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Legenda - The career of Luka Elsner

Started on 2 April 2020 by grismosw7
Latest Reply on 13 August 2020 by Justice
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About me: For years I have often thought of positing about my FM career(s). I typically will play one or two careers through a FM release, each of those careers is almost exclusively devoted to taking control of a new real life manager and seeing how his career plays out. In recent years - Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Gennaro Gattuso have been some of my longer terms saves. I've enjoyed them immensely and at times wish the new release was not coming! For this save I opted to start with Luka Elsner, starting his career at Royale Union Saint-Gilloise of Belgium.

Legenda is a story of the former Slovenian defender Luka Elsner. Elsner began is football career in the youth setup of OGC Nice in France. He made his professional debut for US Cagnes at 18 years old in France but he played sparingly.

In 2004, Elsner moved to Slovenian side Domžale appearing in 181 matches. He left Domžale in 2010 to join Austria Kärnten and later joined Arabian club Al-Muharraq before returning to Domžale. Before retiring he played in a club record of 227 matches for Domžale.

In 2013 he made his management debut, leading Domžale for 3 seasons before joining fellow Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubljana early in the 2016-2017 season. He was sacked by Olimpija Ljubljana in March of 2017 despite being 2nd in the table. He moved to Cypriot club Pafos for the 2017-2018 season where he was sacked in January of 2018 while the team sat 10th in the table.

In May 23, 2018 Belgian First Division B (Proximus League) side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Union SG) signed Elsner to a 1-year contract through June of 2019 to manage the club. Expectations at the club are relatively low:
- Proximus League = Avoid Relegation
- Belgian Cup = Reach 7th Round (Union SG join the 4th round)
My first two posts will recap Elsner's first two seasons at Union SG.

2018/2019 Season Recap

The 2018-2019 season will go down in the Royale Union Saint-Gilloise record books as one of close calls. With the team largely expected to be in a relegation battle Luka Elsner had them on the brink of promotion throughout the season.

Proximus League (Belgium Division 1B)

With the league broken into two phases, the winner of each phase playing in a playoff match for promotion there is not much room for error. Each team (8 of them) plays each other twice in each phase, a total of 14 matches per phase.

First Phase

We started the First Phase as good as we could have hoped. It was not until the 12th match that we saw defeat. Losing 1-0 at home to Roeselare. Unfortunately we had SIX draws which left too many points on the table. The loss to Roeselare put us in 2nd place on the table for the first time since the early matches. But we could not recover and surrender the chance to clinch promotion playoff football.



Lots of clean sheets but way too many draws!



We lost the first phase by 1 damn point!



We lost first place late to Roeselare, we deserved more!

Second Phase

The second almost started the opposite of the first phase with us losing three of our first four matches, grabbing just 1 point out of 12 possible and sitting bottom of the table. We eventually rebounded with five straight wins, shooting us up to the top of the table. However, terrible losses to Lommel SK (1-2, away) and Westerlo (0-1, home) all but sealed our fate. We did have a showdown set with Roeselare but they beat us again 0-1, away.

We end the Second Phase in 2nd place again, this time two points behind top of the table KV Mechelen.



A dreadful start...



So close once again...

Overall

Over both phases we had stretches of outstanding football but some a terrible stretch in late November through early December all but eliminated us from a chance at the promotion playoff.

Roeselare went on to beat KV Mechelen to win the Champions Playoff, 3-2 on aggregate.

We ended up with the 2nd most points, finishing just 1 point behind Roeselare. That was however good enough to qualify us for the Jupiler Pro League European Places Playoff.

Youssoufou Niakate led the team with 9 goals in the league. (4 in 1 match)
Max Besuschkow led the team with 7 assists, tied for tops in the league.
Faiz Selemani had the highest average rating with 7.19, tied for tops in the league.
Andreas Kristiansen led the league with 13 clean sheets.
Luka Elsner was runner-up for Manager of the Year (how fitting).



Croky Cup

We played really well in the Croky Cup against the lesser sides Heur-Tongeren and KRC Harelbeke. But we were not done yet! In the Sixth Round we beat KV Kortrijk (Jupiler Pro) and in the Seventh Round we beat Lokeren. Our run finally came to an end against eventual champions Standard, losing 1-2 at home in a match where we outplayed them for large portions.

Julien Vercauteren was a key to our success with 4 goals and an average rating of 8.15



A surprising run, even winning during our worse stretch of play in December.



Standard was able to steal the win from us.

Juplier Pro League European Places Playoff Group Stage

We entered play with little aspirations since only the top team qualifies for the playoffs and we would have to beat out three Jupiler Pro League teams. Our hopes faded even faster with 2 losses and a draw in our first three matches. We recovered nicely winning our next 3 before a decisive loss against Zulte Waregem, 0-3 away. Somehow we managed to lose to KV Mechelen after outscoring them 16-2 in our previous 5 matches. We entered the final match with an outside chance but managed an exciting 4-4 draw against Charleroi away.

Lokeren would go on to win our group. They would go on to beat Antwerp in the semi-final before losing to Anderlecht 2-0 in the final.



That opening loss to Cercle Brugge is tough to swallow.



A good showing for the boys but disappointment once again.

Overall the board is very please with Luka Elsner's first year at the helm, but with the club in financial distress they have yet to offer Elsner a contract extension as we head into the offseason. Rumors are swirling that Elsner could be leaving after just 1 season
2019/2020 Season Recap

Staying at Union SG
After months of speculation and rumors the board finally decided to offer Elsner a contract extension just one week before the start of training camp. Elsner has a agreed to a 2-year extension that will keep him at the club through the 2020/2021 season.
In recent weeks Elsner was linked to Bologna (Italy) and Angers SC (France). He rejected Bologna's offer and Angers SC went in a different direction.

Financial Awareness
One thing that caught Elsner off guard and possibly cost him the job at Angers SCO (which he preferred), was the lack of financial control at Union SG. Even though the team's payroll was well within the budget set by the board it was not enough as the club reported a loss of €1,5M last season.
The board has given direction to cut payroll by €30,000 per month for the upcoming season.

