Five things from JPL Matchday 21
Been on thin ice after fourth successive defeat (Chris Mayer)
It was all looking good for Genk at the beginning of November, as Mario Been’s men had gone 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and were looking strong in the Europa League. Though they are Belgium’s only European representative left standing, it has come at a great cost with Racing’s form plummeting. Boxing Day’s humiliating defeat at home to Charleroi 0-3 was their fourth consecutive loss in the Pro League, following defeats to Lokeren, Standard and Cercle. A bigger concern to the Genk manager will be his side’s inability to find the net. In three of those defeats, Genk didn’t score with Steeven Joseph Monrose’s strike against Standard a mere consolation. The return of Ilombe Mboyo couldn’t come quickly enough for Genk, though his sharpness wasn’t there against Les Zebres. Jelle Vossen badly needs support up top, though the Belgian international hasn’t found scored domestically since the beginning of November. Talk of crisis is often bandied around without much thought, but Genk’s only points in seven league games came against OH Leuven, with six defeats around that, notably mostly against teams around them. The winter break offers Been and co a chance to regroup and replenish their depleted energy. If they continue their poor form in January, Been could find himself bidding farewell if the slide down the table continues.
The resurrection of Tony Watt (Bjorn De Cock)
The combination of Lierse SK and Tony Watt has turned out different then everybody expected. The Celtic-loanee has had some problems with his coach Stanley Menzo, who demands more discipline from his young striker. Tony Watt was also not helped by some small injuries the last few weeks. Celtic expected their talented striker would become a key player for Lierse SK but instead he’s warmed the bench or even had to take place in the stands. This weekend, the striker came on to replace Hazurov for the last 20 minutes with the score still 0-0 between Lierse and Mechelen. Watt only needed five minutes to score his first of the evening and by the end of the game, he had bagged his first brace in the Jupiler Pro League in style. After the game, Tony Watt said the he hasn’t figured out yet if he will still play with Lierse in January. Will Stanley Menzo and Tony Watt embrace after this important win?
The Ballad of Bjorn Ruytinx (Chris Mayer)
It’s been an eventful few weeks for El Toro. The controversial OH Leuven attacker has been at the centre of controversy for his conduct in the game against Standard in early December. After putting in a dangerous challenge on Mehdi Carcela, which caused ankle ligament, Ruytinx showed little remorse, smirking at his opponent causing Carcela to clock him. Standard aren’t best pleased with Ruytinx’s lack of punishement, as the referee had already punished him during the game and as such want to take the matter to the civil court. The player in question was left out against Oostende due to an ankle injury, though he probably needed the heat off him. Ruytinx had a chance to let his football do the talking against Cercle Brugge, when he made a welcome return for the OHL fans, who consider him an anti-hero of sorts. Ruytinx was critical to their 3-0 win, scoring two and proving to be a menace in and around the area. His celebration for both goals was particularly telling, sitting down cross-legged towards the fans, sedate compared to his recent actions. As he departed, the Den Dreef crowd gave him a deserved standing ovation.
Standard Liège favourite for the title, if they manage to survive the transfer period (Bjorn De Cock)
Standard Liège have beaten KV Kortrijk this weekend with a stunning 1-5 victory. Michy Batshuayi, Imoh Ezekiel and Paul-José Mpoku destroyed Kortrijk’s defence. Certainly Ezekiel was relieved with his two goals after not scoring for a couple of weeks. With this squad, Standard Liège will be very close to winning the title. But Roland Duchâtelet will have a busy month to keep these three important players in Liège. Michy Batshuayi and Paul-José Mpoku are on the radar of many clubs. Both have changed manager recently; Christophe Henrotay now oversees their careers, the same manager as Romelu Lukaku who is good friends with Anderlecht. Rumours are saying that Batshuayi would move to a club in the Premier League who would then loan him until the end of the season to Anderlecht. Standard’s other shining star, Paul-José Mpoku, has already refused to extend his contract with Standard, which ends in June. Roland Duchâtelet has promised his fans that both players will certainly not join rival Anderlecht. Story to be continued…
El Ghanassy goes on strike (Chris Mayer)
Speaking of characters courting column inches, the match between Mons and Gent was overshadowed by the decisions of enigmatic winger Yassine El Ghanassy. After reacting angrily to being substituted a few games ago, it was clear that all was not well between player and coach, the newly-appointed Mircea Rednic. The two have traded quotes in the press, with El Ghanassy unhappy at starting one week then the bench after failing to score. In Sport Foot Magazine, the Romanian manager described his player as acting like ‘a spoilt child’ and animosity has been building between the two ever since. It seems El Ghanassy doesn’t respond well to tough love and for the trip to Mons, decided to stay at home and not board the bus, once he learned he was on the bench. Rednic confirmed a heavy fine was coming his way, but didn’t explain more about the situation. It is clear that these two combustible attitudes will continue to collide unless one of them pulls the trigger. Wingers by nature are inconsistent but El Ghanassy is undoubtedly one that wildly fluctuates more than most. A highly talented individual with an equally inverse IQ at times. El Ghanassy has previous for this sort of behaviour at the club and at other teams such as West Bromwich Albion where he failed to nail down a place. His dreams of making it to Brazil have all but disappeared, and why would Marc Wilmots gamble on such a hothead? He probably couldn’t make to the airport terminal without causing a scene. Gent lost 1-0 by the way, in a fairly tepid display, which may prove El Ghannasy’s point about Rednic’s tactics. All is not harmonious at Christmas time in the Gent squad.