Matchday 13 of the Belgian Pro League had new boys Beerschot welcoming record Pro League champions Anderlecht to Antwerp. Beerschot had a 1-0 lead going into the halftime interval before they made it 2-0 just after halftime. Lukas Nmecha was able to get a late goal for Anderlecht, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 2-1 at the Olympisch Stadion. The following tactical analysis and match analysis will break down some of the key tactics throughout the match.
Hernan Losada shifted away from the normal back three that he had been setting Beerschot up in and opted for a 4-3-3 formation. Mike Vanhamel started in goal behind a back four of Pierre Bourdin, Jan Van den Bergh, Frederic Frans, and Joren Dom. Tom Pietermaat anchored the midfield, with Ismaila Coulibaly and Ryan Sanusi either side. The front three was Musashi Suzuki, Tarik Tissoudali, and Raphael Holzhauser.
Former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Timon Wellenreuther started in goal behind a back four of Kemar Lawrence, Hannes Delcroix, Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga, and Michael Murillo. Peter Zulj and Albert Lokonga anchored the midfield. Paul Mukairu and Yari Verschaeren started either side of Percy Tau, with Lukas Nmecha the main striker.
Beerschot’s defensive fluidity
A constant this season has been Hernan Losada lining Beerschot up in a 3-5-2 formation, but this changed on Sunday with Losada opting for a back four instead. This most likely was to counter the pace that Anderlecht have in their front four, with natural fullbacks being able to keep the wide midfielders of Anderlecht quiet. This then could allow the centre-backs to stay focused on Percy Tau and Lukas Nmecha through the middle. Following are some examples of how the Beerschot defensive line set up throughout the match.
Above shows how Beerschot set up from the off in this match. The back four allowed Beerschot to soak up more pressure in the defensive third, but it also still allowed them to operate on the counter like they normally do. As noticed, there is space out wide on the far touchline for the wide midfielder to run into, but this is ok. In a back four, you would rather want to leave the space out wide than in the middle. This means that even if the ball is played out wide to the man on the far touchline, he would still have a lot of work to do to get a shot on target from that angle. Covering the centre is more important when operating a back four. In a back three, the centre-backs play wider, meaning that space is normally not as open on the touchlines, as the wingbacks normally drop back to form a back five.
This phase of play illustrates how Beerschot were able to defend well in their back four setup. Here, the ball is played out wide to the near touchline. Notice how each Beerschot defender has an Anderlecht player to mark. This man-to-man marking allows the defenders to stay tight on one guy and not having to worry about a blown assignment. As the fullback is dragged wide to press the player receiving the ball, the Anderlecht player (marked in red) is able to run into the space left behind by the fullback. However, Holzhauser is able to track back for Beerschot and cover the space before the player in possession is able to play a dangerous pass to the runner into the box. This closes off any passing lane, and as a result, Anderlecht lose possession.
There were also moments in the match where Beerschot went back to their roots. In this phase of play, Anderlecht have won possession back in the midfield and are starting a counter attack. One of the Beerschot centre-backs leaves the back four to try and press the player that is in possession of the ball. This allows Beerschot to return to their normal back three. As can be seen above, it is a 2v3 with Beerschot holding the man advantage. The centre-back is able to close down the player in possession and delay him enough to where the other players get back. Possession is lost by Anderlecht, and Beerschot are able to recycle the play.
While Beerschot do not play a back four often, this match was able to show that they are able to adapt to any formation that their manager puts them in, like Borussia Dortmund under Lucien Favre, which surely bodes well for the rest of the season.
Percy Tau runs the show for Anderlecht
Percy Tau was signed by English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer of 2018, but has not made a single appearance for the Seagulls yet. He has spent the last two seasons on loan in Belgium, last season with Club Brugge, and this season with Anderlecht. With the ability to play in many positions in the midfield, Tau is like a Swiss Army knife for Kompany, and is also one of the Anderlecht’s most dangerous and creative players.
Tau’s movement and awareness off the ball is something that helps to excel the Anderlecht attack. In this phase of play, Tau (circled in yellow) is positioned on the shoulder of the last defender. He notices the space in behind, calls for the ball, and makes a run. The ball is played to him, and he is able to round the goalkeeper. However, he is not able to get his shot off quick enough into an empty net and the defenders are able to get back quick enough. The ensuing shot goes into the side netting and the chance comes to pass. While this was a golden opportunity missed early in the match for Anderlecht, Tau was a thorn in Beerschot’s side the whole afternoon.
Another thing that Percy Tau is able to offer Anderlecht is a physical side to his game as well. In this phase of play, Tau is going shoulder-to-shoulder with the Beerschot midfielder. He is able to outmuscle him and escape with the ball. He then has space to run into, which he uses, and creates another good chance for Anderlecht. He also dropped deeper in this moment of the match, allowing him to be creative from a deeper lying position on the pitch. This off the ball movement and awareness that he possesses is a vital asset for Vincent Kompany’s side. The physical side of his game also comes out here, as he is able to outmuscle the defender for the ball, as well as continue to move forward with the ball after winning possession back in midfield.
Tau’s pace was also put on show during this match. Above, Anderlecht were defending against a Beerschot corner kick. The ball is played out by an Anderlecht player, and Percy Tau is able to run onto the ball. Tau is able to use his blistering pace to run away from the opposition players that are chasing him and is able to start a very dangerous break for the away side. Unfortunately, nothing results from this dangerous counter-attack from Anderlecht, but it is able to once again show the involvement that Percy Tau has in this Anderlecht side. He has everything that Kompany wants in an attacking midfielder, and it looks as if Tau may only get better as the season progresses, and Anderlecht try to fight to move up the table. Tau has had a great start to life in Brussels, and if Brighton are not able to give him game time next season, then staying in the Belgian capital may be the best move for his career going forward.
Beerschot on the counter-attack
Beerschot are a side that thrive when they are in counter-attacking positions. When they line up in their usual 3-5-2 formation, much is made about their clinical ability to attack when winning the ball back in the midfield. Even with a back four, this match was nothing different, as Beerschot were able to use the counter-attack to their advantage against Anderlecht.
As shown above, Beerschot have just won possession back in the midfield and break on a counter-attack. While it is 6v6, Beerschot are able to utilise the space that is left from the Anderlecht players trying to get back. The two Beerschot players that are circled in yellow are both able to make great runs into space because their markers are slow to get back. The ball is eventually played inside, and a chance results from this phase of play. What Beerschot are able to do on the counter is find spaces and exploit them, with Raphael Holzhauser being one of the main contributors on the counter.
Above is another example of the danger that Beerschot possesses on the counter-attack. Anderlecht again lose possession in the midfield and Beerschot are able to take advantage and counter-attack. Both central midfielders for Anderlecht (circled in red) are caught in a wider position, and this allows space to open up in the middle of the pitch. While Anderlecht technically have the numerical advantage in this situation, the pace and trickery of the Beerschot players helps to confuse the opponent. While once again nothing results from this counter-attack by Beerschot, it illustrates the danger they possess. This counter-attacking style is one of the reasons why Beerschot sit in second place, one point behind Club Brugge. This is a position that they probably did not see themselves in at the beginning of the season.
After another fantastic result for Beerschot, they sit second in the Belgian Pro League in their first season back in the top flight. With a fantastic and talented young manager at the helm, the sky is the limit for this Beerschot side. Anderlecht still sit in 7th place after this defeat, and it’s back to the drawing board for Vincent Kompany, who with a talented young side, still have a fighting chance of challenging the top 6 and qualifying for Europe again next season. This analysis has shown that both sides still have a lot to fight for this season.