KRC Genk might not be one of the first teams that spring to mind when thinking about European football clubs. However, they boast bringing top players of the game into the forefront such as Thibaut Courtois, Kalidou Koulibaly, Steven Defour, Wilfred Ndidi, Dennis Praet, Kevin De Bruyne, Divock Origi and, Christian Benteke. Last year they won the Belgian Jupiler league and sold their best player Leandro Trossard, who lead and scored 14 goals in 34 matches, to Brighton for £15 million.
Naturally, Genk set up in a 4-3-3 system that presses high against the opponent. If the opponent wants to play from the back to build up momentum, Genk will press further up the pitch into a 4-2-4. If players position themselves correctly they can limit the easy passing options from the back and stop the momentum of build-up from the rear.
Above we can see an example of this. The team have traditionally set up into a 4-3-3 formation and use a diamond in the middle. Note the central defensive midfielder telling the other midfielder to press. Standard Liege (white) are about to try and play from the back and link their wingers.
However, Genk press into the top left corner of the pitch and look to shut down passing lanes. This puts the ball carrier under pressure to find a teammate with what should be an easy pass from the back. That task is now a little harder and the option of playing long direct balls takes preference. This now gives Genk a chance to win the second ball and regain possession whilst being under no direct threat.
Positioning and mid-block
Above Liege have just recovered the ball and now Genk have begun to transition positionally from attack to defence. The ball is about to be passed out wide and Genk are moving backwards employing a low block to reduce space for Liege to play in.
When Genk are put under pressure, though, they organise themselves very quickly. They manage to get numbers back and employ a tight man-marking method against the opposition.
Above we can see this in action. Genk have gotten right back into their defensive third while under a Standard Liege attack. Despite Liege having five players in the attacking third and an extra man in support, they have very little room to manoeuvre because of Genk’s tight man-marking.
As well as tight man-marking, note the centre back who is free taking up an impromptu “libero” or “sweeper” role, situated on the penalty spot. What this achieves, is the prevention of an opposition striker breaking through the defensive line with a quick through ball along with a clean shot at goal.
Dominance in the middle
Just like how a boxer likes to control the middle of the ring to show dominance, Genk like to dominate the middle to prevent free and easy play for the opposition.
Above we see how the centre of the pitch is controlled. Genk have active control of the middle of the field despite not have possession. The ball is about to be passed forward by Liege but remains under constant pressing. This vigorous pressure forces Liege into making miss-passes and takes a team well drilled in position as well as high levels of fitness.
Attacking style of play
When Genk go forward they employ a very high attacking line. Two of the midfield three join the attacking trio which forces the opposition to react by playing extremely tight to plug the holes where the passing lane gaps appear. Furthermore, the wing-backs join in going forward and press high up the pitch and wide.
This second movement now forces the opposition to not get sucked into concentrating purely down the middle of the pitch as Genk now acquire numerical advantage along with tonnes of space to run in behind or to cross into the middle.
Another option this move provides is time to reset and re-build from the back if a forward move begins to break down.
Above we can see how this happens. The opposition are very mindful of anything coming through the middle and have made the area between midfield and the defence very compact. The ball is right back into Genk’s half as they look to rebuild.
They have absolute dominance in the middle of the field with an option out wide on either wing or to pass into the holding midfield seen in the centre of the screen. From beating the first line of the opposition with such ease, Genk have space and attacking options to pull the opposition apart.
Direct style of play
Genk aren’t just restricted to trying to cleverly outfox the opposition. Every so often a direct ball will be attempted forward for the attacking players to make something of. Of course, this naturally increases the chance of the opposition winning the ball.
Above we can see the player in possession has good options to pass out wide or to give the ball short in the middle for quick a pass and move. However, the ball is looped high and slow into the box for the attackers. In this instance, it came to nothing but it shows that Genk won’t play predictively and will try to create an opportunity out of nothing even if there are better options. Removing this predictability makes playing against Genk a little bit harder.
At the time of writing, Genk have so far spent £23 million in the summer transfer market. With the loss of arguably one of their best players in Trossard, they’ve suffered a big blow. They have, however, brought in Theo Bongonda for £6.3 million as Trossard’s direct replacement down the left-wing.
Bongonda has had spells in the Jupiler League as well as at Celta Vigo in La Liga. To date, his career has seen him play 178 games with 31 goals with the same number assists. That’s 350 minutes for a goal and an assist which is not too bad for just £6.3 million. Will he be better than Trossard? Only time will tell.
The star signing, though, and at a bargain price would be Ianis Hagi from FC Viitorul for £7.2 million. The 20-year-old lit up the European under 21’s tournament this summer and scored an absolute peach against England. A very exciting attacking midfielder that has absolute bags of potential.
With being last year’s champions you would think Genk would be fairly strong favourites to retain the title. However, the bookmakers only have them as fourth favourites to be champions for 2019/20 season. Can Felice Mazzu prove them all wrong?
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