Players Leaving the Club

Winger Faiz Selemani is sold to Angers SCO for €725K, with clauses that could reach an additional €175K. Selemani appeared in 30 matches, scoring 9 goals and recording 3 assists. It is tough to sell him with Percy Tau also returning to Brighton. However, at this point we need to be financially responsible and sold him.

Defender Thibaut Peyre is sold to Sunderland for €375K. Peyre missed almost the entire 2018/2019 season with a damaged knee. He appeared in only 2 matches last season.

Winger Nils Bouekou left on a free transfer to join Patro Eisden. We also sent goalie Enzo D'Alberto to Seraing FC on loan and defender Anas Hamzaoui to MA Tetouan on loan for the season.

In total we brought in €1.1M, with options to total closer to €1.3M.

Players Joining the Club

Midfielder Nermin Zolotic comes to the club on a free transfer from Roeselare. Zolotic adds some much needed depth through the middle of our team with the ability to play CB, DM, and CM.

Striker Viktor Gyokeres joins the club on loan from our affiliate Brighton with €0 contribution to his salary. He should fill in nicely fro the departed Tau. While his natural position is Striker he will start primarily as AML.

Midfielder Mathias Normann also joins the club on loan from Brighton for a minimal €2.1K per month fee. He will fit in beautifully in our Deep Lying Playmaker role. He spent the 2018/2019 season at Coventry, playing in 16 matches.

In total we spent €0 and improved our team quite a bit, replacing Percy Tau and adding depth to the middile of our formation.

Squad Overview

Overall coming into this season I think this squad has a good chance to get over the hump that we were not able to last season. We did lose some key players in Percy Tau and Faiz Salemani but we may have upgraded with Gyokeres and moving Salemani out makes room for Serge Tabekou to get more playing time. Tabekou's would likely have been sent out on loan but now has a chance to establish himself in the AMR position.

Defensively we are still really solid but lacking in height and aerial presence. Surprisingly teams did not really take advantage of us in that area last season. All things considered we should be just as good defensively, if not better than we were last season.

In the midfield we upgraded significantly by adding Normann and Zolotic, but give us much needed depth and will improve our passing ability tremendously. Also, with Normann primary playing in the Deep Lying Playmaker (MCL) role it allows us to move Max Besuschkow up into the Advanced Playmaker (AMC) role where he played some of his best games last season.

Domestic League - Proximus

Just prior to the start of the league GK Anders Kristiansen was the transfer target of RC Strasbourg (Ligue 1). Kristiansen had been a vital part of our success during the 18/19 season and we could not afford to lose him just days before league play began with no solid second choice. Ultimately after several rounds of negotiation we were able to get them to agree to a loan back, they paid us €150K and agreed to pay his entire salary.

First Phase

Once we got that past us we thoroughly dominated the First Phase, only allowing 7 goals in 14 matches. However, we still did not secure a spot in the promotion playoff until the final match of the phase. Fortunately we thumped Thes Sport, 4-1 behind a brace from Youssoufou Niakate.





Second Phase

The Second Phase was a different story though. We were miserable. We were riddled with injuries throughout the phase and never put our full first team squad on the pitch. Most notably were the four major injuries we experienced; with Matthias Fixelles missing 4 months with a groin strain, Viktor Gyokeres missing 3 months with a hip injury, Urtzi Iriondo missing 4 weeks with a thigh strain and Pietro Perdichizzi missing 5 weeks with sprained knee ligaments followed by another 4 weeks with a sprained ankle. Kristiansen even missed a couple weeks as well with various injuries.

Our defense was our strength in the First Phase but our weakness in our Second Phase. We allowed 18 goals, scoring just 15 (vs. 27 in the First Phase).




Thanks to our fast start we still had a chance to earn promotion, facing OHL in the playoffs. We were in control of the first match (away) until allowing the equalizer in the 87th minute. And finally in injury time we managed to allow two more goals sending us home trailing 3-1. A goal by Serge Tabekou in the 28th minute gave us a chance but we allowed a fatal goal just before the half in the 42nd minute all but sealing our fate. They would add another goal in the 48th minute. We controlled the game but just could not finish under the pressure, finishing with a 20-10 shot advantage and 62%-38% possession advantage.



Overall we played some really good football early in the season only to fail to achieve our goal of promotion but we made progress ultimately. A nice building block for next season.

Niakate was 2nd in the league with 12 goals.
Gyokeres was 2nd in the league with 9 assists.



Domestic Cup - Croky Cup

Last year we had a nice run in the Croky Cup and the board expected more of the same. Expecting us to reach the Quarter Final, which seemed achievable given some favorable draws. However, we drew Standard in the Sixth Round after defeating RC Hades and Olsa Brakel earlier. We gave Standard all they could handle before losing 2-1 behind a brace from Duje Cop. Standard would go to the Finals again ultimately losing in penalties to Club Brugge.



European Places Playoffs

Once again we were respectable against our Juplier Pro League foes in the Group Stage but just not good enough to reach the semifinals. We played really well early after starting to get some of our horses back from injury but back to back losses to Oostende and KV Kortrijk sealed our fate. We finished 3rd in Group B.





Flirting with German Football

In early May, Dynamo Dresden had expressed major interest in hiring Luka Elsner to be their next manager. However, Elsner was not satisfied with Dynamo Dresden's unwillingness to offer more than a 1-year contract.

Heading into the 2020/2021 Season

Elsner's boys must find a way to replace several key loans - Anders Kristiansen (9 clean sheets), Viktor Gyokeres (4 goals, 9 assists), Mathias Normann (4 goals, 89% passing), and Max Besuschkow (3 goals, 1 assist). All three played a significant role in the first half of the season's success. Ultimately, I would like to depend less on loans going into the future but our budget needs to accomodate adding some talent.


2020/2021 Preseason Report

Heading into the offseason it was clear that Luka’s name was no longer the hot commodity it was after his first season. He began to question, should he have accepted the offers from Bologna or Dynamo Dresden. Striking while the iron was hot...but he had no time to look in the mirror. It's time to move forward.

