Absa Premiership

How Josef Zinnbauer is reawakening a sleeping giant at Orlando Pirates

Orlando Pirates new head coach Josef Zinnbauer greets fans and take selfies during the Absa Premiership match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu FC at Orlando Stadium on January 25, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Orlando Pirates new head coach Josef Zinnbauer greets fans and take selfies during the Absa Premiership match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu FC at Orlando Stadium on January 25, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Lefty Shivambu

Cape Town - The appointment of Josef Zinnbauer is proving to be a master-stroke by club chairperson Irvin Khoza with Orlando Pirates undefeated so far this season under the German.

Despite their Nedbank Cup exit to Bidvest Wits, Pirates fought back from two goals down to lead 3-2. That shows the squad has character and will fight for their coach.

Since his arrival on December 10, 2019, Zinnbauer has led his side to six consecutive victories and a draw in seven Absa Premiership fixtures.

Pirates have accumulated an impressive points-per-game ratio of 2.38 under Zinnbauer which narrowly beats log-leader's Kaizer Chiefs' ratio of 2.36.

If the Buccaneers were to maintain their current form throughout an entire season, they would've been crowned league champions - with 71 points - in nine of the previous 10 league campaigns.

Previous points finish of Absa Premiership champions:

2018/19 - Mamelodi Sundowns 59
2017/18 - Mamelodi Sundowns 60
2016/17 - Bidvest Wits 60
2015/16 - Mamelodi Sundowns 71
2014/15 - Kaizer Chiefs 69
2013/14 - Mamelodi Sundowns 65
2012/13 - Kaizer Chiefs 57
2011/12 - Orlando Pirates 58
2010/11 - Orlando Pirates 60
2009/10 - SuperSport United 57

Under predecessors Milutin Sredojevic (two games) and later Rulani Mokwena, the club went through a barren run of results, scoring 19 goals while conceding 20, which led to an average of 1.46 goals scored per game and 1.56 conceded - which explains their poor run of results under Mokwena.

Mokwena's side also claimed just 17 points from 13 games played with a points-per-game ratio of 1.30.

Under Zinnbauer, Pirates so far have picked up 19 points from seven games at the above-mentioned points-per-game ratio of 2.38.

They have also now scored 15 goals while conceding just 5 and are averaging 2.14 goals scored a game while conceding a miserly 0.71 goals per game.

Taking these stats into account, it becomes evident that Zinnbauer has coached his team to be more lethal in front of goal while tightening a leaky defence to become now water-tight.

These are all signs of a good coach implementing his tactics, with an almost immediate impact.

Mokwena v Zinnbauer team stats:

Points won: 17-19
Points-per-game: 1.30-2.38
Goals scored: 19-15
Goals conceded: 20-5
Goals scored per game: 1.46-2.14
Goals conceded per game: 1.53-0.71

Improving players

The most visible improvement under Zinnbauer has been the defence with a back-three of Innocent Maela, Happy Jele and Ntsikelelo Nyauza permanent fixtures in the starting line-up, as well as the form of striker Gabadinho Mhango.

Zinnbauer has found a balance to his side with the most-utilised players being Jele (8 games played in all comps), Makaringe (7), Nyauza (7), Pule (7), Memela (7), Motshwari (7), Sandilands (7) and Mhango (7)

Josef Zinnbauer Orlando Pirates starting line-up.

Compared to predecessor Mokwena's most-used players: Maela (10), Makaringe (11), Nyauza (9), Sandilands (8), Jele (8), Lorch (8), Mabasa (8)

Rulani Mokwena Orlando Pirates starting line-up.

Zinnbauer has also managed to extract impressive performances out of Luvuyo Memela, who has provided six assists, and the league's top-scorer Mhango who has scored an incredible 10 goals in 7 games.

With Chiefs seemingly running away with the league this season and Zinnbauer already conceding that a title challenge is out of reach, the 2020/21 season could prove to be one of the most exciting seasons in Absa Premiership history with ironically two Germans breathing new life into the two sleeping Soweto giants.

Josef Zinnbauer alongside Ernst Middendorp.

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