Belgian First Division A: The season so far and January needs

Written by the team @BelgianPodcast

January is always an important time for football clubs, as it gives them the chance to build upon or try and turn around the season they have been having so far. We will look below at all of the sides in the Belgian Pro League, analysing how their season has been going so far as well as what they need in to happen in January. At the end of January the Belgian Football Podcast will be doing a transfer window review episode to see who managed the best business during the first month of 2021. 

Club Brugge

Season so far: 

Despite their position in the league, Brugge haven’tbeen at their best often this season. Worryingly for everyone else, they are getting the job done regardless. Noa Lang has been impressive, as well as KrepinDiatta. They will likely strengthen in January which could help them push on even more come January. 

January needs: 

Bas Dost is a great addition to the squad, they really needed a proven goalscorer. Clement has spent the first half of the season chopping and changing the strikers, so with Dost coming in this is likely to change. 

KRC Genk

Season so far:

A terrible start with Hannes Wolf, which left the team in 12th spot after 5 games, was followed by a great run of 14 games with only one defeat under Thorup, Van den Brom and caretaker manager Olivieri. Yes, you see a lot of managerial names there – it’s been a bumpy ride with also a 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 change! This leaves them in an unexpected 2nd spot before the short winter break.

January needs: 

Maehle, a pivotal player on the right wing in the current 3-4-3 formation, is leaving for Atalanta. His replacement, Angelo Preciado, has already been announced, due to COVID his actual arrival might be delayed and make the team vulnerable and more predictable. 

A new centre-back is also on the wishlist (both for the new formation and in light of a Lucumi transfer in the next summer window), at the time of writing strong rumours are going that this will be Mark McKenzie. In my opinion an extra option on the wing to relieve Ito/Bongonda wouldn’t be a luxury.

Sporting Charleroi

Season so far:
Charleroi have proven themselves to very much be title challengers this season, playing versatile and positive high tempo football. The squad is generally strong and well coached by Karim Belhocine and his team. After a strong start they hit a rut but appear to be turning it round, although maintaining a title push will require greater consistency and keeping key players fit.

January needs:
Charleroi’s activity is likely to be relatively quiet, unless someone leaves…so don’t expect too many new faces in January.

OH Leuven


Season so far:
OH Leuven, newly promoted, has been in the shadows of the other promoted squad Beerschot. Yet, they might even have a better chance of having a good finishing classification! Currently they sit in 6th spot but they can even dream of getting a spot in play-off 1. Either way, if they don’t get a complete break-down they should already be safe from relegation, which they’ll be happy about already. They specialize in set pieces and score plenty of goals through them. Xavier Mercier, Kamal Sowah and Thomas Henry have been providing them with these.

January needs:
Everything is quite covered. Yet, the Leicester-backed club of course has some money to invest, and if they do so the back area is where most improvement can be made. Not expecting a lot of activity from them, they did recently extend their main man Xavier Mercier’s contract to 2022 which might already be the best investment they could do right now.

RSC Anderlecht


Season so far:
After a rocky start, Anderlecht are starting to settle under now permanent manager Vincent Kompany. The signings of Lukas Nmecha and Matt Miazga from English Premier League sides has definitely made a difference, with the latter providing a goal threat they had been missing. After a disappointing few seasons they go into January in 4th place and a chance to push on.

January needs:
Rumours of Percy Tau leaving could really harm Anderlecht. He has been arguably their best player and really helps creativity. Replacing him if he does return to Brighton would be important for Anderlecht. Outside of that, continued development of young players like Albert Sambi Lokonga and keeping a player like him around is also going to be important. If they can also find a way to get summer signing Mustapha Bundu to replicate the form he had shown in Denmark with Aarhus that could also help in the second half of the 2020/21 season.

K Beerschot VA


Season so far:
Unexpected but highly exciting! At one point the side from Antwerp were the highest scoring side but also the side who had conceded the most goals. The performances of both Holzhauser and Tissoudali has been pivotal to their success, but is also becoming somewhat of a reliance as when neither are firing they struggle.

January needs:
Keeping both Holzhauser and Tissoudali fit, as well as maybe investing in some defenders! They cannot continue to concede at the rate they are, otherwise they could see their early season promise become a worrying decline towards the lower reaches of the table…

Royal Antwerp FC

Season so far: 

Antwerp after a slow start to the season have found a degree of form that is a good indicator of progress. The squad has a good balance of experience and youth and have secured european progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League. Head Coach Ivan Lekorecently departed unexpectadly to join Shanghai SIPG in China, so the 2nd half of the season is going to depend on the nature of his successor…it is going to be a pivotal moment this choice in determining the clubs longer term future.

