This is the last article in this series about the Belgian League and Sorare.
We've already done part 1, here we put KV Mechelen, Anderlecht, KV Kortrijk, Cercle Brugge, RC Genk, and Westerlo under the magnifying glass. And you can read part 2 about Club Brugge, Charleroi, AA Gent, Seraing, Oostende, and Union.
Antwerp (Currently 2nd)
Antwerp started fiercely at this new season. However, the contrast between their good start (seven wins in a row) and their current form is stark. 6 points in the last 5 games. The loss in points does not need to be a disaster, stats show that they are playing well. They do have a difficult calendar ahead but the big squad and the early elimination in Europe will be in their favor. President Paul Gheysens has the ambition to win the league as soon as possible.
They invested heavily in new players and new staff and a (partly) renovated stadium. With the controversial hiring of Sport director Marc Overmars, his big network joined Antwerp. A new coach with Mark van Bommel and a few big signings they made: Alderweireld, Ekkelenkamp, and Stengs, ... just to enforce their ambitions. Stengs has been playing really well but lacks game-changing stats like goals or assists. They will come eventually and I can see his price rise quickly.
"There is much more clarity about the way they play than last season under Brian Priske. Van Bommel has also dared to make difficult decisions, such as putting Radja Nainggolan out of the squad and preferring Vincent Janssen to Michael Frey in the striker." -Pundit Marc Degryse.
And they have a good goalkeeper. After some criticisms, Jean Butez has shaken all the doubts and is firmly number one. Being one of the better goalkeepers in the league with the most clean sheets. Butez transferred to Antwerp from Mouscron and the Great Old paid barely €1 million. Due to his good performance, Butez's market value has since risen to €5 million. Ortwin De Wolf is the second goalkeeper but won't be getting a chance soon.
Sint-Truiden VV (Currently 11th)
The ambition at the start of the season was at the very least 8th place, which gives access to the playoff system in Belgium. I'm not going to explain how the playoffs work. Nobody knows. Did you know STVV has a big-name player in their squad? Midfielder Shinji Kagawa, a former player for Man U and Dortmund joined the club in january '22. STVV is owned by a Japanese company, hence the influx of Japanese players, and use the club as gateway to Europe. One of those players is goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt. Schmidt is one of our daily recommendations on Twitter when someone asks for a steady goalkeeper for Sorare. Unfortunately, he is injured at the moment. The injury isn't that complicated but might throw a spanner in the works for his World Cup, where he was getting closer to a spot in the final selection. Second goalkeeper Jo Coppens (31) made his debut for STVV. Schmidt himself might be looking for the exit and hinted a possible leave last summer.
I feel ready for the next step, but in the meantime, just focus on Sint-Truiden." -Schmidt.
The biggest problem for STVV seems to be scoring, not unimportant I reckon, with only 12 goals, the worst of the league.
KAS Eupen (Currently 15th)
Queue the appropriate song "Heads will roll" from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's because also Eupen has fired their coach Bernd Storck after 14 games. Four wins and 10 losses. Bernd Storck had been under discussion for some time because of inconsistent performances. Eupen is 14th in the Jupiler Pro League standings with 12 points from 14 games, one point above the relegation zone.
First-division side KAS Eupen will remain in the hands of Qatari sports academy Aspire for the next few years as well, but Middle Eastern resources are dwindling.
Lennart Moser came from Union Berlin and took the first goalkeeper position from Nuradeen. Moser has a contract for three seasons.
Bad results equal a new coach equals changes on the pitch. However, a few players seem untouchable. To name a few, striker Prevljak and Stef Peeters, a player standing head and shoulders above the others and is being linked with other teams (KV Mechelen, Westerlo). He does however have a great contract, which the others clubs can't afford. Even if they relegate I can see him going to another club in the Pro League.
Zulte-Waregem (Currently 18th)
Last in the league. Worst defense in the league.
