Article by Ben Griffis. This is the second analysis of Café Tactiques’s season-long Belgian Jupiler Pro League project where we will analyze many matches before creating a tactical profile of teams at the end of the season.
KRC Genk hosted KV Oostende at the Luminus Arena Friday, July 30th. Genk finished 4th in the regular season last season while Oostende finished 5th, but the teams had differing results in the playoff rounds. Genk moved up from 4th in their Playoff 1 group to second, while Oostende dropped from 1st in Playoff 2 to 3rd.
Further, the teams had different results in the first match of this season, after Genk drew 1-1 with Standard while Oostende lost 0-3 at home to Charleroi. Both teams came into this match looking for a win to jump start their seasons, with both teams aiming to reach the top 4 to qualify for a Playoff 1 spot and have a good shot at European qualification.
Alexander Blessin’s Oostende took advantage of John van den Brom‘s Genk’s poor corner defending in this match to score three from corners and one from open play in a seven-goal thriller. Genk played a solid game, scoring three goals and creating many chances through Bongonda, Ito, and Trésor. This article will analyze the both squads’ performance before breaking down the goals and how they arose from the team’s tactics and play.
This article will be laid out slightly differently than previously posted match analyzes, given that most of the 7 goals can be analyzed from both Genk and Oostende’s viewpoints. To keep everything organized, I’ll first look at Genk’s attack and defense before looking at Oostende’s—like normal—but leave the goal breakdowns for their own section at the end before my final thoughts.
Here’s how the squads lined up Friday night.
KRC Genk Buildup and Attack
Genk built up by dropping Heynen in front of the center backs as Hrošovský pushed up near Trésor. Both fullbacks were very wide and high, providing the width as Ito and Bongonda sat fairly narrow. In attack, Bongonda and Ito switched wings occasionally to diversify their attack and create more shooting chances, with them cutting inside instead of crossing.
Heynen was the heartbeat of Genk’s attack, roaming around the deep midfield as an open option and spraying passes to the wings. Mike Trésor was the focal point higher up the pitch, using his dribbling skills to create space and chances for himself. Ito and Bongonda made many runs into the box, both with and without the ball, causing havoc from the wings. Oostende’s decision to defend narrowly enabled Genk’s wing play, giving their fullbacks and wingers lots of room to decide what to do next.
Genk’s strategy in and around the box was to play one-twos and use quickly pass across the top of the box to drag Oostende players out of position, opening up space for another player. These high-tempo passes worked, creating several chances for Bongonda, Ito, and Trésor.
One of Genk’s attacking bright spots was Mike Trésor. Oostende had lots of difficulty defending him with his threat of passing, dribbling, or shooting. Several times, Trésor used his skill to beat multiple Oostende defenders before taking a shot or making a dangerous pass. Oostende double-teamed him, but this didn’t make a difference as Trésor still beat his men throughout the match.
KRC Genk Defense
Genk defended fairly narrowly throughout the match, with Preciado and Arteaga allowing Oostende’s wing backs space and midfielders the option to drift wide. Even in Genk’s third, the fullbacks were very narrow and focused more on Kvasina and Gueye than Capon, D’Haese, or Boonen when he pushed wide. Genk stayed in the 4-2-3-1 shape they attacked in, with Ito and Bongonda usually staying a little higher than the midfielders.
While Genk defended narrow, a lot of their defensive emphasis was on intercepting the ball and picking up loose second balls and bad passes. Oostende played lots of high-tempo long passes, so Genk focused on trying to cut those out rather than pressing with a high intensity. Marking their players took priority, and this tactic worked, as Genk were able to intercept the ball several times—once even led to the opening goal—and be in suitable positions to pick up second balls.
KV Oostende Buildup and Attack
Oostende built up in their starting 3-4-1-2 shape, with Capon and D’Haese pushing wide to the touchline. Gueye would sometimes drop deep and onto the left wing, creating a lopsided shape. Specifically, in the first half, this was the norm rather than a feature, as Oostende attacked through Gueye on the left many times.
Oostende relied on Gueye’s strength to move the ball up the pitch, either directly or indirectly. For direct Gueye attacks, Gueye would receive the ball before turning to dribble, using his strength to hold off and push away any prospective challengers. For indirect attacks from Gueye, he would act as a classic target man and hold up the ball before passing to a teammate running beyond him into space.
High tempo long passes and counters were central to Blessin’s tactic, giving Genk little time to set up defensively. Genk countered this by setting up to win second balls and interceptions, and that made Oostende’s attacks more difficult to sustain. Oostende’s major threats in the match came from corners, scoring three of their four goals from corners.
