BeNeLook: Caught between a Lok and a hard place

As Peter Maes saw his Racing Genk side complete a routine home win over a lacklustre KV Mechelen, Lokeren fans must have wished their old boss was still in post at Daknam. In five years at the helm of Sporting, Maes collected the club’s first silverware, lifting the Beker van België/Coupe de Belgique on two occasions in the national stadium. Lokeren weren’t just a cup team either, never finishing outside the top eight and making Play-Off 1 three times.

The former Lommel, Anderlecht and Standard goalkeeper is known for his strict disciplinary demands which may rub certain players up the wrong way if they do not display the professional attitude required to thrive. However, Maes has been able to show at both Mechelen and Lokeren that once the players buy into his way of doing things, attractive football and more importantly, results within his 4-2-3-1 system will come.

One player who struggled with that regime is the tremendously talented Ayanda Patosi. Quick, daring, an ability to keep fullbacks guessing with his ability to beat them on both sides, he has scored a few goal of the season contenders in his time. It would be wrong to dismiss the unfortunate injury problems the South African has had to deal with in his time in Belgium but his teammate Denis Odoi was right to say that his mentality is holding him back from fulfilling his potential:

“If he (Patosi) had a different mentality, he would be at a better club than Lokeren. I am completely convinced of that,” he told VRT’s flagship football magazine show Extra Time.

Patosi went AWOL a few weeks ago, not showing up to training. With the transfer window still open, the club may have had reason to fear the worst when they were unable to make contact with him. He was eventually reached by leading tabloid Het Laatste Nieuws and stated he was looking for improved terms but not a move. That’s one way to go about getting a pay rise.

Odoi was right to say that Patosi wouldn’t have tried that (or got away with it so lightly) under the previous regime. Little wonder then that Patosi was so openly delighted to be relieved of the shackles imposed by Maes and playing for a coach in Bob Peeters who takes a much more relaxed approach. As I wrote earlier in the season, when that’s the reason a player invokes for being happy under a manager, there has to be cause for concern.

And so it has proved so far. Lokeren have struggled so far, amassing just eight points from as many games and finding the back of the net on just eight occasions. It was a summer of great change as not only did Maes depart but the club also lost their star player Hans Vanaken who finally got his big-money move to Club Brugge and experienced striker Mbaye Leye returned once more to Zulte Waregem. Add in the enforced absence of the inspirational Koen Persoons in midfield at the start of the campaign and you have all the ingredients for a slow start. Goals have been hard to come by and in that regard Maes was often able to rely on the excellent Hamdi Harbaoui.

Peeters has found it difficult to step into the shoes of his predecessor. Once thought of as one of the country’s finest young managerial prospects due to his sterling work at Cercle Brugge, he was overpromoted and an unmitigated disaster at KAA Gent. He restored his reputation somewhat with Waasland-Beveren but then lasted only 25 league games at Roland Duchâtelet’s Charlton, winning just one of the last twelve before getting the chop. Despite a 0-1 win at Standard in which they missed several gilt-edged chances before scoring, the pressure has mounted following a 1-2 home defeat to then bottom Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz. Patosi scored and Peeters knows he can’t afford to exclude his star player given the team’s predicament.

Lokeren’s colourful octogenarian owner Roger Lambrecht says he intends to keep faith with Peeters but it’s a weak vote of confidence even as far as they go. He has also openly talked of possible successors in Georges Leekens (whom he has already appointed twice) and former player and current Lillestrøm boss Runar Kristinsson who has two Icelandic titles to his name. Lambrecht’s public view is at least is that Leekens wouldn’t do any better. The former Belgium coach is available and has a good track record with smaller clubs but it is by no means certain he could repeat the trick at this stage of his career. When sticking with Bob Peeters and hiring Georges Leekens are your options, you’re caught between a Lok and a hard place!

Fire and brimstone at Standard

Having already highlighted Yannick Ferrera’s flexibility in terms of systems in a previous column, the new Standard boss pulled a rabbit out of the hat on Sunday in Gent. Ferrera went for a three-man defence and packed the midfield in order to try and occupy the width of the pitch and counter De Buffalo’s similar system. It looked to be a masterstroke when Anthony Knockaert (comfortably Standard’s best player this season) scored a superb solo effort on the counter attack to give les Rouches an early lead. Gent were being held at bay but a disallowed goal for Knockaert (for handball), an offside equaliser for the champions, a red card and resulting free kick goal before half-time and a further (and wholly undeserved) red card all served to make it another terrible away day for Standard who went down 4-1 in the end. No wonder Knockaert and captain Jelle van Damme were fuming as they showered the officials with vitriol and abuse – and worse. Ferrera was frustrated by the naïve aggression of some of his STVV players but keeping two of his most important players in check will be a different ball game and that’s just one of a plethora of issues he has on his plate.

Preud’homme the new Tinkerman

After a 5-0 drubbing in Naples on Thursday, Club Brugge scored five themselves past Waasland-Beveren. The undoubted star of the show was young winger Tuur Dierckx who scored twice and had a major hand in a third. His season is quite symbolic of his club’s – he was the form man in pre-season but left on the bench. When he did take to the field, he was one of the real bright spots for the title chasers. In midweek he was relegated to the stands but he more than took his chance upon his return. Diaby may be a goalscorer but Dierckx is a much better option on the wing and deserves a regular spot for the time being even when Izquierdo is fully fit. This may be wishful thinking, however. Coach Michel Preud’homme shrugged off rumours of an imminent departure but after fourteen different starting line-ups in as many games, admitted he has perhaps been too keen to tinker. One change he shouldn’t make though is the restoration of Victor Vázquez to the team. The Spaniard has looked off the pace recently. One wonders if his heart is still in it.

Benito’s ‘Jürgen Dive’

When Jürgen Klinsmann was accused by the English press of going over a bit too easily, he responded with one of the most memorable goal celebrations – the Jürgen Dive. It seems that German and Gentse humour have something in common. Benito Raman made light of being disciplined by the club earlier in the season for staying out too late playing snooker with this video.

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