The insecure finances at Union SG have begun to take a toll – especially after entering the transfer window with the board announcing €18,000 would be allocated to bringing in new talent. Even better yet, the board has assigned Luka to cut payroll by another €40,000 (down €70,000 in two years).

Luka fully knows you cannot build long term success with this business model. Once again he will have to rely on loans to bring in new blood and plenty is needed.

Transfers/Loans - Out

Steven Pinto-Borges (Free to Kapellen)
The aging Borges (now 34) was unable to break into the side in last season’s campaign after losing his captaincy. He appeared in 13 matches in 18/19 with an average rating of 6,76.

Roman Ferber (€47.5K to TOP Oss)
Ferber was simply first team cover and Niakate took claim to the starting striker position. Over his three seasons at Union SG he appeared in 38 matches while scoring 7 goals and registering 1 assist. He averaged a modest 6,90 rating.

Kevin Kis (€48.5K to Fortuna Sittard)
Kis was the odd man out for Elsner’s squad. He had enough quality to play but was riddled by injuries the last two seasons – missing over 15 weeks due to various injuries. He appeared in 54 matches over his three seasons at Union SG, but only appeared in 24 while Elsner was in charge.

David Castro Galeano (Loan to Hasselt)
The 20 year old midfielder needs first team action. He has the potential to break into the first team at Union SG in the future but he isn’t ready today.

Transfers/Loans - In

Radoslaw Gajewski (€19.5K from Deinze)
Gajewski is just 16 years old but appeared in 14 matches last season for Deinze, who was recently promoted to the Proximus League. Our scouts love his potential. He immediately becomes our top youth prospect.


Keanu Schneider (Free from SV Werder)
Schneider is another exciting prospect for the future and we got him for free! He can play immediately in three positions that we could use some quality some depth – AML, AMC, and MC.


Charles Andreas Brym (Loan from LOSC Lille)
Brym is a bit of a reach for us but he comes at no cost and his speed is something we desperately could use to stretch the defense. However, he isn’t great off the ball or on the ball. I still think he can create something for us in spots.


Bojan Radulovic (Loan from Brighton)
When I heard we had to cut costs I immediately scrambled to find Brighton players that could join the squad. I was hoping to bring back Gyorkes or Norman but Brighton wanted them to play with better competition – fair enough. Radulovic is oozing with talent and sends a wake up call to Niakate. He is not technically great but his mental and physical attributes are outstanding (at least for us!).


Jean-Victor Makengo (Loan from OGC Nice)
We needed someone that could replace Matthias Norman and we found him. He will pair with Marcel Mehlem for what should be the best midfield duo in the Proximus.


Marc Leonard (Loan from Brighton)
Leonard brings quality vision, passing, and pace to the attack. He gives us a solid option to Carlos Uhia at AMC.


Jonathan Meier (Loan from FC Bayern)
With Iriondo’s injury putting him out for most of the season we opted to extend Meier’s loan to give us some capable depth. He appeared in 6 matches for us last season with a 6,88 average rating. If he was going to be here permanently we would start to train him as our next ball playing defender…he is a giant for a wing back!


If you are keeping score at home – that is 5 loans in with a total of €0 compensation for them.

Board Expectations





Fair expectations from the board. The Croky Cup will largely depend on not getting a brutal draw like last season. Personally, anything short of promotion will be a disappointment.

Preseason Friendlies

After the 3-0 loss to AJ Auxerre Elsner risked losing the squad with captain Pietro Perdichizzi voicing his unhappiness at the club. Elsner quickly called a team meeting and the team just as quickly turned on him. Somehow the boys rallied and ended the preseason with a 1-0 win against RB Leipzig.



2020-2021 Squad


* Iriondo is out for 4 months.
I'm very impressed with the writing and very tidy style. Please keep the updates up because I loved reading this. You've been incredibly unlucky coming so close so often. I really hope you manage to make the breakthrough this forthcoming season. Your business has been very impressive and you've managed the financial situation as well as you possibly can. Brighton have a lot of talented young players and the affiliate link with them has been put to excellent use. Good luck!
Thanks Scott!

I plan to move to a monthly format starting this season. Just working on final pieces of some graphical work before I start playing matches!

Eager to get the boys back on the pitch!


August 2020

These first few months I want to get update to speed on more of our squad so we will dive a little deeper into a position group each month. Up first, the Goalkeeper room…

Goalkeeper Outlook

With Anders Kristensen moving on to RC Strasbourg we have a big whole here and we did not properly address it in the offseason. Interestingly enough, RC Strasbourg who bought him from us for €150K and paid his entire salary while he was on loan with us last year – just sold him to Norwegian side Lillestrom for €83K. Amazing business by RC Strasbourg. Anyway, Kristensen brought us so much quality in goal with 28 clean sheets in 61 matches, allowing 48 goals.

Entering training camp it was Adrien Saussez’s job to lose. And he did just that. Saussez was shaky at best during the last two seasons under Elsner’s watch. He has allowed 20 goals in 12 matches, recording 3 clean sheets. In camp he struggled in both losses, allowing a total of six goals in 2 matches. Granted the competition was stiff. He will still see action in rotation
.
Our first team goalkeeper will be Enzo D’Alberto. The 24 year old struggled last year with Seraing FC allowing 44 goals in 24 matches but did manage a 7.00 match rating. He looked comfortable during the preseason friendlies with two clean sheets.

We may pursue another goalkeeper here in August depending how the first few weeks ago.

Prospects – Loic Bottequin, Samuel Hermans, and Yussuf Ndabihawenimana

Hermans and Ndabihawenimana both have potential to contribute to the squad some day if they develop. However, there is grave concern over both of their determination.

Team News
8 Aug 2020

Union SG draw Beringen in the Croky Cup. Beringen has been drawn as the home team. The match will be played on the 15th of August.

MATCH DAY!