However, Oostende’s open play goal came from a passage where they played shorter passes on the ground instead of long aerial balls. After a long run from Hendry, Oostende played a few quick passes near the box to open up for a cross to Kvasina. With Genk able to defend the high-tempo long balls, Alexander Blessin probably should have instructed his players to play shorter passes more often, and keep possession for longer stretches of time.
KV Oostende Defense
Oostende defended in two shapes, their 3-4-1-2 shape and a 3-3-2-2 shape. The 3-3-2-2 shape was used more often when Genk were building up from the back, but towards the end of the match they used this shape more frequently. Oostende then shifted to a 3-4-1-2 once Genk were closer to Oostende’s goal.
To form the 3-3-2-2 shape, D’Arpino would push higher in line with Boonen while Capon and D’Haese narrowed to join Rocha Santos in midfield. This allowed Oostende to have multiple players on each of Genk’s lines, but it also opened lots of space for Genk’s wide players to exploit. With most of Genk’s threats coming from the wings—Ito/Bongonda and Preciado/Arteaga—this was a curious decision from Blessin. Genk exploited the wings many times throughout the match, creating chance after chance.
Oostende pressured Genk at a high tempo as well, trying to force mistakes and win the ball back quickly after losing it before countering with pace. While in the 3-4-1-2 shape, Boonen would roam around the midfield, helping pressure with his teammate closest to the ball, creating a two vs one to win the ball back. Both Kvasina and Gueye pressured occasionally, but Gueye was used in the pressure more often than Kvasina.
Lastly, even though Oostende pressured Genk with intensity, they didn’t press Genk’s center backs and goalkeeper when they had the ball deep in their own half. If Vandevoort, McKenzie, or Sadick had the ball near their own box, Oostende didn’t pressure them. Once Heynen or the fullbacks received the ball, a switch was flipped and Oostende would pressure.
The biggest defensive weakness for Oostende was only having Capon and D’Haese on the flanks and then defending fairly narrowly. Genk’s most dangerous area of the pitch is the wing, but Blessin allowed Genk to play their game out wide.
The first goal, Genk’s opener, was both started and finished by Heynen in the 20th minute. Heynen intercepted a long pass from Oostende’s defense at midfield. Heynen quickly spots Preciado in space on the right wing and plays him in. D’Haese, who had been narrow and left space for Preciado in the first place, moved wide to close down Preciado. This then vacated space between Oostende’s midfield and defense, as well as between the center back and left wingback, because nobody filled in to cover D’Haese’s former position in midfield. Trésor recognizes this space and runs behind the defense as Preciado passes to him at the edge of the box. Trésor then crosses to Heynen—who continued his run after passing to Preciado—who does well with his header.
Heynen’s goal has examples of both Oostende’s defensive risks and Genk’s defensive setup. First, Heynen intercepts a long pass from the defensive line aimed at Kvasina—a key component of Genk’s defensive game plan. Preciado also has lots of space on the wing because D’Haese was sitting narrow—a key component of Oostende’s defensive game plan.
The second goal, Bongonda’s strike in the 30th minute, was very well-worked, but partially because of a defensive error by Oostende. Preciado clears the ball from near his own corner flag up to near the halfway line. The ball was right on the touchline, and Medley and Hendry—two of Oostende’s center backs—were trying to out-muscle Dessers to shepherd it out. The ball doesn’t go out and Dessers turns to run onto the ball with acres of space in front of him, since two of the three center backs are now behind him. Capon and Jäkel are the only players back for Oostende, and Ito and Bongonda make good runs into the box. Dessers threaded a pass perfectly between Capon and Jäkel to Bongonda, who had an easy finish in front of Hubert.
For this goal, the biggest issue is Hendry being up with Medley. Both center backs don’t need to be in Genk’s half—and on the touchline at that. Doing so opens up the entire pitch to Genk. If Hendry had stayed in position, Dessers would have had a much harder time getting a pass off to Ito or Bongonda, and would have needed to pass back or slow the play down. Further, Capon and Jäkel tried to close off the angle to both Ito and Bongonda, but didn’t follow Bongonda’s run well enough.
Oostende’s first goal in the 32nd minute, a Kvasina hit just after Bongonda’s goal, was a good team goal, starting from Hendry at the back and requiring a couple loose ball recoveries. First, Hendry sees the space in front of him and makes a run into midfield before passing it to Gueye. Gueye takes a heavy touch but does well to get a pass off to Rocha Santos before the Genk player’s challenge. Rocha Santos also takes a heavy touch, but can get to the ball before Genk and play a pass wide to Capon. Capon crosses to Kvasina after another heavy touch, who does very well to score by sticking out a foot.
