Royal Antwerp FC – Match Report vs KV Mechelen (20/02/2022)

Royal Antwerp dropped three huge points at home against KV Mechelen, who are having a fantastic season. Antwerp lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation against Mechelen’s 4-2-3-1. In the 24th minute Hugo Cuypers opened the score for the away side after Faris Haroun played a horrible pass back to his goalkeeper. Around ninety seconds later the ball was in Antwerp’s net again. This time Mechelen’s right back Walsh put in a great cross to Nikola Storm who scored his 15th league goal of the season. After this Antwerp took complete control of the game only conceding a few more shots the entire game, but it was too late. In the 83rd minute Frey headed in a corner for the 1-2 but Antwerp couldn’t find the equalizer.

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, re-watch
  • D – Below average in this match

Jelle Bataille

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Belgian
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 20/05/1999
  • Current Club: Royal Antwerp
  • Career: KV Oostende, Royal Antwerp
  • Position: Right Back
  • Secondary position: Left Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Jelle Bataille played as right back in Antwerp’s 4-3-1-2 and moved forward a lot, basically providing all the width in the final third for his side. With right-sided midfielder Alhassan Yusuf often dropping back Bataille had a lot of extra freedom to move up the pitch. The right-back played a solid game providing a lot of dangerous balls in the box but was (partly) at fault when Mechelen scored the 1-2.

Alhassan Yusuf (red) dropping back whilst Jelle Bataille (blue) is going forward.

Zooming in on Mechelen’s second goal of the game Bataille definitely played a negative role. The 22-year-old was marking his direct opponent, Nikola Storm, who made a very smart dummy run towards the penalty spot. When Sandy Walsh then made his cross, Storm had a lot of freedom at the second post to just tap the ball in. The goal definitely isn’t all Bataille’s fault, since the two centre backs are just standing and watching, but he could’ve done better.

Besides this moment Jelle Bataille played a very good game. The right-back was constantly making overlapping runs on the right and was constantly active. When I watched the 5’9” right-back last season against Genk, I wasn’t really impressed by his crosses but against Mechelen he did so much better. He was always looking for his teammates before putting the ball in and found a teammate more often than not. Bataille isn’t lightning fast but showed that he has good acceleration and decent top speed. His stamina was more impressive as he was able to keep making sprints forward the whole match and managing to track back as well.

Bataille looked very comfortable on the ball. He made quite a few progressive runs with the ball at his feet but started to struggle in smaller spaces, where he would sometimes lose control of the ball a little bit. Where I noted last time that he made a lot of unnecessary errors, he kept the mistakes to a minimum this time.

Rating – A2

Bataille played an impressive match and was one of Antwerp’s most dangerous players. His technique lets him down in smaller spaces though, which could be a problem playing against teams that press very high.

Michel-Ange Balikwisha

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Belgian
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 10/05/2001
  • Current club: Royal Antwerp
  • Career: Standard Liège, Royal Antwerp
  • Position: Left Wing
  • Secondary position: Striker, Attacking Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Michel-Ange Balikwisha started as the second striker in Antwerp’s formation, playing around Michael Frey who stayed more centrally. When Koji Miyoshi was taken off after around an hour, Balikwisha played as the attacking midfielder and this is really showed what he can do. Last year I watched Balikwisha play as a left-winger for Standard. His main problem here was, that he barely had any space and freedom, it almost looked like he was playing in service for their left-back. Especially in the last half hour Balikwisha had a completely free role and was allowed to roam wherever he wanted.

Balikwisha started the game quite slow. He wasn’t very involved and seemed a little bit lost as a striker. He didn’t seem to know where he should position himself. He tried to drop back quite often however, this wasn’t very effective at all and he was only cutting off passing lanes for his teammates.

On the ball the 5’10” tall winger was unstoppable at times. His quick turns and low centre of gravity made him hard to defend. He often tried to take on his opponents on the left side of the field, cutting into his right foot but not being afraid to try and go for a cross with his weaker foot. His end product wasn’t fantastic today though. His crosses with both feet were quite inconsistent often being too low and all of his shots, except for one difficult volley, were blocked by defenders.

Rating – A2

Balikwisha is a tricky player and he is still only 20 years old. His end product definitely needs to improve still but he seemed unstoppable at times against Mechelen.

Alhassan Yusuf

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Nigerian
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 18/07/2000
  • Current club: Royal Antwerp
  • Career: Tiki Taka Academy (Y), IFK Göteborg, Royal Antwerp
  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Secondary position: Centre Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

After 2,5 seasons for IFK Göteborg Alhassan Yusuf joined Royal Antwerp for around 1 million euros, despite rumoured interest from a lot of other clubs. Yusuf normally played as one of the two defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1. Against Mechelen he played as the right central midfielder and had quite a difficult game at times.

Very much like the Yusuf I know from Göteborg the Nigerian worked very hard throughout the game. He kept making runs throughout the match and showed some really impressive stamina covering a lot of ground, which was one of his ‘weaknesses’ when I watched him play in Sweden. The midfielder is very vulnerable in the air standing at 5’9” but did very well in his duels on the ground, winning most of them. He often dropped back a bit deeper to give right back Bataille more space, as wrote earlier and knew when to push forward with or without the ball.

He struggled quite a bit at times though and this was mainly with the ball at his feet. There were just a few too many moments where his first touch wasn’t fantastic or where he overplayed his cards by keeping the ball too long instead of looking for a pass. Yusuf always tries to look for one of his teammates when he is under pressure, looking very comfortable with the ball at his feet, and this is what went wrong a few times too many.

Rating – B1

Alhassan Yusuf played an okay game but had his problems with the ball. I also feel like he would do a lot better in a system with two defensive midfielders like he did for Göteborg.

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