Our opening match of the season we face familiar foe Westerlo. Over the last two seasons we have a 3 W, 3 D, 2 L record against Westerlo. So we should be expecting a relatively competitive match today. They have two really good attacking players in Jens Naessens (9 goals, 3assists last year) and Kurt Abrahams (7 goals, 5 assists last year).



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, L. Geertruida, N. Zolotic, P. Perdichizzi, J. Meier, M. Mehlem, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, C. Uhia, M. Fixelles, Y. Niakate; Bench - A. Saussez, A. Hamzaoui, M. Assoko, A. Gerard, J. Vercauteren, M. Leonard, B. Radulovic

A wet evening lead to some sloppy play early on with both teams struggling for quality chances throughout the match. In the 35th minute Serge Tabekou blasted home the first goal of the season after grabbing the rebound from a save by Koen Van Langendonck off a shot by Matthias Fixelles. We took the lead into halftime but allowed the equalizing goal off a corner from Kurt Abrahams that was headed home by Rommens in the 62nd minute. Pietro Perdichizzi should have done more to prevent the goal and Elsner let him know about it as he quickly switched him off for Marius Assoko.

Finally, in the 75th minute we drew a penalty from a corner kick in which Jonathan Meier was shoved by a defender to prevent what might have been an easy goal from the corner. Never the less, Serge Tabekou hammered home his second goal of the night passed the helpless goalkeeper. Westerlo was never able to really threaten again as the boys choked out the rest of the match.

Cercle Brugge Manager Laurent Guyot was spotted in the crowd, it is rumored he was there to watch Nermin Zolotic.

Westerlo Manager Jose Riga was critical of the “extreme physicality” in which our team plays.


MATCH DAY!

Deinze was promoted last season and just lost their first match of the season against STVV, 1-0 earlier this week. They have a couple good attackers in striker Michael Lallemand and winger Ansou Sow. Sow’s pace makes me nervous but we should be able to control the game with our advantage in the midfield. They will be without their best midfielder Erando Karabeci, he is out with a twisted ankle.

We enter the game completely healthy, with the exception of Iriondo. I want to make sure we win this match so we will be going with our primary starting eleven, knowing we have a cup match this weekend.



Starting Eleven: A. Saussez, L. Geertruida, N. Zolotic, P. Perdichizzi, J. Meier, M. Mehlem, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, C. Uhia, M. Fixelles, B. Radulovic; Bench – E. D’Alberto, A. Hamzaoui, M. Assoko, A. Gerard, J. Vercauteren, M. Leonard, Y. Niakate

Unbelievably disappointing in the way we finished the match today. Matthias Fixelles opened the scoring off a fabulous assist from Serge Tabekou in the 18th minute. We dominated throughout; they got their first shot in the 55th minute. Their goalkeeper was outstanding with several amazing saves throughout the night. We also hit the post a number of times. Finally, we were able to score again off a great cross from sub Abdelrafik Gerard that Tabekou headed home in the 75th minute. Somehow we blew it, they scored twice in the final 8 minutes – Youssef Challouk blasted home a fine shot in the 86th minute before Michael Lallemand scored in the 94th minute to secure the late draw from Deinze.

Hopefully this one does not come back to haunt us; we were the better team and deserved more but left it open for them to snatch the draw unfortunately.

Cercle Brugge Manager Laurent Guyot was spotted in the crowd, it is rumored he was there to watch Nermin Zolotic.

MATCH DAY!

We open up the Croky Cup in the Fourth Round against amateur side KVK Beringen. I fully expect a dominating performance this evening even with a heavily rotated side.



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, F. Vega, C. David, P. Perdichizzi, A. Hamzaoui, N. Zolotic, A. Gerard, K. Schneider, M. Leonard, C. Brym, B. Radulovic; Bench – A. Saussez, S. El Banouhi, M. Assoko, J. Makengo, J. Vercauteren, C. Uhia, Y. Niakate

We were expecting thorough domination and we got it. The story of the match has to be Keanu Schneider – he was magnificent in his competitive debut with the club. He scored all four of goals today and created several opportunities for his teammates, which they failed to capitalize on. Schneider opened the scoring in the 9th minute, then again in the 14th minute before scoring on penalty in the 26th to get a hat trick. He finished off the scoring just before the half in the 43rd minute with a great finish from 30 yards out. Absolute fantastic stuff from the kid! Brym, Vega, and Hamzaoui assisted this evening.

Cercle Brugge Manager Laurent Guyot was spotted in the crowd, it is rumored he was there to watch Nermin Zolotic.

Team News
16 Aug 2020

Union SG draw RC Hades in the Croky Cup. RC Hades has been drawn as the home team. The match will be played on the 23th of August. We beat RC Hades last year in the Fourth Round, 2-0.

MATCH DAY!

Beerschot-Wilrijk has been one of the more consistent teams in the league for the past 3 seasons and they have almost always given us a good fight. That said we usually win. This evening though, they are narrow favorites. Our jobs will be a little easier because they are missing two of their better players, German Ferreya (hernia) and Dani Wilms (sports hernia) are both out. We have both players on our shortlist.



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, L. Geertruida, N. Zolotic, M. Assoko, J. Meier, M. Mehlem, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, C. Uhia, M. Fixelles, Y. Niakate; Bench – A. Saussez, A. Hamzaoui, P. Perdichizzi, A. Gerard, K. Schneider, J. Vercauteren, B. Radulovic

We hit them right in the mouth early in the 7th minute with a goal from Youssoufou Niakate off a beautiful early cross from Serge Tabekou. Neither team did much after that, both teams really choking out any quality chances and forcing long shots with Beerschot getting visibily frustrated – leading to 17 fouls on the night.
Tabekou has been on absolute fire – he has 3 goals and 2 assists so far. Unfortunately, he injured his calf during the match but he is not expected to miss our next league match.

Cercle Brugge Manager Laurent Guyot was spotted in the crowd, it is rumored he was there to watch Nermin Zolotic.

MATCH DAY!

