How the PSL’s big? 3 compare

2014-12-21 21:00

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On paper, Pirates and Downs should be ahead of Chiefs, writes Daniel Mothowagae

Squad depth

Before this weekend’s matches, Mamelodi Sundowns had used 31 players in their Absa Premiership fixtures, Orlando Pirates had used 25 and Kaizer Chiefs only 21.

With more than 10 attacking midfielders on their roster, the Sundowns midfield alone can win just about every piece of silverware on offer.

The most obvious quality in coach Pitso Mosimane’s midfield is that he has the kind of midfielders who are all capable of scoring, with a ratio of three goals a game.

The big names on this list are Teko Modise, Themba Zwane, Bongani Zungu, Anthony Laffor, Elias Pelembe, Khama Billiat and Lindokuhle Mbatha.

Pirates also have 10 midfielders that have been utilised so far this season. Among them are Oupa Manyisa, Daine Klate, Khethokwakhe Masuku, Mpho Makola, Sifiso Myeni, Thabo Rakhale and Tlou Segolela.

In contrast, Chiefs is limited in depth in midfield and coach Stuart Baxter has used a handful of midfielders in the team’s unbeaten run in the first round of the PSL. Not that Amakhosi have depth in this department as their seasoned attacking options are Siphiwe Tshabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, George Lebese, George Maluleka, Mandla Masango, Siyabonga Nkosi and Josta Dladla.

Technical teams

Sundowns boast a larger contingent in their technical team, headed by Mosimane. He is assisted by Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokoena. They also have club legend Mike Ntombela as director of football.

Pirates have always had three coaches – a head coach and two deputies – until the recent departure of Vladimir Vermezovic a fortnight ago. The Bucs have Eric Tinkler and Teboho Moloi at the helm.

In contrast, Chiefs have had Baxter and Doctor Khumalo as his only assistant for the past two-and-half seasons.

Team selection

Chiefs have been consistent with their team selection, which is the obvious reason Amakhosi have opened such a gap between them and their rivals this season.

Their strength lies in their rearguard, which has let in just eight league goals – and kept 10 clean sheets – before this weekend’s round of matches.

That Pirates and Sundowns have used more players than Chiefs in their Premiership campaign so far says a lot about the inconsistencies in their match-day team line-ups.

Goalkeepers

Sundowns’ number one and two are full internationals – Kennedy Mweene (Zambia) and Dennis Onyango (Uganda). Third-choice Wayne Sandilands, a former Bafana goalkeeper, is also a ready-made in goal.

In comparison, Chiefs have groomed their own talent in Itumeleng Khune, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Reyaad Pieterse, who have all gone through the tutelage of highly-qualified goalkeeper trainers.

Pirates were left thin in this department by the demise of their protégé Senzo Meyiwa in October. They now rely on Brighton Mhlongo and Philani Zikalala in terms of experience in goal.

Defence

Sundowns’ rearguard boast seasoned defenders in Alje Schut, Thabo Nthethe, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Bryce Moon, Tebogo Langerman, Punch Masenamela and Siyanda Zwane. Add to the mix Zambian international Hijani Himoonde and Ghana’s Rashid Sumaila, who are waiting for their chance.

Pirates are also spoilt for choice at the back as they have Happy Jele, Rooi Mahamutsa, Siyabonga Sangweni, Lucky Lekgwathi, Thabo Matlaba, Ntsikelelo Nyauza, Patrick Phungwayo and Ayanda Gcaba.

Chiefs have mainly relied on the unchanged ­back four of Tsepo Masilela, Siboniso Gaxa, Mulomowandau Mathoho and Tefu Mashamaite. The quartet had started together in 10 matches before yesterday’s fixture against Black Aces.

Baxter’s only other options at the back are Morgan Gould, Ivan Bukenya, Kgotso Moleko and Simphiwe Mtsweni.

Strike force

Sundowns’ and Pirates’ out-and-out strikers rate among the most prolific in the league so far this season, while Chiefs’ midfielders have been their source of goals.

Before this weekend’s matches, Sundowns’ Cuthbert Malajila was level on five goals with the Pirates duo of Lehlohonolo Majoro and Kermit Erasmus.

Chiefs’ leading scorer was Letsholonyane, also on five strikes, while their striker Bernard Parker had three goals.

In terms of the options upfront, the Brazilians have Malajila, Katlego Mashego, Mame Niang, Bonginkosi Ntuli and Rodney Ramagalela who are all proven goal scorers.

The Buccaneers also have decent strikers in Majoro, Erasmus and Lennox Bacela, as well as underutilised Hélder Pelembe and Thamsanqa Gabuza.

Baxter has Parker, Kingston Nkhatha and Siphelele Mthembu to choose from as injury interrupted Katlego Mphela’s integration into the team. Matthew Rusike has not featured much either.

The special player

Neither of the big three have, in their current compositions, a player who regularly treats fans to displays of his craft and inventiveness.

Chiefs has Tshabalala as their special player, Pirates have Manyisa and Sundowns have Modise, but all these three are no match to the three clubs’ previous generation of special players.

Chiefs have Emmanuel “Scara” Ngobese, who possessed football arrogance and slalom-like dribbles.

Before him, there was Jabu Pule (now Mahlangu) who also derived pleasure in the game with sheer skills that captivated his rapt audiences.

Pirates had Steve “Chippa” Lekoelea, the type of playmaker with flamboyance and arrogance.

Manyisa is more like Benedict “Tso” Vilakazi, who was blessed with football intelligence, but the former’s game seems to have been affected slightly since the departure of Andile Jali in January.

Manyisa and Jali were the Bucs fans’ favourites and they alternated equally in carrying out defensive and offensive duties for the team.

Modise boasts a formidable array of skills and his game is complemented by accurate shooting from dead-ball situations.

Rated by the legendary Jomo Sono, Modise was nearly handed the sacred number 10 jersey during his four-year spell at Pirates. This was according to Bucs chairperson Irvin Khoza when the midfielder joined Sundowns in January 2011.

But Modise’s form often suffers due to the high expectations placed on him as the side’s special player. Before him, Sundowns was blessed with a football genius in Surprise Moriri who was key to Sundowns’ successive PSL championships in 2006 and 2007.

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