17 matches played, another 17 to go. Beerschot is the only team that Cercle has not yet played against this season, but we still found the moment suitable to take stock of the seaosn with technical director Carlos Aviña, who spoke just before Christmas and the match against Essevee. “We want a winning mentality in all areas.”
A good start, but then came COVID
“It has actually already turned out to be a very interesting season, a season with a lot of ups and downs. For example, there is a clear difference in performance between our first nine matches and the last eight. After nine rounds (the 5-2 win against Gent) we were only one match away from being in the top five, but that run of good form was broken when the match against Mouscron was postponed by COVID-19. We then also had to deal with COVID ourselves. Listen, I don't want to make excuses here, because I am convinced that there is sufficient quality in the current core to do better, but the situation has had a clear impact on the performance of the team.”
“Of course it is frustrating to lose a match. But if we analyze the matches apart from a feeling of frustraion, we also see a lot of positive points: the individual progress of the players, for example. Iké Ugbo: 10 goals in 15 games. Anthony Musaba, involved in 7 goals including scoring four times. Thomas Didillon, for me personally has been the best goalkeeper in the league. Vitinho too, for example, he has been completely revived this season. Yesterday I talked to Vitinho about his progress since I got here. When I first came here, he was disappointed that he didn't often play and now look, now he is one of the most important players in the team and he's played himself into the spotlight. I'm just giving you a few examples, of course they were all good players when they got here, and when you see how they've raised their profile over the course of the first 17 matches, it's great to see.
Cercle are also the only team in the Jupiler Pro League that has not played a draw so far. “If you don't win a match, you have to make sure you don't lose it either. We have already had several conversations with the team and the technical staff about how we should better manage our matches and better capitalize on our chances. That's not easy. With an average age of 23 years, we are one of the youngest teams in the first division. That is also part of the learning process that our young, talented players have to go through. We want to be more consistent and leverage our talent even more. Obviously, individually and collectively things can be improved, but together with the technical staff and coach Paul Clement in particular, we are doing the things that are needed. We have high expectations in all departments. We must strive for a real winning mentality. The strategy is clear: we will continue to invest and expand the team: recently we have a new assistant analyst who has joined, Dylan Vanhaeren. He has surprised in a positive way us with clear, to-the-point reports. Nick Van Ransbeeck joined the performance department as an assistant to conditioning coach Eddie Lattimore. Nick has experience in the Jupiler Pro League and his expertise comes in handy to work out the individual follow-up plans with the players in detail. And soon, at the beginning of January, a full-time scout will start working with the club: Luciano Murchio, someone I personally know very well from my time in Mexico. He is someone with a thorough knowledge of the European and Latin American markets, who can teach us a lot.”