RC Hades gave us a decent game last year and we expect some fight this afternoon but we are still going with a heavily rotated squad due to the match congestion at the moment. Tabekou is doubtful with his calf injury, but we were not going to play him anyway.



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, F. Vega, C. David, P. Perdichizzi, A. Hamzaoui, M. Mehlem, A. Gerard, K. Schneider, M. Leonard, C. Brym, B. Radulovic; Bench – A. Saussez, S. El Banouhi, M. Assoko, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, J. Vercauteren, Y. Niakate

Keanu Schneider opens the scoring in the 11th minute, his fifth goal in the Croky Cup! A great assist from Brym created an easy goal. In the 19th minute Hamzaoui found a wide open Radulovic for an easy goal. Vega crossed into the box and Radulovic headed it passed their keeper but it hit the cross bar, fortunately it bounced right back to Radulovic and he slammed it home to make it 3-0 in the 33rd minute. Later in the half Gerard passed a simple pass to Brym and struck a beautiful ball from 30 yards out to beat their keeper! We were up comfortably 4-0 in the 41st minute. Minutes later Perdichizzi made a terrible mistake leading to their first goal of the game. Elsner was visibly upset with his captain. Perdichizzi was subbed off at the half.
RC Hades would add a goal in the 83rd minute. Otherwise the 2nd half was a complete bore for the spectators.

MATCH DAY!

Recently relegated and promotion favorites Mouscron come to town with a chance to take over the top of the table for the winner. It should be a great evening at Parc Duden! We are completely healthy besides Iriondo. They on the other hand are missing a lot – four injuries and one suspension. They are still slight favorites.



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, L. Geertruida, N. Zolotic, M. Assoko, J. Meier, M. Mehlem, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, C. Uhia, M. Fixelles, Y. Niakate; Bench – A. Saussez, A. Hamzaoui, P. Perdichizzi, A. Gerard, K. Schneider, J. Vercauteren, B. Radulovic

We came out of the gates flying with a goal from Makengo, his first with the squad, in the 3rd minute! It was a great team effort but Tabekou gets credit for the assist with a simple pass leading to a wide open goal. Mouscron answered with a penalty in the 23rd minute, Zolotic committed the foul but it was a weak foul at that. We came right back with a goal in the 30th minute, another goal from Tabekou! Niakate made the goal by drawing two defenders with his run, leaving a wide open lane to goal! In the 55th minute Tabekou forced a turnover pressing the defense and converted on another goal! They scored again in the 65th minute to put us in for an exciting final 25 minutes. We were able to sneak away with a much needed three points, well deserved – we sit at top of the table!

Cercle Brugge Manager Laurent Guyot was spotted in the crowd, it is rumored he was there to watch Nermin Zolotic.

MATCH DAY!

KV Mechelen have been a consistent punching bag for Elsner’s boys for most of his tenure. They come into the match surprisingly as heavy favorites. They are completely healthy. This should be a great match this afternoon!



Starting Eleven: E. D’Alberto, L. Geertruida, N. Zolotic, M. Assoko, J. Meier, M. Mehlem, J. Makengo, S. Tabekou, A. Gerard, M. Fixelles, Y. Niakate; Bench – A. Saussez, A. Hamzaoui, P. Perdichizzi, C. Uhia, K. Schneider, J. Vercauteren, B. Radulovic

Once again Serge Tabekou opens the game with the first goal, this time converting a penalty in the 26th minute. Julien Vercauteren scored his first goal of the season (70’) after coming off the bench (63’). With a 2-0 lead heading into the last two minutes all we had to do was tighten up, but Mehlem had other ideas and decided to get a red card in the 74th minute. He has been known around the league for his aggressive play and today was no different! We hold out and win 2-0! We now have a 5-point lead at the top of the table, our biggest lead in over 2 years!

Team News
31 Aug 2020

Union SG draw Eupen in the Croky Cup – Sixth Round. Union SG has been drawn as the home team. The match will be played on the 23th of September. We beat Eupen twice last year in the Jupiler Pro League European Playoffs.

Transfer News

Usually we are pretty inactive this time of year since the league has started and we usually have a rotation pretty established. That all changed when Union Berlin came in with an offer for Marcel Mehlem, at this point we were planning on losing Zolotic due to all the interest from Cercle Brugge but they never offered. Mehlem has been a main stay in our midfield but he is also our highest earner – in a business decision we decided to let him go. We sold him for €205K with another €70K of add-ons. Additionally, we unload almost €20K per month salary. The move puts us well under budget and in a good position to finish the year with a profit for the first time in 3 years.

To replace him we looked into a couple loan options but decided that Zolotic would take his place in the midfield and we would slide Geertruida over to center back allowing for Vega to get back into the first team.
Elsner is still very concerned about the lack of quality at goalkeeper, so he decided to make an improvement there as well. Adding Sebastien Cibois on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Unfortunately our scouts seemed to have missed the target and upon arrival he does not appear to be much better than what we already have.
His arrival allowed us to send Loic Bottequin out on loan to Hasselt but somehow the deal fell through at the last minute. Now we have an extremely crowded room!


Proximus League Table



Player of the Month

Serge Tabekou is on fire to start the season with 6 goals and 2 assists in 5 league matches! Last season he had 3 goals and 4 assists in 25 appearances.
Great effort with this update and a very good start!
2020-04-07 00:23#268308 ScottT : Great effort with this update and a very good start!

I cannot help but imagine how much better I would feel with a 7 point lead...hoping that game against Deinze does not bite us!
grismosw7's avatar Group grismosw7
6 monthsEdited


September 2020

I am going to experiment with different format to figure out which style I like best.

This month we will take a deeper look at our defensive side. There has been such a drastic evolution with players developing and declining, this season is really a big change to the last two seasons.

Defenders

Right Backs

We will start with the right backs, Federico Vega has been our main option at right back for the last two seasons – appearing in 69 matches with an average rating of 6.98; we added Lutsharel Geertruida last season with a big price tag - €325K transfer fee. Then we barely played him, he played in 6 matches and only averaged a match rating of 6.76 last year. He is oozing of ability and potential. Finally, Soufiane El Banouhi is a nice 3rd option here. We loaned him out for the 2018/2019 season and he developed nicely but Vega’s great play last year kept him on the bench as well. He has only appeared in 18 matches for Union SG in over 3 seasons.

