Why John van den Brom’s days are numbered at Anderlecht

When John van den Brom moved from Vitesse to RSC Anderlecht in 2012, Herman Van Holsbeeck envisaged the Dutch coach as the perfect man to improve the integration of their youth players to the first squad. John van den Brom had built a reputation as a coach who transformed young talented starlets into first team material. For example, Belgian internationals Dries Mertens and Nacer Chadli are just two players whose career were launched by John van den Brom.

Replacing Belgian coach Ariël Jacobs in Anderlecht, fans and some members of the board wanted more then only winning games, despite the now-Valenciennes manager winning the title in a functional way. They expected their team to beat everybody with “champagne football”. Perhaps some Anderlecht fans are too demanding, probably way too much for a team with a budget of €40.000.000.

The good old days are long gone however. This season, things haven’t been going well for Anderlecht, although they’re still second of the league, ten points adrift of Standard Liège. That’s only because of the lack of quality of the other “top” teams in Belgium. Club Brugge and Michel Preud’homme are still seeking for their best formation. Mario Been and Racing Genk started strong but have burnt out the last two months. KAA Gent are getting a bit better the last weeks but they’ll never be a title contender with the current squad.

Anderlecht are in the possession of some very talented players amongst their roster. Some of them too young to lead the team yet many agree that John van den Brom should do better with those available to him. Youngsters like Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet and Massimo Bruno are losing confidence due to John van den Brom’s tactical choices. Aleksandar Mitrovic, also only 19 years old, needs to adapt every single week to another formation which doesn’t make it easy for a striker. Until January he was also the only decent striker in the Anderlecht squad, making him a bit lazy from time to time, knowing he was always in pole position. With Goh Bi Cyriac getting back in shape and the transfer of David Pollet from Charleroi, things should get Mitrovic sharper then before. It’s silly to think that Mitrovic should do better if you see his statistics. His price tag of €5,000,000 is the biggest reason why we even try to find his weaknesses instead of admitting his start at Anderlecht has been pretty good.

John van den Brom sometimes just doesn’t know what to do, it seems. His indecisiveness is hurting Anderlecht. For example, one week he wins from Club Brugge with 2-0 in a 4-4-2 formation. Though they didn’t play an excellent game, everybody agreed that this formation with two strikers could work out well when everybody adapted to the system. Instead of holding on to the same tactics the following week against Lierse, van den Brom changed his team in several places and changed his formation from a 4-4-2 into a 4-3-3. Anderlecht lost 2-0 and some players are starting to complain about the constant changing of tactics.

Anderlecht’s coach is also under pressure after the signings of Bram Nuytinck and Demy de Zeeuw. Both are Dutch players, the former with an international career in his sights and the latter has already showed his quality over the years. In his first season, Bram Nuytinck was an automatic pick at centre-back with Cheikhou Kouyaté. Having been an instrumental part of the title-winning side with Anderlecht and deserved his spot in the team. This season, the manager and player have quarrelled due to the his performance, meaning only a spot on the bench for Nuytinck. We have to admit that his replacement, Chancel Mbemba, has shown to be a better option then the former captain of the U21 of the Netherlands. Meanwhile Demy de Zeeuw has never impressed at Anderlecht, being a shadow of the player he was some years ago.

Van den Brom already lost 7 games this season! Not many coaches would survive at Anderlecht after losing seven matches in 24 games. The one and only reason for van den Brom remaining is Herman Van Holsbeeck. The general manager of Anderlecht did a lot of effort to convince him to sign for Anderlecht. He also had to convince the president of Vitesse who wasn’t willing to let their coach move to another club. How long can Van Holsbeeck convince the board of Anderlecht to hold on to the Dutch coach?

We could argue that Lucas Biglia has never been replaced but that’s also the only thing you can’t blame him. Luka Milivojevic, the Serbian midfielder, who was signed to replace Biglia, is not yet ready to become the leader of this Anderlecht at such a young age. Pär Zetterberg also needed a loan deal before becoming the main figure of Anderlecht. But even then, with players like Andy Najar, Anthony Vanden Borre, Chancel Mbemba, Dennis Praet, Massimo Bruno, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Silvio Proto, Youri Tielemans, Ronald Vargas and many others you should always be able to dominate 80% of the teams in the Belgian competition. Since January 2013, John van den Brom has only stunned a few opponents with superb flowing play. Also, Sacha Kljestan, Guillaume Gillet and Demy de Zeeuw were given too much leadership responsibilities according to their (current) qualities/form.

Not winning against KV Kortrijk could mean the end of John van den Brom but it’s not the first time we thought that this season. The Dutch coach can take lot of credit at Anderlecht, winning the title after all, but when the fans start to moan Herman Van Holsbeeck will eventually have to follow. On the other hand integrating a new coach at this phase of the competition is not ideal but the most important thing is not to spoil talented players like Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Massimo Bruno, Fabrice N’Sakala and all the other youngsters. This has been a good lesson for both Anderlecht and John van den Brom. Time will tell if John van den Brom will become a better coach of this difficult situation.

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