By Walter Broeckx
For the first time in more than 35 years I went to Brussels and to the Anderlecht stadium. An American politician called Brussels a place in hell a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t call it hell but it sure has some very depressing neighbourhoods and I seemed to pass through them the whole time. Picking up Andrew from his hotel gave me a grey sight of the town, not helped with the rain that came pouring down constantly. Hell no, but depressing… yes.
After first trying to have a coffee at the Grand Place in Brussels…we couldn’t get there or find a parking space. We gave up and went to the stadium where we had a coffee close to the entrance. Then I went on the search for the rest of the Arsenal Belgium supporters. Traffic jams (as usual around Brussels even in weeks when there are school holidays) made for some late arrivals that made me miss the opening 20 minutes of the match.
From what I have been told by others that could see it from the start we made a good start in the opening minutes but couldn’t beat the keeper. A keeper that was lucky to stay on the field when making a deliberate handball outside his penalty area. What Arsenal couldn’t do, Anderlecht did: score goals.
Jorn Van Camp one of the players who impressed at the U17 world cup where Belgium reached the 3rd place last summer got away from his marker and could head home far too easily. Bad defending from the backline that didn’t put enough pressure to prevent a cross and gave away too much room in the middle.
Arsenal tried to do something back and set up a few nice attacks…but it always broke down when the final ball had to be delivered. But maybe that was down to the Anderlecht defenders for a bit? One player in particular stood out for me. I had seen him play before as I did a match as assistant referee of the Anderlecht U17 last season and in this match he once again impressed me: Wout Faes. Captain of the Anderlecht team and the Belgium national youth team. As mentioned in my match preview he might step in the footsteps of Kompany in a few years’ time.
He just seemed to be in the right place all the time. Blocking crosses, heading crosses away, blocking shots, making himself difficult to pass by. A defensive masterclass. Arsenal scouts were you watching? I think they were as he is being looked at by many big European clubs. Will he choose for the quick money or for a career? Time will tell but if he keeps his focus as he does now he will be a great defender.
Around the half hour Anderlecht combined on their right flank and again far too easy for them to play around our defenders. Another cross (a low one this time) was put over the line by Jorn Van Camp with a little help from the crossbar.
Arsenal tried to do something but their build up play was too slow at times and not precise enough. Too many passes went behind the man and that way we took away the speed in our attack and gave Anderlecht the time to settle their defensive setup. At the other end we had to be alert as we gave the ball away in dangerous positions on more than one occasion. But luckily Anderlecht didn’t take those chances.
In the second half we started with two new players: Malen and Nelson came on in the place of Crowley and Willock. Arsenal tried to attack but again too slow to really get around the excellent Anderlecht defence.
Anderlecht defended with both power and technique and when it really started to heat up you always ended up by looking at Wout Faes mopping things up for them. Arsenal then also tried to be generous and gave the ball away to Anderlecht so they could start a few dangerous attacks. But in the second half Keto made a few excellent stops and for the rest they wasted the big chances they got.
Our midfield dominated but at the back and up front we couldn’t deliver what was needed. Sure the boys did their best but it wasn’t good enough. And when we got in to promising situations the final ball let us down over and over again. It was one of those days were you just felt that the Anderlecht defenders were on top of their opponents.
So the match ended at a deserved 2-0 win for Anderlecht. They were the better “team” and played like a team. Determined to not let in a goal. Using their technical skills to the maximum. Doing the hard work when it was needed and playing very disciplined in the whole 90 minutes. Arsenal played too much in patches and had some really bad moments when giving the ball away in dangerous positions and made life too difficult for themselves and too easy for Anderlecht.
My man of the match was Wout Faes. Not the boy who scored the two goals but the player who stood out for me, head and shoulder above the rest. I sure would love to see that one in an Arsenal shirt in the future.
So a rather depressive city, a rather depressive match (certainly the final score was), real depressive weather, but the company was excellent.
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