Center Backs

Elsner’s first signing with the club was bringing in Marius Assoko from Guinea side Horoya AC for just €25.5K. Up until this year he has struggled to make any impact, largely impart due to other options performing quite well but he also had struggled to settle in.

Pietro Perdichizzi is our captain. He has a rocky relationship with his manager and often times Elsner has contemplated removing him from his captain spot. Perdichizzi started a revolt over the summer but Elsner was able to manage this distraction but it’s left Perdichizzi in the dog house. He has appeared in 62 matches the last two seasons and has been a consistent performer in the back. This year, perhaps with the drama he has struggled but the club is really lacking much better in terms of talent.

The only other true center back on the roster is Carlos David. He is 34 years old and his talent is degrading fast. He also recently asked to return home to Spain due to a personal issue.

Left Backs

Urtzi Iriondo has been a mainstay in our starting eleven; appearing in 62 matches over the last 3 seasons. He is currently out with a damaged knee, in total he is expected to miss 6-8 months. Right now we are expecting him to return around January 2021. Iriondo missed time last season as well, this lead us to bringing in Jonathan Meier on loan from FC Bayern – we decided to extend his loan due to the additional injury to Iriondo. Meier is physically very good but not great technically.

Recently, Anas Hamzaoui has come on strong to give us a nice rotation at left back. He offers us more technically and mentally but not quite as physically capable as Meier.

Over the course of the first two seasons for Elsner at Union SG his defense has been extremely strong. We are currently seeing a declining talent here that Elsner has to figure out how to address in the near term.

On to September…

Our first game this much is away against STVV, we should be able to win this one rather easily.



What a wild match – allowing the opening goal in the first minute then equalizing minutes later, followed by allowing another goal in the 19th minute then banging on 4 straight goals in the final 45 to win comfortably! A fun one to watch for the neutrals! Despite the exciting play, Gerard left the match with pulled knee ligaments and will miss at least 3 weeks. STVV 3, Union SG 5



We finally get a decent break between matches, a week later we travel to Tubize. Sebastian Cibois will get his first start in goal.



As exciting as the STVV match was, this one was a bore. We controlled possession and the match. Niakate’s goal in 23rd minute was all we needed. As usually it was chippy content with 28 fouls between the two sides. Tubize 0, Union SG 1



A few days later we face Westerlo, again away. We beat them 2-1 at home. If we are not careful here we could see our first loss of the season. Sticking with the hot hand, Cibois will start in goal once again.



We simply dominated the match in every way – we were more physical, we dominated possession, we spent most of the day in their half – but we could not find the net until the 90th minute on a cross from Meier that was headed beautifully by Radulovic! Westerlo 0, Union SG 1



Next up is Deinze at home, the only team this year to keep us from 3 points with a 2-2 draw earlier. Cibois is between the posts again tonight. Otherwise we are playing a heavily rotated squad, looking forward to our Croky Cup match in a few days.



Three matches, three clean sheets for Cibois. What a run for him. Brym scored his first goal in league play from a great cross by Vega. Uhia missed a penalty just before the half, but Radulovic scored after the break to give us a comfortable win. Makengo picked up his 5th yellow card, he will be suspended our next league match. Union SG 2, Deinze 0



With a comfortable lead in the league table we are focused on advancing as far as we can in the Croky Cup. Our best team is on the pitch today against Eupen (1A).



Cibois finally concedes his first goal of the season in the 78th minute – that’s nearly 350 minutes before allowing a goal – an impressive debut run. By the time he finally allowed a goal we were comfortably ahead after goals from Tabekou (15’) and Fixelles (38’). Union SG 2, Eupen 1



Final match of the month against Beerschot, we beat them last month 1-0 away. We are fighting a bit of fatigue after the Croky Cup match but we do not have another match for 3 weeks so let’s give it a go.



Tabekou draws a penalty in the 11th minute and we have an opportunity to jump on them early but he is denied by their keeper! We really never got anything going as they gave us a tougher fight than we expected. They scored in the 83rd minute to give us our first loss of the season. Union SG 0, Beerschot 1



League Table



We are comfortably ahead with a 10-point advantage and only 4 matches to play in the First Phase. Barring an epic meltdown, we should be able to clinch a Promotion Playoff spot in October. We only have two matches in October – with a 3 week break. We schedule a friendly against Lommel SK.


October 2020

Not the way we want to start the month! Serge Tabekou gets hurt in training and will miss 2-3 weeks. I guess it could be worse, at least we only have a couple matches this month. Schneider and Vercauteren are at least capable replacements for a short-term impact.

Oct 5th - We have the Croky Cup Seventh Round draw and we draw RSC Anderlecht. We will be the home team. The match will be played December 2. If we are able to win we will play the winner of KV Kortrijk & Mouscron in the Quarter Finals. If somehow we can advance I like our odds in the Quarter Finals!

Oct 8th – We simply push aside Lommel SK with an effortless 2-0 win behind goals from Gerard and Niakate.

Oct 18th – Match Day vs. Mouscron (Away)

We come into the match as heavy favorites and a chance to clinch first place for the First Phase. Mouscron is surprisingly struggling to compete at this level, currently sitting 7th in the table!



What a dreadful match to watch – I feel sorry for the 2,351 fans that sat through a rainy afternoon to watch this bore draw. Neither team really ever challenged to score a goal, our best opportunity came in the 20th minute off a free kick that Perdichizzi attempted to head-in but hit the cross bar. Otherwise neither team really threatened to score at all. Meier will be suspended for our next match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season. Mouscron 0, Union SG 0



Oct 19th – Carlos David returns from his time away from the club.

Oct 23rd – Match Day vs. KV Mechelen (Away)

Mechelen are the only team with a chance to take over top of the table. They must win this match to have a chance, anything less and we will win the First Phase. They are slight favorites heading into the match. We have 8 out of 11 matches against them.



