Has January taken Gent from potential title candidates to mid-table mediocrity?

Financially, Gent had a fantastic transfer window. They sold a number of players for large fees, with another in Hugo Cuypers set to bring in a double digit fee. However, when they lined up against Sint-Truiden yesterday evening, the effects of this months window were plain for all to see. Their situation wasn’t helped when they lost two players in the first half. The first, the experienced Sven Kums, had to go off with an injury. The second, Archie Brown, was far more self-inflicted. After a battle with the Canaries combative midfielder Joel Chima Fujita, the English defender lashed out and was shown a straight red-card.

However, Kums replacement Pieter Gerkens gave the 10-man Buffaloes a shock lead with a world class goal after 25 minutes. Yet this just seemed to paper over the cracks. By the end of the game, the impressive Sint-Truiden had overwhelmed the 10 men. Two goals a piece for Kahveh Zahiroleslam and the returning Aboubakary Koita gave the home side a convincing win.

For Gent, as head coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck stated, finishing in play-off one could be in danger. This is quite a turnaround for a side that, to start the season, had everything on paper required to launch a title bid. They had strength and depth in every position on the pitch. However, with Gift Orban, Malick Fofana and soon Hugo Cuypers leaving, they suddenly look a little light on goals. In their place they have to turn to Laurent Depoitre and Tarik Tissoudali. Both fine players, but the former is now 35-years-old, while the latter has been injury prone in previous seasons.

Gent have played four games in January, failing to win any. They lost 1-0 in the cup to Club Brugge before a shock 2-1 defeat at home against KV Mechelen. They were poor at home to Westerlo and lucky to escape with a late draw. Their lead over seventh placed Cercle Brugge is at six points, but they are trending in the wrong way. Both sides play each other in a few weeks, and Cercle will certainly be eyeing that game as a chance to make up some ground.

The side could really do with the return of key players like Tsuyoshi Watanabe and Hyun-Seok Hong from the Asia Cup, but even they may not be enough to make up for what was lost. Pressure is now on new signings Frank Surez, Daisuke Yokota and Momodou Sonko to make up for what has left the club.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

More European Football News