January needs:

A new incoming coach means it’s unlikely there will be much movement at this stage. Whoever replaces Lekowill want to assess the squad and identify targets for the summer. They are likely to need younger replacements for key members of the squad such as Mbokani and Refaelov, who they are arguably overly reliant on.

KAA Gent

Season so far: 

Gent have had an awful season up to this point. They sacked Jess Thorup 3 games in and replaced him with a really poor choice of coach in Laszlo Boloni, who simply didn’t fit the style and profile of the squad at his disposal. He had a torrid time and was sacked himself after only 25 days and 3 games in charge. He was replaced in the short term by Wim De Decker, who himself couldn’t find any consistency or response from the squad. He was replaced in December by former Gent hero Hein Vanhaezebrouck in his 2nd spell as manager. There are some early indications of stability now. 

January needs: 

There is a real possibility they could loose Striker Roman Yaremchuk, a key player in the squad, if he departs, he would need replaced.It could well be the summer before you see any major squad changes as Vanhaezebrouck assesses his options and identifies an improved squad with a better balance, ahead of a fresh start next season.

Standard Liege

Season so far: 

Dull? Might be a bit harsh but watching Liege this season has been far from entertaining. They are sat in mid-table and have lost their last four, which led to the sacking of Phillipe Montanier as manager. He has now been replaced with former assistant-manager and player Mbaye Leye. Leye certainly has a tough job on his hands, the side are struggling financially as well as in front of goal, with just 22 goals scored this season. This is the joint third lowest league wide. 

January needs: 

Keeping Jackson Muleka fit and on the pitch. The former TP Mazembe man has looked good when playing, but he has only managed 5 appearances so far this season. His two goals still puts him one behind the teams top scorer Lestienne. Signing players isn’t really an option with their current financial predicament, so Leye hitting the ground running and providing a fresh impetus to the current squad is all they can hope for. 

KV Kortrijk

Season so far: 

Kortrijk is having a quiet mid-table season: never in danger, which they will be happy about, but also never getting really close to a play-off 1 spot that they would desire. 8th place is the verdict so far, which would give them a fighting chance for one European ticket with the teams placed 5th to 8th so they will definitely want to hang on to this spot and not lose connection with 5th spot (since in this “play off 2” the points a team gets during the regular season don’t get erased or halved like in PO 1).

January needs: 

The squad looks really balanced so I wouldn’t expect many changes. If any, I would consider an addition on left-back and in defence in general. Maybe also another goalkeeper, but given COVID I can imagine that they will find this an unnecessary investment in case Jakubechstays at the club. An extra creative player in the midfield could do wonders if they want to aim higher, since they do need to add some sparks for that.

KV Oostende

Season so far: 

Oostende have been one of the Pro Leagues’ surprise stories so far…exceeding expectations. A new coach in German Alexander Blessin and a large squad overhaul in the summer seemed to have had a really positiveimpact. Their pressing game has been impressive and they play with plenty of energy which is in part due to the influx of younger players in the summer. MaktharGueye, Jack Hendry and Cameron McGeehan have been good additions who have brought a new dimension to their game and helped to implement the new style. 

January needs: 

Don’t expect too many incomings because of the large summer overhaul, but they may bring in another striker, especially if Fashion Sakala departs, as expected.

KAS Eupen

Season so far: 

Eupen have been possibly the side who has seen the impact of COVID-19 the most, especially at the back end of 2020. On the pitch, performances have been decent but results haven’t really matched. They are one of the more entertaining teams to watch with some exciting young players like Konan N’Dri and Isaac Nuhu. However, their final game of 2020 was a disastrous 3-2 defeat to Zulte Waregem in which they were 2-0 up with only 15 minutes to go. This result has put them firmly in the relegation dogfight. If they can start turning their good performances into wins they should be safe, but that is easier said than done. 

January needs: 

It is hard to put a finger on what Eupen really need. They have good players and a mix of young exciting players alongside more experienced ones like Jordi Amat and Stef Peeters. They signed Prevlijak a few months ago and he, when fit, appears to be the striker they need. Keeping players like Knowledge Musona fit and in form will also be required if they are to start pulling away from the dropzone. 