Another difficult match to watch. Radulovic had a chance to win it with a one vs one with their keeper but he was denied. It was really the only quality chance either team had. Zolotic was sent off after a nasty challenge in stoppage time. However, for the second year in a row we are able to win the First Phase. Our sights are now on the Croky Cup and the Second Phase, where a win can give us automatic promotion. KV Mechelen 0, Union SG 0



League Table



What a crazy table...I don't think it is so much that we are this good as it is the rest of the league is not very good. Next month we are back to a full slate of matches!


November 2020

This is an important month for us – we must stay healthy and we must start the Final Phase in good form. We cannot afford another terrible start.

Nov 1 – Match Day vs. STVV (Home)

We come into this match heavy favorites, STVV has yet to win in 5 meetings. Once again Cibois is selected as the first team goalkeeper, he has 5 clean sheets in 5 matches in league play. We mix it up to try to spark our attack as well, Radulovic gets the start over Niakate and Vegas starts at right back over Geetruida.



Cibois looks almost unbeatable – he records his sixth clean sheet in six appearances in the league. Today he registered 8 saves and some of them were incredible. We really did not deserve to win this match but Radulovic scores again to give us the lead shortly after the break. Radulovic had two 1v1s with their goalkeeper later in the match but was unable to capitalize. We get away with it today. Union SG 1, STVV 0



Nov 7 – Match Day vs. Tubize (Home)

Once again, we are heavy favorites. Tubize have been dreadful recently, no wins in 5 matches. They currently sit 7th in the table. We have won 5, drawn 3 out of nine matches with them. We decide to go with some decent squad rotation today since this match is meaningless at this point.



I continue to give Niakate a chance up top and he continues to disappoint; I am pretty sure this his 3rd straight match without even a shot. We were sluggish at the start and it took an early goal by Tubize’s Moussa Traore to wake us up, minutes later Keanu Schneider capitalized on a penalty but that was it for the night. We did not deserve a win, but they did not really deserve a draw – just one of those nights. Our focus was to stay healthy into the Final Phase and we have done that.Union SG 1, Tubize 1



Final First Phase League Table



Interesting enough, we lost points to each of the bottom three…

Nov 13 – Team News

We are able to get Nermin Zolotic to sign a contract extension that will keep him at the club through the 22/23 season. Even better he agreed to a relatively cheap deal at €10K per month.

Nov 13 – Team News

Angers SCO have paid us €180K as part of the Faiz Selemani transfer deal from two summers ago. Every little bit counts as we continue to battle insecure finances.

Nov 14 – Match Day vs. Westerlo (Away)

Westerlo comes into the match winning their last five matches, allowing just 1 goal. So this should be a battle for us. During the week leading up the match we have changed Makengo’s role to a Mezzela-Support to try and wake him up. He has been really disappointing so far. Geertruida will miss the match due to a tight thigh he picked up earlier in the week.



Once again we open the match without much energy and Westerlo scores in the 7th minute. The first goal that Cibois has allowed in league play in 7 matches. Once we settled into the match we outplayed them for the remaining 60 minutes or so but failed to find the net once again. Their keeper now has not allowed a goal in 513 minutes. We had a few opportunities with Uhia hitting the cross bar and Radulovic failing to score on a clear chance. Westerlo 1, Union SG 0



Nov 17 – Team News

Matthias Fixelles signs an extension through 22/23 season. The 24-yeard old attacking midfielder has made 115 appearances with the club, scoring 20 goals.

Nov 19 – Team News

Carlos David has announced he will retire at the end of the season. He is in his final year of his contract and we were actively trying to move him but no suitors have come forward.

Nov 22 – Match Day vs. Deinze (Home)

I honestly cannot think of a better side to face right now other than Deinze, we are also at home. We have to get all 3 points today. Tabekou is moving up top to allow Vercauteren to get into the lineup. Schneider will also start at CAM. Hopefully these moves can awaken our attack.



Miss after miss after miss, thankfully our defense really did not allow them any chance to breakthrough. Cibois had a boring day, facing just 1 Deinze shot. However, while our attack woke up in terms of finding opportunities we failed to capitalize until after they were a man short due to a 2nd yellow from their midfield. Sub Abdelfarik Gerard scored the lone goal just five minutes after he was brought on. Union SG 1, Deinze 0



Nov 24 – Team News

Urtzi Iriondo started his journey back to the first team with an appearance for the U21 squad today.

Nov 27 – Match Day vs. Beerschot-Wilrijk (Home)

With our Croky Cup match coming up in just a few days we will look to rotate the squad a bit today. At this point if we can get away with a draw we will take it. Radulovic is out with a groin injury. They have 5 players out with injury. We are surprisingly heavy favorites on this soggy Friday night.



A similar scene – we let up an early goal. This time our only goal of the night came on an own goal minutes later. We deserved more, we controlled the game but our finishing really let us down again. They get a late goal to pull ahead and we are unable to equalize. A tough loss but with the squad rotated its hard not to expect, but we played well enough to at least get a point or three. Unoin SG 1, Beerschot-Wilrijk 2



League Table



For the third straight season we open the Second Phase with mediocre results, can we recover in time?
Well done in the first phase. Hopefully you can improve in the second after a stuttering start.
2020-04-11 14:19#268491 ScottT : Well done in the first phase. Hopefully you can improve in the second after a stuttering start.

our typical jekyl & hyde performance!


December 2020

Dec 1 – Team News

Marc Leonard sustained a sprained ankle in training today, he will miss the next 4-5 weeks. Leonard has appeared in 6 matches this season.

Dec 2 – Match Day | Croky Cup Seventh Round – vs. RSC Anderlecht (Home)

RSC Anderlecht come in as slight favorites, but many in the media are predicting an upset this evening. It’s a rainy evening but the supporters are out in full force – our first sellout in almost 2 years. They have two starters that will not be available – striker Isaac Kiese Thelin (suspended) and defender Dennis Appiah (injury). We are completely healthy; I am hoping for the best. They are playing a heavily rotated squad – taking us lightly, perfect!



