decent passing range and could be an ideal deep-lying playmaker on defend.

As alluded to early, Anderlecht have a degree of talent in the centre of the park.  However, recently purchased Kristoffer Olson is Swedish, ‘Last Throw of the Dice’ favourite Josh Cullen is Irish, and the most upsetting, 17 year old highly rated youngster Kristian Arnstad is Norwegian, again with no chance of becoming a Belgian citizen in two years.  Whilst all three will be utilised throughout the first season, we will need to look for long term replacements for all.

Majeed Ashimeru is a Ghanian who is not up to standard and will be moved on, hopefully during the first transfer window.  Michael Vlap (Dutch) and Kenny Saief (American) are both out on loan, and similarly have no future at the club and will also be let go as soon as we can.

Finally, we do have cover in the form of Antoine Colassin (20) and Theo Loni (21), who are both Belgian.  However, whilst both can do a job in the short term we will need to improve in this position, sooner rather then later.

Belgian Count: 4 / 10.

Right / Left Wingers.
My first impression was that we looked quite weak on both flanks (especially if Vershachaeren is to operate through the middle).  However, on closer inspection we have a few options both in the short and longer term.  19-year-old Anouar Ait El Hadj (remarkably starts in the U21 squad) is overall the pick of the bunch and can play on either wing (albeit just being right-footed).  Benito Raman picked up from Schalke in the Summer for €3m and can also play on either side, and with pace and acceleration of 16 could be a real threat.  We have already mentioned Francis Amuzu, but with real pace, and a decent cross could certainly make an impact, despite his technical attributes generally falling short.

Christian Kouame is on loan from Fiorentina and again has pace to burn.  Whilst he is Ivorian (and overpriced), as we are paying him €42,500 per week, we may as well utilise him in the short term, and again he can play on either flank.

Lior Refaelov, at 35 and of Israeli nationality is not someone who is likely to see many (any) minutes, and will be moved on as soon as, along with his €25,000 per week salary.  It is worth noting that his attributes suggest he was probably a reasonable player back in the day, and was a regular for Brugge back in the early 2010s.

Again, we also have a couple of 16-year-olds of note (who I will be covering in more detail in a subsequent post).  Finally, Zakaria Bakkali is still just 25, and despite being transfer listed at the start of the game could be a useful back-up option, certainly in the first season or two.

Belgian Count: 4 / 6.

Striker.
Well known Football Manager prospect Joshua Zirkee is on loan from Bayern for the first season, and will start as our main striker (if we go with one up top).  Again, this will just be a short-term option, as despite a relatively low transfer value, as he is Dutch can’t feature in any long term planning.

In the form of Mohammed Guindo, at just 17 years of age, we have a real raw prospect, who, with a little moulding could develop into a top player.  Similarly, despite finishing of just 5, Mario Stroeykens also has real potential.  However, whilst his composure somewhat makes up for it, it is likely that we will see him drop deeper as he progresses. 

Previously mentioned Christian Kouame and Benito Raman will also be able to do a job leading the line if required.

Mustapha Bundu looks a decent player, but as he is out on loan (and is from Sierra Leone), is unlikely to wear the purple of Anderlecht again.

Again, we have two 16-year-olds of real potential (see subsequent blog) who I am really excited about.

Belgian Count: 2 / 4.

Overall Belgian Count: 15 / 33.

Summary & Tactical Musings.

Following my full assessment of the squad, my overall opinion is that I have a lot to work with.  Other then left back we have Belgian options, if not first team regulars all over the pitch.  In central defence Delcroix and Sardella have the potential to be at the heart of the defence for years, and at least one will be immediately thrown into first team action.  We have a strong Belgian core, and whilst I am disappointed I won’t be able to develop the likes of Bart Verbruggen and Kristian Arnstad, I am not regretting the decision to implement the ‘homegrown’ policy.

From an age profile perspective, the full squad currently has an average age of 23.  Whilst this sounds ideal we currently have very few players in their prime.  Similarly, when removing  the non-Belgian element of the squad the average age drops to just 21 with a lot of these players in their teens.  A real focus will be on firstly retaining, and secondly developing these players to enable Anderlecht to see the best out of them in their prime years.

Whilst the squad size of 33 includes players both in on loan, as well as out of loan it is simply too large and definitely requires trimming.  Whilst I can’t do anything with the loan (in and out) players, I can certainly look to move on some of the deadwood, particularly that of non-Belgian decent.  This is likely to include Colin Coosemans, Amir Murillo, Bogdan Mykhaylichenko, Josh Cullen (sorry LTotD) and Lior Refaelov.

Firstly, note to self… Do not go to bed having reviewed your squad from top to bottom, expect to get a decent nights sleep, and not think about tactical options for what feels like the whole night.  On a serious note, over the last 24 hours since studying the options I have gone through at least three different potential setups, all of which have pros and cons.  I tend to favour a back four, and where possible like to have one FB down the flank and the other ‘inverted’, creating overloads in the central areas.  In front of this we could either run with a midfield four (potentially utilising Vershachaeren as wide playmaker), or a central midfield three with two wide men and a lone striker.

Additionally, with the strength we have in defence, particularly in the central areas, then I would be a fool to not at least contemplate a back three at some point, potentially featuring a libero.

Throughout the post I have alluded to a post focused on the youth teams and the prospects they contain.  Initially I had planned to include a few of these within this post (one for each position), but with the amount of players coming through I felt it deserved its own post, titled ‘Generation Purple’ which will hopefully be put out in the next week or so (ideally pre November 9th).

Finally, to give myself a head start in terms of the blog I have taken all this detail from the beta version of the game.  I expect very little to change in the next two weeks, and I have been reviewing the SI Forums to see if there are any concerns with the Anderlecht data, of which there doesn’t appear to be any of note.

Finally, finally… thank you again for reading (if you have managed to stick it out to this point).  Blogging my save is something that I want to do for various reasons, and I feel like I am still finding my feet.  Any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated, I genuinely enjoy interacting with people about my own, and their saves and look forward to doing so throughout my time with Anderlecht.

Cheers,
Phil.

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