PSL midterm report

2014-12-28 19:00

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It has been a thrilling Absa Premiership programme so far. Timothy Molobi gives his take on the first half of the season.

While most people will be enjoying the festive break and the holiday spirit with their families, PSL coaches will be hard at work, evaluating their performances, squads and staff.

Many will make changes in the ­January transfer window. It has been a remarkable, chaotic, incredible, season. Just past the midway point, there have been nine coaching changes, sensational goals, horrendous misses and moments of high drama and sheer comedy. And there’s still a long way to go.

.Kaizer Chiefs

They were the top dogs of the first half as they are yet to suffer a loss and dropped just six points. They have been consistent in front of goal, failing just once ­­­­­­­– against ­Polokwane City – to find the back of the net in 18 matches.

Strength: Home or away, it doesn’t really matter where they play. While many will look at their solid defence as their strong point, they have been playing well as a unit and are not reliant on one or two individuals to score. The men from Naturena have had more than five of their players on the scoresheet so far.

Weakness: Their failure to kill off games has been their undoing on occasion as they sometime let teams off the hook by missing clear-cut chances.

.Mamelodi Sundowns

Pitso Mosimane won the Absa Premiership title with ­Sundowns last season, but this year, he’s had to endure ­injuries to key players. The defending champions were slow out of the blocks, winning just two of their opening five fixtures. But they have found their footing, going 12 games unbeaten and reminding critics that they possess the ­resilience and talent to defend the title.

Strength: The Brazilians are a star-studded side with ­quality players capable of winning silverware. Their open cheque book means they can buy pretty much any player they want.

Weakness: Not knowing which players to choose has been Mosimane’s downfall as he has many talented players at his disposal. The sooner he nails down his best starting XI, the better.

.Bidvest Wits

Last season’s third-placed finishers have been ­inconsistent, dropping points in games they should have won. However, Gavin Hunt’s men are still serious contenders as they have shown resilience and are not far off the pace.

Strength: The 2013-14 Player of the Season, Sibusiso ­Vilakazi, is a match winner who can turn things around in one genius move.

Weakness: They are notoriously poor travellers and have won only two games on the road. They need to start ­collecting points away from home if they are to be ­considered serious contenders.

.Ajax Cape Town

Roger de Sa’s team has been dogged by inconsistency and have conceded too many goals. The Urban Warriors have failed to win any of their last five games.

Strength: They do not spend a lot of money on new recruits, but their faith in youth has paid off. De Sa has been able to bring out the best in his youngsters as they went five games unbeaten at the beginning of the season. The strong start saw them go as high as third on the log.

Weakness: They are porous at the back, having conceded 10 goals in the last five games and desperately need to strengthen their defence in the second half of the season if they are to avoid slipping into mid-table ­mediocrity.

.Orlando Pirates

If there was a trophy for inconsistency in the first half of the season, Pirates would win it hands down. ­Although strong recent displays have been a boost for ­caretaker coach Eric Tinkler and his players, they need to do much more to advance up the table.

Strength: They have many talented players at their ­disposal who can change the complexion of the game with a stroke of genius.

Weaknesses: Defending set-pieces has been their tragic flaw and Tinkler will have to address this department ­urgently. Young goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo was thrown into the deep end after the death of captain Senzo Meyiwa and has been unconvincing thus far, keeping just two clean sheets in eight games.

.Maritzburg United

It is not surprising that Steve Komphela’s side is in the top half of the table as their loan signings have been a revelation.

Strength: They have been able to grind out results, winning away at SuperSport United and Pirates, ­despite their limited resources.

Weakness: Inconsistency, particularly at home, where they have lost three times.

.Mpumalanga Black Aces

Clive Barker started the season well, but is quickly losing his way, with one win in the last seven matches.

Strength: They have assembled a good team, with great individuals, but are yet to realise their potential.

Weakness: The Dog seems to be losing his bark as his side has been inconsistent. His failure to resolve differences with Mbulelo Mabizela and Mabuti Khenyeza means he has had to chop and change his side, costing valuable points.

.Chippa United

The newcomers have done well in their second attempt at life in the top flight, even though the jury is still out on their chances of survival. The arrival of Roger Sikhakhane has stabilsed the team after an indifferent start.

Strength: Bringing back Sikhakhane was a good move as he has helped to bring out the best in his players.

Weakness: Their unstable administration is a cause for concern as they are prone to irrational decision-making.

.Polokwane City

Kosta Papic has answered the doubters in terrific style, turning City into an attacking force after his departure from Chippa United. Now he has to prove he can do it over the long term.

Strength: City are a marvel to watch. They are playing an entertaining brand of soccer. They have a match-winner in the league’s top scorer Puleng Tlolane, who has seven goals to his name.

Weaknesses: Their inexperience tends to show sometimes as they want to play to the gallery. They need to work on their defensive structure as they have conceded a ­whoping 31 goals.

.University of Pretoria

After winning only once in their opening 10 matches, AmaTuks seem to be back on track after the departure of Steve Barker to AmaZulu. Sammy Troughton seems to be on the right path as his side has lost only once since taking over.

Strengths: In the free-scoring Geofrey Massa and Thabo Mnyamane, Tuks have two solid performers.

Weakness: Their home form is poor, with just the single victory. They need to turn the Tuks Stadium into a fortress.

.Bloemfontein Celtic

The change of ownership earlier in the season did not affect them on the field, but the departure of coach Ernst Middendorp was always on the cards.

Strength: Celtic always have their “12th man” - their vociferous supporters - to lift them.

Weakness: They have had trouble up front, averaging under a goal a game.

.SuperSport United

The arrival of Gordon Igesund stabilised the side after going through a lean patch earlier in the season. They already have the Telkom Knockout trophy in the bag.

Strength: Igesund is able to bring out the best in his players as he didn’t change things too much, but instilled self-belief in his players.

Weakness: United do not have a consistent goal-scorer and Igesund is still tinkering with attacking combinations.

.Platinum Stars

It was expected that they would go through hard times after losing key players earlier in the season - Henrico Botes, Lindokuhle Mbatha and Benson Mhlongo. However, they did well to reach the Telkom Knockout final.

Strength: They have a host of hungry young players who are working hard to prove themselves and they boast a strong team ethic.

Weakness: They are no longer the force they were last season and have dropped too many points at home.

.Moroka Swallows

Too many sloppy displays and defensive mistakes and too few goals. This has resulted in the sacking of Zeca Marques.

Strength: The old guard – Siyabonga Nomvethe and Greg Etafia – are as reliable as ever, with the former finding his feet again.

Weakness: Their failure to reinvigorate the squad with new faces has caught up with them.

.Free State Stars

After coming close to relegation last season, a lot was expected from Stars, but nothing much happened during the transfer window and they are paying the price.

Strength: They have done well at home, losing just twice.

Weakness: Their instability in the technical area has let them down as they have already parted ways with two ­coaches this season.

.AmaZulu

They have just a single victory to show for their efforts in the first round of their campaign and find themselves at the bottom of the log. They seem destined for the drop.

Strength: It is difficult to ascertain what their strengths are as they have been shocking so far.

Weaknesses: All over the pitch. Their failure to close the back door and score goals has been a constant thorn in their side. The Durban-based outfit has scored a miserly 12 goals, the lowest in the league.

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