A very dreadful match to start, neither team registering a shot until the 25th minute when we started to take control of the match. We open the scoring in the 38th minute on a goal by Serge Tabekou, his first goal since September! The stadium is a mad scene, absolute pandemonium! We got into the break up 1-0 with a distinct advantage in the match – we have 65% possession and have outshot them 8-3. We want to slow this game down in the final 45 minutes. However, they score in the 46th minute. From there it was the Cibois show, he several saves later and we get into Extra Time with one of the premier clubs in Belgium. In the 98th minute, we draw a penalty – Serge Tabekou takes it but misses! Neither team really threatened the rest of the match, before heading to penalties.

Cibois saved their second attempt to give us the advantage but Makengo missed on our 4th attempt. We exchanged goals until their ninth attempt and Cibois comes up with a rather easy save! Fixelles comes up and hammers it home and sends the crowd into a frenzy! We advance to the Quarter Finals!!

Mouscron upset KV Kortrijk in penalties, we will get them at home on the 16th.

Union SG 1p, Anderlecht 1



Dec 6 – Match Day | Proximus League – vs. STVV (Home)

Once again we are heavy favorites, as we should be. STVV enters that match in 5th place. They could jump to 2nd with a win today. We are in 7th place but could jump to 5th with 3 points. Iriondo will make his first start of the season after missing nearly 8 months.



We just cannot get out of the tunnel off to a fast start anymore, once again we allow a goal in the opening 10 minutes. Ederson, the crafty veteran Brazilian midfielder strikes again. Finally we show signs of life around the 35 minute mark. Tabekou has a great run, shot but saved gets the rebound for a clear goal but the defender tackles him from behind and kicks it in his own goal. A few minutes later Fixelles scores his 3rd goal of the season to give us the lead going into the break. For most of the 2nd half we were defending in our half, we are lucky to escape with all 3 points today. Zolotic picked up his fifth yellow card today, he will miss our next league match. Union SG 2, STVV 1

Up next we face Mouscron (away), who is tied for top of the table. We will face them again a few days later in the Croky Cup Quarter Finals.



Dec 7 – Team News

Devastated to report that Urtzi Iriondo re-injured his damaged knee and is out for another 7-8 months. I cannot imagine he will ever come back to be the player he once was for us.

Additionally - in our U21 match today our best young prospect, Daniel Tomaszewski, tore a hamstring and will miss 3 months.

Terrible day.

Dec 12 – Team News

Makengo suffers a twisted knee during training and will miss 6-8 days, likely missing our next three matches!

Dec 13 – Match Day | Proximus League – vs. Mouscron (Away)

Depending how other results go today we have a chance to get back to the top of the table on points. Mouscron is currently sitting 2nd in the table with 9 points behind Beerschot-Wilrijk, also with 9 points. They are heavy favorites today and we are looking to play a rotated squad with eyes on our mid-week matchup in the Croky Cup.



We are playing much more defensive today than usual just trying to go home with a point. Early on we are in good shape but in the 13th minute El Banouhi is called for a very questionable penalty and we concede the first goal of the match. Vercauteren answers in the 19th minute to draw even, off a great assist from Brym. In the 40th minute we finally score on a corner – a beautiful ball in from Vercauteren and Meier heads it home to take the 2-1 lead into half. We scheduled some extra training sessions this week to work on our corner attacking and it paid off! The final 45 saw both teams with numerous opportunities. Only Mouscron was able to convert though, scoring in the 57th minute. Brym left the game with a twisted ankle, he will be out 3-6 weeks. We controlled possession and our attack finally opened up today. Hopefully this is a good sign for the weeks ahead. Mouscron 2, Union SG 2



Dec 16 – Match Day | Croky Cup Quarter Finals – vs. Mouscron (Home)

We are slight favorites today, in our previous 3 matches we have 1 win and 2 draws against Mouscron. However, they have been playing a lot better in recent weeks. A disappointing turn out amongst the supports with only 4,563 showing up today. We were hoping for similar support as we had received earlier but we will make it work. We are putting our best team out there today, even though we have a matchup with top of the table KV Mechelen in a few days. We want to advance in the Cup.



What a match. They open the scoring with a goal from 17-year old wonderkid Eric Hauchecorne in the 6th minute. We draw a penalty and Tabekou converts in the 22nd minute to draw things even. Once again Hauchercorne scores in the 45th minute off a great free kick. Uhia scores two minutes later to send us to the break even at 2-2. They answer right back after the break with a goal in the 48th minute. Over the next 40 minutes we hit the cross bar once and the post three times. Hauchercorne had another goal ruled offside. However, entering injury time we are still down 3-2 before Niakate scores off a great cross from Vega in the 90+4th minute!!! We head to extra time with all the momentum. Extra time did not disappoint with both teams failing to convert on several chances. The game changed though in the 106th minute when Vercauteren had to be taken off due to injury. Then in the 120th minute, Hauchercorne completed his hattrick with the winner! Utter heart break. Union SG 3, Mouscron 4e

Vercauteren will miss 2-3 months with torn knee ligaments.



Dec 19 – Match Day | Proximus League – vs. KV Mechelen (Away)

KV Mechelen come into the match in excellent form, winning 4 of their last 5 matches. They are currently 3rd in the table and can move to 2nd with all 3 points. One of their best players, DM Yacouba Sylla, is suspended for the match. I feel good about our attack for the first time in several weeks, I like our chances today. This is our final match before the winter break.



We really needed to enter the break with a clear win and we were not able to get it done today. KV Mechelen put up a great effort and a solo goal by Gustav Engvall was all they needed. Cibois played magnificently otherwise it would have been much worse. We had plenty of chances of our own but were never able to capitalize. KV Mechelen 1, Union SG 0



League Table



Once again a slow start to the Second Phase, our attack has come back to life but now our defense seems to be exposed. Elsner will be looking to make an upgrade at center back during the transfer window, if possible.

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