Cercle Brugge

Season so far: 

After a great start under new manager Paul Clement, Cercle finished off the first part of the season in a terrible run of form. They haven’t won since the 21st of November when they beat Waasland-Beveren 1-0. They haven’t even picked up a point since then, which has really ruined their decent start as they are now right in the relegation dogfight. 

Clement’s early performances should buy him some time, but don’t be surprised to see the Englishman come under increasing pressure if results don’t begin to improve in January. 

January needs: 

Hard to pick one area, as the squad on paper is good enough and has already shown it. The club has an option to buy Ike Ugbo and they should certainly trigger it as soon as possible. The 22 year-old Chelsea loanee has been in scintillating form with 10 goals already this season. Perhaps signing a back-up striker to Ugbowould be wise, as an injury to him could really derail their season further. They already picked up an experienced goalkeeper in Sebastien Bruzzese as stand-in for Didillon.

SV Zulte-Waregem

Season so far: 

Zulte-Waregem is having a weird season. They picked up points against teams you would not have expected them to (Standard, Anderlecht, AA Gent, Antwerp) in between terrible streaks of forms where their defence looked leaky, including a 0-6 loss against Club Brugge, and home losses against the current bottom two, STVV and Mouscron. Somehow they managed to stay out of the relegation spots (often narrowly) and the last two games saw them winning against two teams in their vicinity in the table, which gives them some welcome room to breathe in 12th spot.

January needs:

These lasts wins could prove vital, given that the current financial situation doesn’t allow them to invest massively. As said, the defence could use an injection, although the situation seems to have bettered throughout the season. They might need to get an additional striker now Tomáš Chorý is out injured for a few months. They rely heavily on a few very experienced players so in order to stay out of trouble in the far-away future they might want to add some younger players which will also cut costs – but they can probably find these in their academy, like Jannes Van Hecke and Ewoud Pletinckx.

Waasland-Beveren

Season so far: 

Waasland-Beveren won their first game of the season and were top of the table at that time. Their second win followed … three months later. They were ‘lucky’ that Mouscron was doing even worse at the time so that they stayed off last spot for a long while, but after that second win things started going their way and they picked up more points – enough to get them off the play-down spot for now but they are far from in safety and well in the basement battle. Particularly the back has given them a lot of issues, they have already conceded 39 goals so far. 

January needs:  

Defence defence defence. Waasland Beveren has some goalscorers in Koita and Heymans, and while their attacking force is not flashy it should be good enough to prevent relegation. The defence is at relegation level though, so if they want to survive they better get some improvements there.

KV Mechelen

Season so far:

Mechelen recruited poorly pre season and failed to strengthen and develop the squad. They have struggled for consistency and have a bad habit of self destructingin games this season. They also have serious challenges off the park to contend with, which complicates matters.

January Needs: 

Generally The Mechelen squad needs a major overhaul . On the whole it is lacking apart from the wide positions. Expect a new and ideally proven striker to be given priority…they create a lot but struggle to convert.

Sint-Truidense

Season so far:

Sint-Truiden have struggled to build any consistency and momentum, so much so that they have rarely been out of the relegation zone and this will likely be the story of their season. They made a management change in early December when they sacked Kevin Muscat and replaced him with the more experienced Belgian Peter Maes. 

January needs: 

The club are on record as saying that they pursuing a striker and creative midfielder…don’t be surprised to perhaps also see defensive reinforcement before the end of the window.

Excel Mouscron

Season so far: 

Until the 25th November. That’s how long Mouscron has had to wait to pick up their first win of the season, after a managerial change and with Jorge Simao as coach. Until then they had accumulated 3 draws and had scored a total amount of … again 3, goals and were looking a certainty for relegation. One month, 13 goals and 14 points later, things don’t look that grim anymore. They are still in the straight relegation spot, but did make the connection to the rest of the lower mid table and are within a win of a safe spot in what looks like it will be a mighty battle for survival.

January needs:

Mouscron invested well on transfer deadline day in October, especially Nuno Da Costa has hit the ground running. They will want to add some additional striking force in case he is unable to play, since they depend a bit too much on him and Xadas at the moment. Defensively, on the other hand, things haven’t looked that bleak even during the beginning of the season so if there’s no departures I don’t expect them to get someone there.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 300 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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