Genk hosted Club Brugge at the Luminus Arena in match week four of the 20/21 Belgian Pro League season. This was a game that both teams felt they could win. 

Genk came into the tie so far unbeaten from their first three games, recording two draws and one victory. Last seasons champions Club Brugge have so far been unable to get their season properly kick-started. Home defeats to Sporting Charleroi and Beerschot have come either side of a single win away at Eupen. Three points against Genk was important in order to get their title challenge back underway. 

It was, in fact, Club Brugge who came out on top, winning 2-1. The game was not without incident, and in hindsight, Genk were unfortunate not to get more from the game. 

This tactical analysis, in the form of a match report, will look at key reasons why Brugge won the game. It will also provide further analysis and insights into the tactics utilised by each of the teams.

Line-ups

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tactics

Home side Genk started with a 4-4-2, with the experienced Danny Vukovic starting in goal. The Colombian centre-back partnership of Carlos Cuesta and Jhon Lucumí were supported by full-backs Joakim Mæhle and Jere Uronen, to the right and left respectively. Mats Møller Dæhli, formerly of Cardiff City during their stint in the Premier League, lined up on the left-wing. Daniel Muñoz and Eboue Kouassi started in centre-midfield, with Junya Ito playing on the right. Both Theo Bongonda and Cyriel Dessers began up top. Dessers, awarded Eredivise top goalscorer last season with Heracles, joined Genk in the summer and scored on his league debut vs Zulte Waregem. 

Former Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet started between the sticks for Club Brugge, who began in their favoured 3-5-2 formation. Simon Deli, Brandon Mechele, and Clinton Mata completed a back three in defence. Emmanuel Dennis, a forward by nature, was deployed out on the right-wing, with Ukrainian Eduard Sobol out left. Mats Rits started in a central holding role in midfield, with both Ruud Vormer and David Okereke given more freedom to push on. Hans Vanaken has so far had a difficult start to the season, and will for sure be looking to recapture his form. He partnered 18-year-old Youssouph Badji upfront.  

Whilst Club Brugge did start with a 3-5-2, this did change into more of a 4-4-2 at times. The continuous willingness of Eduard Sobol to push up meant that Mata, Mechele, and Deli all but made up a back three. This was most evident when Brugge had possession. If it was Mata getting forward from the right, then it was Sobol who tucked in. The image below shows the backline. Sobol is pushing high, giving Brugge more width and opening up space for others to get on the ball.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tactics

Attacking Intent from Brugge

Philippe Clement showed a statement of intent to attack in this game. Okereke and Dennis both started in midfield, with Okereke drifting out to the left, and Dennis playing outright. With Badji playing up top, they had three forwards on the pitch. Hans Vanaken, more accustomed to a deeper attacking midfield role, was this time deployed in a higher role. Brugge looked better for it as well in the first half, getting players forward on every opportunity and forcing Genk to defend deeper. 

The movement of the players mentioned above made it difficult for the Genk back-line. The out of form Vanaken dropped into his more natural position to not only receive the ball but to also pull defenders to make space for Badji. In the image below, you can see how Vanaken’s movement was able to create an opening. Okereke dropped deep from a high, wide position with the ball. Vanaken also dropped deep, pulling his defender out with him and creating a gap in behind. Seeing that Okereke was going to set the ball back to Sobol, Vanaken span the defender to get in down the channel and receive the through ball. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsThis was typical of Brugge in the first half; playing at a high tempo with movement both on and off the ball. Below shows another example of the Blauw-Zwart’s intent to get players forward in numbers. This time they countered to create a 6v6 situation but were unable to capitalise. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsThe standout player in the attack in this game was Emmanuel Dennis. Whilst he was not playing in his traditional centre forward position, he caused constant headaches for Genk with his pace and movement.

He assisted the first goal of the game, driving forward and picking out Vanaken superbly to head home, as seen below.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsIt was a tireless performance from the Nigerian international. He attempted 13 dribbles during his 75 minutes on the pitch, with a success rate of 31%. Whilst this stat might not stand out, it shows his determination to attack and make something happen.