The naked numbers don't lie and being last in the league, is never a good place to be. For the time being, coach and former player Leye, is still in place. He was helped with a great result against Anderlecht last week, but it could easily be the next one who has to look for a new job.
In the summer the club did everything to start the season well. Cleaned house in the squad, 13 players left and they got a new coaching staff.
The new players don't bring what was expected so a lack of quality is the biggest issue. One of the issues might be fixed with Zinho Gano returning to the squad. Gano and Leye set aside their differences and it seems Gano will be starting again real soon. Gano is always good for a few goals. A good Sorare striker is always interesting I think. Like I said before, with bad results come changes. The starting goalkeeper position has recently been switched from the 37year old Bossut to Louis Bostyn. With two wins in a row against Anderlecht and Kortrijk, Zulte gained some momentum. The game against Oostende last week was very important but unfortunately, it was lost. In the next few weeks points need to be won, with winnable games against Mechelen, Eupen, STVV.
Oud Heverlee Leuven (Currently 8th)
After a great start to the season, winning 4 out of 6, last week they seem to struggle a little bit. Ok, they lost against Genk and Union, which is not that strange, but losing against Eupen was something else. 4 out of 15 points in their last 5 matches, time to gain momentum again. With the 3 matches left before the World Cup break, against Gent, Cercle, and Seraing, this should be possible for them.
It's not a completely new team, but 7 starting players in their last match against Sint-Truiden were not there last season, some of them arrived very late on the transfer market. Just to name one, Mario Gonzalez. If you didn't know him yet, you should as he is the top scorer in the Belgian league at the moment of writing.
El Pistolero, is on loan from the Portuguese team Braga, and although he didn't always start the games, made 8 goals. Unfortunately, there are no Sorare cards yet of the Spanish striker, but when the cards arrive (last season the cards of players in the Belgian league, arriving later on the transfer market, were published around the beginning of December), they will not be very cheap.
Leuven has two very decent goalkeepers in their squad. Before the season started it was very open who would become number 1, as they both arrived early on the transfer market and could play the full preseason. Cojocaru came from Feyenoord, where he was number 3 behind Bijlow and Marciano, or Jackers, who was number 1 for Beveren a few seasons in a row in the Belgian first and second division. My guess would have been that Jackers was going to play, but Cojocaru got his chance and kept his spot ever since. Does this mean he will play the full season? Last season there were also 2 decent gk, Romo (DC united) and Runarsson (Alanyaspor). Romo started the season and in November the number 1 changed to Runarsson. They still the same manager in Leuven, so it's unsure Cojocaru will just stay as number 1.
Standard (Currently 6th)
Standard was for decades a title contender in the Belgian Jupiler pro league. That changed over the last years, with last season as an absolute lowest point in history, ending 14th. Their squad was simply not good enough and with not that much money to spend on signing new players, that make sense. Know that still active players like Witsel and Fellaini were all sold for decent amounts coming from their youth academy, the club wasn't managed very well. Since this year the club is in the hands of 777 partners, an American company that also owns Genoa in Italy. They did some new signings, without spending too much, but signing the new coach does look like a success. Ronny Deila came from New York City after winning the MLS title and does give Standard a new energy boost.
What does look a bit weird was assigning the new sports director (responsible for the transfers) Fergil Harkin, signed from Man City. Not the fact they signed him is that weird, but the fact he could only start in august, although signed in May. Which meant the transfers didn't start before he arrived at the club, meaning all new signings didn't have any preseason.
There came some new players, but the heart of the team stayed the same.
Zinckernagel does look like a great signing and already showed his talent, including goals. He doesn't have any Sorare cards yet, as he played for Nottingham Forest last season and is now on loan from the Greek team Olympiakos.
Maybe the best transfer was the fact that Raskin actually stayed at Standard, at least for now, if you talk about the heart of the team, this is the guy. Only 21 years old.
The goalkeeper discussion is an easy one this season. Where last season Bodart lost his spot in February to Henkinet, under the former manager. This season Bodart makes a great impression and has confidence from his coach, I don't expect any change soon over here.