The biggest issue in this goal is Arteaga leaving Capon wide open on the wing in the attacking third. Arteaga is helping double-team Kvasina while Gueye and Rocha Santos have the ball, which leaves lots of the pitch open for Capon. Arteaga does very well to get out quickly and close down Capon, but it’s too late as Capon is already in the box.
Shortly after halftime, Gueye scores a header from a corner in the 49th minute. Genk were zonally defending the area like they did in their previous match against Standard de Liège, which also led to a goal. The corner comes in as Kvasina makes a run from the near post on the touchline, flicking the header on to the center of the six-yard box. Gueye stayed in that spot the entire time, but no Genk player even challenged for the ball, leaving Gueye with an open header right in the center of the goal.
Again, zonal marking on a corner leads to Genk conceding a goal. Kvasina running towards the corner flag from the near post is difficult to defend, but Gueye was in the middle of the box. Preciado is the defender covering the middle of the box, but he can’t compete in size or strength with Gueye. Preciado also reacts too slowly to the flick on to make an attempt at the ball, and Trésor at the far post isn’t able to jump quickly enough. Had Genk been marking each player individually, Gueye would have had a harder time getting on the end of Kvasina’s flick on, and may have been muscled out of his initial position in the first place.
Bongonda’s second goal in the 60th minute came from well-placed corner from Mike Trésor. Genk players moved around a lot to confuse Oostende’s markers, but Bongonda stays put. D’Arpino looks to be marking Bongonda, but is in front of him and too far away to challenge. Genk’s tactic worked here, rushing several players from deep to the six-yard box and forcing Oostende to scramble. D’Arpino could have been closer to Bongonda, but I think Oostende did well defending the corner overall.
Oostende answered Genk’s goal right away again through Thierry Ambrose’s first touch on his debut in the 62nd minute. Rocha Santos takes the corner, and it hits its mark—Ambrose at the back post. While Genk were zonal marking once again, there wasn’t much of a problem with that system in this corner. The main issue in this corner was Arteaga being beaten so easily. Ambrose is able to push him out of the way extremely easily, giving himself an almost open header.
Finally, Jäkel’s 79th minute strike gave Oostende all three points—and once again, the goal came from a corner. Genk did well to get the ball away initially this time, but it’s only cleared as far as Rocha Santos at the top of the box. He takes a shot as Genk clear the box but mis-kicks it. Luckily, the shot goes straight to Jäkel, who heads it in as he’s jogging out of the box.
While Genk defended the initial corner much better than before, they only had one player outside the six-yard box. Ito was standing at the edge of the box defending Boonen and Ndicka, but Rocha Santos was wide open. Hrošovský was on the edge of the six-yard box, but should have been closer to the middle of the box to be able to rush out quicker, as his presence wasn’t needed in the six-yard box. Tt’s difficult to judge the flight after Rocha Santos’ shot, so the few Genk defenders near Jäkel probably aren’t at much fault for the goal.
Genk will leave this match disappointed as they played well, created lots of chances, but still came away with zero points. However, Genk conceded two goals directly from corners, and a third after half-clearing one. Add this to the one corner they conceded last match against Standard de Liège and John van den Brom’s team have conceded four corner goals in two matches—a dismal number. Mike Trésor came out as a shining light in this match with dribbling, movement, and passes that Oostende couldn’t defend.
Oostende should be happy with their victory as Genk were arguably the better side, but Alexander Blessin has work to do to shore up their defense. Overall, his 3-4-1-2 and 3-3-2-2 defensive shapes are relatively strong, but the 3-3-2-2 was too narrow to deal with Genk’s quality out wide. However, Blessin has obviously done a good job with his squad on the training ground as Oostende’s high tempo in attack and defense was structured, rather than appearing frantic. But Blessin will have lots of further defensive work on the training ground after conceding six goals in their first two matches this season.
Overall, Genk’s zonal marking on corners is ineffective and van den Brom should seriously consider focusing on that aspect of his team’s play. Genk create lots of chances and are effective in front of goal—especially Bongonda—but their corner defending this season has led to 4 dropped points across just two matches. Oostende look to be a cohesive squad through Blessin’s coaching, but they will need to fix a few issues in their defensive shape if they want to finish in the top 5 again this season.
The Luminus Area, Genk’s home stadium where the match was played.