Where are all the PSL strikers?

2014-05-10 00:00

BOTH the PSL and the English Premier League conclude this weekend, and while the title in South Africa was wrapped up by Mamelodi Sundowns midweek, there is still the slightest chance that Liverpool could upset the odds and edge out Manchester City in what would be one of the most remarkable stories of the modern English game.

It is unlikely, though, and for Liverpool to stand any chance City must lose at home to West Ham United tomorrow afternoon. There is about as much chance of that happening as there was of the DA winning Gauteng, but that shouldn’t detract from what has been a ground-breaking season for Steven Gerrard’s Reds.

“SAS” – as Suarez and Sturridge have been affectionately referred to in Merseyside this season — have provided a partnership as good as any the league has ever seen, rivalling the telepathic pairings of Yorke/Cole and Henry/Bergkamp.

The statistics are scary. Liverpool have scored an astounding 99 league goals this season — one fewer than City. Of those, Suarez has knocked in 31 of his own while Sturridge, who was victim of a lengthy injury lay-off, has scored 21. City’s top scorer, incredibly, comes in the form of Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure (20), who has had another stellar season.

A look at the PSL’s chart of top goal scorers, on the other hand, is frightening if you are a Bafana Bafana fan. It’s hard to think that after an entire season only one player has reached double figures, but that is unfortunately the case. One player! It is appropriate then that such an “honour” belongs to Bafana’s first-choice striker, Bernard Parker. The Chiefs frontman leads the charts this season with a staggering 10 goals that put him in a league of his own.

Perhaps even scarier is that Parker’s nearest rival is relegated Arrows captain and perennial penalty specialist Thanduyise Khuboni with eight goals. Arrows have hardly scored a goal all season, yet their holding midfielder is the second highest scorer in the league. To be fair, there are five other players also on eight goals, but the point remains: South Africa continues to demonstrate an inability to score goals.

We see it week in and week out in the PSL. It doesn’t help that our coaches — particularly our foreign mentors — often come with an approach that prioritises defensive structure above attacking flair. Two holding midfielders are common, and most of the smaller clubs look to score their goals late in the game and on the counter-attack. The PSL is a very competitive league in the sense that few points separate the top clubs from the bottom, and every point becomes gold. For this reason, managers are cautious and sometimes not losing is more important to them than winning. Still, teams have their opportunities to score, and if us journalists were rewarded financially every time we heard “we just didn’t take our chances” or “we lacked that final touch” or “we need to be more clinical in front of goal”, well then we wouldn’t be journalists any more.

A total of 1 024 goals have been scored in 370 Premier League matches this season — an average of 2,7 goals per game, while 505 goals have been scored in 232 PSL fixtures at an average of 2,1 goals per game. The difference in that average is actually down from what it used to be, which should be good news for South Africa. But the fact that we still don’t have a striker who scores regularly should be of major concern as Bafana plot their road towards qualifying for the African Cup of Nations in Morocco next year.

If all it takes to win the golden boot in a professional football league is 10 goals, then the quality of that league really has to come under question.

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