Royal Antwerp FC – Match Report vs KVC Westerlo (27/12/2022)

In their last match of 2022 Mark van Bommel’s Royal Antwerp FC had a tough game away against KVC Westerlo. For a long time, it looked like Antwerp were going to go empty-handed. In the first half, Maxim de Cuyper scored directly from a corner and in the 47th minute Nicolas Madsen doubled Westerlo’s lead after a poor clearance from Toby Alderweireld. Royal Antwerp did something back through Michael Frey, but it looked like Westerlo sealed the deal when Fixelles scored a lovely goal. With goals in the 86th and 88th minute from Vincent Janssen and Calvin Stengs Antwerp somehow got away with one point though.

Ratings:

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

Gaston Ávila

  • Nationality: Argentinian
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 30/09/2001
  • Club: Royal Antwerp FC
  • Career: Rosario Central (Y), Boca Juniors, Rosario Central (L), Boca Juniors
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Secondary position: Left Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

It was a big surprise for me to see as I was about to write this, that this match was Gaston Ávila’s first start for Royal Antwerp FC since his transfer from Boca Juniors. The 21-year-old is more of a centre back but started as the left back in Antwerp’s 4-4-2 and put in a great shift. Ávila stands at 1.82m with a pretty athletic build and really impressed me physically. He has a great leap, which allowed him to clear a bunch of long passes and also did very good in his duels on the ground. The ex-Boca Juniors player may not look like the strongest player, but he did great in should to shoulder duels. Ávila has that classic South-American grinta in his game. He worked very hard and put 100% intensity in every single one of his duels, which could be a bit risky since he defended a little naive at times. Antwerp tried to press quite high up the pitch and Ávila did a good job always being close to his opponent but also with some good interceptions. The Argentinian defender looked very fast on the first meters with solid top speed.

Avila also looked like a very solid player on the ball. He was very involved in Antwerp’s attacks down the left and looked really comfortable with the ball at his feet. When Ávila received the ball he would almost always try to progress the ball forward, either with a pass or by driving forward with it. On the half of Westerlo he often looked for short combinations before making good underlapping runs, but he also showed decent passing range. Mainly his long passes down the left were good, whereas his switches to the right flank were quite inconsistent.

Rating – A2

I hope Gaston Ávila can make a lot of months this half of the season as he showed that he is ready. If he does get his spot in the starting XI and keeps developing, I can definitely see him play in the top five leagues in the future.

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Arthur Vermeeren

  • Nationality: Belgian
  • Age: 17
  • Date of birth: 07/02/2005
  • Club: Royal Antwerp FC
  • Career: KV Mechelen (Y), Royal Antwerp FC
  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Right

The 17-year-old Arthur Vermeeren made his debut for Antwerp’s first team in August against Lilleström SK and got a spot in the starting line up for the second time in a row against KVC Westerlo. Vermeeren played as one of the two central midfielders in Antwerp’s 4-4-2. Now Vermeeren was basically a one-man midfield at times as his partner in midfield was Calvin Stengs, who is normally a winger and seemed to have a lot of attacking freedom. The Belgian U18 international stands at 1.76m with a lean build and definitely has some steps to take on the physical front. He seemed to lack some explosivity on the first meters with decent speed over long distances. The youngster lacked some muscle mass but still managed to do quite well in his duels with good positioning and timing of his tackles. He also did very well when Antwerp was pressing up the pitch, cutting off passing lanes and reading the game well.

Vermeeren was a key part of Antwerp’s build-up. At times it was incredible to see how composed and mature Vermeeren looked on the ball for someone so young. He would often receive the ball just before the halfway line and did very well under pressure generally. Technically Vermeeren did very well. Everything he did seemed so simple and he would (almost) always find the right solution. He moved well between the lines, often already thinking two steps ahead with his movement.

There were a few moments where he seemed to slightly lose his focus and one of those moments resulted in the 3-1 for Westerlo. In the 65th minute, Vermeeren was easily dispossessed by Mathias Fixelles, who then scored a great goal. Now as Vermeeren is still so young, these types of moments will happen and he needs to learn from them. A positive to take away from this moment is that it didn’t seem to affect his confidence at all, as he was instantly asking for the ball again and just tried to keep playing his game.

Rating – A2

Arthur Vermeeren looks like a very exciting prospect and shows that he can already keep up with the Jupiler Pro League. He needs to make some steps physically, but looks like a fantastic midfielder.

Arbnor Muja

  • Nationality: Kosovar
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 29/11/1998
  • Club: Royal Antwerp FC
  • Career: KF Trepca 89, Eintracht Braunschweig II, KF Skënderbeu, KF Trepca 89 (L), FC Drita
  • Position: Left Winger
  • Secondary position: Right Winger
  • Preferred foot: Right

The 24-year-old Arbnor Muja played as Antwerp’s left midfielder/winger and later on moved to the right. Muja had a bit of a difficult start at his new club, but after a good match against Standard Liège a week earlier. He kept his place in the starting XI against KVC Westerlo. With his pace and deep runs he was a real nuisance for Westerlo’s defenders and he was very unlucky to only get one assist this match.

Especially a moment in the 40th minute should’ve been a goal every single time. After Muja did well by staying out wide and being completely unmarked, he put in a good one-touch pass to striker Frey who for some reason tried to take a touch, which was then cleared by Westerlo, instead of shooting. Not long after Muja got the assist he deserved. Again he had some space out wide, with left back Gaston Ávila staying in the centre, and passed his direct opponent with a heavy touch. Muja played the ball back with his left foot to Michael Frey, who made up for his mistake and scored. His ability to pass his opponent by cutting inside to his strong right foot, but also by going around the outside to put in a cross with his left foot made him a lot harder to defend. The winger He is a great dribbler and liked to run at his defender from a diagonal angle, making it easier for him to go around either side. Muja didn’t dribble at his opponent that many times though, but picked his moments well. Most times he did well to find a teammate and kept the ball for his side.

Standing at 1.79m with a normal build Muja looked quite strong in his duels, facing one of the more physical right backs in the league Bryan Reynolds, who has developed very well at Westerlo. They didn’t have that many shoulder-to-shoulder duels, but he did well a couple of times shielding the ball from Reynolds. The 24-year-old looked fairly quick on the first meters with good top speed, which was good enough to surprise his opponent at times.

Rating – B1

Arbnor Muja showed that he can definitely keep up with the level of the Jupiler Pro League and I’m curious to see if he keeps his spot for the second half of the season.

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