The second-highest number of attempted dribbles on his team was six, by Simon Deli. He also joint-led his team in key passes with three, up-on his average of 1.4 over his last five games. 

The Brugge Press 

In the first half, Brugge did an excellent job of pressing high and applying pressure on Genk. This either resulted in the ball being sent long or forcing them into a mistake. When Vukovic looked to play out the back via his centre-backs, they were constantly met by tireless running from Brugge.

The image below shows a great example of this. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsCarlos Cuesta receives the ball from the goalkeeper, and available options in front of him for a pass are at a minimum. Every Brugge player knows his role, closing in on that player to tighten up space and force Cuesta either back to the keeper or long. 

Another textbook example of their successful pressing was in the 28th minute. Genk looked to play out, but Badji, Vanaken, and Dennis had other ideas. The Genk defender was given little time on the ball and forced into a bad touch. This invited a tackle; Brugge overturned possession and eventually won a free-kick. 

The sequence of images above shows the trio of Brugge players hunting the ball like a hungry pack of wolves to overturn possession. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsAn all-improved Genk second half

Genk manager Hannes Wolf knew that something had to change for the second half. A change of formation was the answer, moving to a 4-2-3-1 from a 4-4-2. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tactics

Despite playing a midfield four with two wingers, both Ito and Møller Dæhli were unable to provide much creative, attacking width. With the change in the formation, Møller Dæhli moved to a more natural centrally advanced position, and Bongonda dropped a little deeper to the left. 

Genk immediately came out of the blocks and won a penalty. A long ball was picked up wide and delivered into the box, which resulted in Bongonda being brought down. However, Dessers, stepping up confidently, crashed his penalty onto the post. 

The home team looked a lot more confident. A second chance to score from the spot presented itself after one of their best passages of play in the game. They played out from the back, into the midfield, and finally through the forward line to create a goalscoring opportunity. It was the type of football that we had only seen from Brugge in the first half. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsWhilst Bongonda was in-fact playing deeper, he remained a very willing runner to support Dessers and drive the Genk attack. He linked well with Ito to go through on goal, with a penalty being called after a VAR decision. 

Whether it be the Genk formation change, tired legs, or a culmination of both, Brugge looked less effective on the press. Genk found the confidence to play out the backline more often and looked a better team for it. As seen below, there was an increased hunger to get on the ball from the Genk players. They were also afforded more space to do so. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsDespite an improved second-half showing from Genk, only two shots found their way onto the target. Both of these efforts were from Théo Bongonda. It was a strong showing from former Belgium Under-21 Bongonda, winning one penalty and scoring one for himself. 

Brugge managed to steal all three points with a Youssouph Badji header late on, connecting with a Siebe Schrijvers corner. 

Conclusion

Brugge will be delighted to take all three points from the game. There were plenty of positives to come out of the game for them. Some of their football was very good at times, especially in the first half. All in all, it was a solid showing. A plus for Philippe Clement’s side was a goal for Hans Vanaken. The Belgian international has received a lot of criticism recently due to his poor performances of late, so a goal will hopefully be a much-needed confidence booster. Their other goalscorer, Youssouph Badji, continues to excite fans. At just 18-years of age, the young forward has a very bright future ahead. 

On the face of it, Genk will feel aggrieved to not get more out the game. Dessers penalty miss proved costly. They were not dominated throughout the game and will be disappointed they could not test Mignolet more. 

The xG stat in the image below argues that the result could well have been very different. If finishing, goalkeeping, and luck were performed to the expected xG, then Genk may well have won the game 2-1. Instead, Brugge outperformed their expected xG, and came out 2-1 victors. 

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Genk v Club Brugge – tactical analysis tacticsClub Brugge will be looking to get their first home win of the season when they host Waasland-Beveren in round five of the season. Genk are at home again, when they entertain Eupen.