Nine unbeaten and top of the league: Are Anderlecht title contenders or pretenders?

Anderlecht fans have not seen their side lift the title since 2017, the last of their 34 championship wins. Since then, the club have gone from European regulars to hit and miss, with financial issues having stopped the side from being able to compete with the likes of Club Brugge. Poor recruitment and poor financial decisions meant the side have gone through numerous rebuilds over the past few seasons. However, they have begun the 2023/2024 season with just one defeat, and after a 3-1 win over KV Mechelen they sit top of the league.

Not many predicted that this side would be in with a chance of winning the title. There was plenty of change over the summer, with the squad taking a while to really take shape. However, their record so far this season cannot be argued with, even if they have been unconvincing in some matches. Kasper Dolberg was the big signing of the summer, and the striker appears to be slowly returning to his Ajax form. The 26-year-old Dane has five goals in nine matches so far.

At the back, the side have plenty of experience in Jan Vertonghen, Kasper Schmeichel and Ludwig Augustinsson. They are complementing the likes of Zeno Debast and Killian Sardella. So far this back four has conceded 10 goals in 10 games, which is a similar number to the other title hopefuls in Gent, Genk and Club Brugge. Furthermore, they have drawn with both Genk and Club Brugge this season, as well as picking up a win over defending champions Antwerp. Their only defeat came on the opening day against city rivals Union St Gilloise.

Yet despite their good form, many are still not convinced that this Anderlecht side has what it takes to challenge, let alone win, the title. One glaring issue is at the back. The partnership of Debast and Vertonghen is one of the better combinations in the league, but the problem lies beyond these two. An injury to either leaves the side desperately short of central defenders. 22-year-old Louis Patris would be the only other player with any experience in the Pro League at centre-back, but his time at OHL in that position was spent in a back three, not a back four.

Anderlecht fans could state that, while they have been getting results, there is still room for growth within the squad. Thomas Delaney is out injured, and everyone has seen his quality when playing in the Bundesliga. Another Bundesliga star who has joined the side is Thorgan Hazard, who is still searching for form since joining on deadline day. If Hazard can hit the levels he has previously, it could turn the side from would be pretenders to genuine contenders.

Either way, Anderlecht fans will certainly just be happy that the side is competing at the ‘right’ end of the table after missing out on both play-offs and European football last season. If Brian Riemer can steer them to a top four finish it should be considered a good season. Whether they have enough to add title number 35 remains to be seen.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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