OPINION | Gavin Hunt, Kaizer Chiefs on brink of implosion

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Gavin Hunt, coach of Kaizer Chiefs, after the Premiership match against Maritzburg on 9 January 2021 in Johannesburg.
Gavin Hunt, coach of Kaizer Chiefs, after the Premiership match against Maritzburg on 9 January 2021 in Johannesburg.
Sydney Seshibedi
  • Kaizer Chiefs' season is on the brink of imploding under Gavin Hunt with the Soweto giants just one point off the relegation places.
  • Various factors seem to be contributing to the crisis, including the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the national lockdown.
  • The crisis that Amakhosi find themselves in is not only an indicator of their poor form but also how the club is being run by the Motaung family.

After Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Maritzburg United – masterminded by former mentor Ernst Middendorp – things have truly gone from bad to worse for Gavin Hunt and Kaizer Chiefs.

The Soweto giant's season is on the brink of imploding as they are just one point off the relegation places in 14th position and a huge 17 points off leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.

Even with a game in hand, Hunt's side will still be 14 points adrift of the leaders even if they were to win Tuesday's league clash against a formidable AmaZulu.

The stats do not make for pretty viewing with just one win, four draws and four defeats from their opening nine fixtures.

Former Orlando Pirates player and SuperSport analyst Dikgang Mabalane ruled out the possibility of Chiefs being relegated, as was the case with fellow Soweto giants Moroka Swallows.

"Any team can get relegated but I honestly believe Chiefs cannot be relegated," he told SuperSport. "Make no mistake, they still have quality in the team. A few months ago, they had a team that was fighting to become champions and have players that are footballers of the season in the team.

"They are still quality players, nothing has changed except a drop of form."

Mabalane continued that Hunt importantly needed to instil a winning mentality in a team that just last season was challenging for the title but at the moment seems low in confidence.

"They've got everything they need, except that they can't buy players."

Hunt himself, while trying to put a finger on their current crisis, called on his star-studded team to do better.

"What we can't do was to change the team [under the current transfer ban]... that is a big problem. But we cannot use that as an excuse. Players have to step up.

"The best thing for us, I think, is to get away from here as well and play outside because we are a little bit better there, but in saying that, we've got to be better at home. Our home record is not good."

Under-performing stars

This season for Chiefs has been riddled by high-profile errors by some of the biggest stars in the team.

Club captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has been guilty of making numerous costly errors this season.

After their victory, Maritzburg United defender Clayton Daniels blasted what he labelled "schoolboy errors" by some Chiefs players.

"I can't understand, sometimes, the mistakes that they make," Daniels told KickOff. "Like look at our second goal, it's a long throw-in, the guy turns in the box and he shoots. You know its schoolboy errors.

"Those are things you can't coach, you know. You can't coach those things. But it's a lack of concentration and you switch off. At a club like Kaizer Chiefs and on that level, you can't be doing that. And for me, the players must take responsibility.

"They must just change their mental approach to the games because there is quality in that team, there is talent there."

Culmination of deeper issues

Surely Chiefs' current position cannot only point toward Gavin Hunt – the most decorated head coach in the PSL – being a bad coach or a squad losing its quality overnight.

There must be deeper, underlying issues that are now contributing to the club's full-blown crisis.

Firstly, there appears to still be a mental hangover from last season's disappointment of losing out on the title in dramatic fashion on the last day of the season.

Also, Hunt has had little to no time during the off-season to work with his new squad, admitting that he had just a week with the team due to the short break between seasons.

This was caused by the very unique effects of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the national lockdown and forced games to continue behind closed doors.

With Hunt having little time to instil his ideas and philosophy on a team short on confidence, this has resulted in below-par performances.

Khune's mistakes have been highlighted previously but he is far from being the only issue of concern in the squad.

Talisman Khama Billiat has failed to rediscover the form shown when he first joined Naturena and has failed to make a mark in the final third in matches.

Importantly, last season's top goalscorer Samir Nurkovic has been out injured, which has greatly weakened Chiefs' attacking threat.

Then there's the curious case of former Player of the Season Lebogang Manyama, who looks a shadow of his former self. Since his return from Turkey, the 30-year-old looks like a different player to the one-man wrecking ball he was.

Chiefs also lost the important George Maluleka in the middle of last season, which weakened their midfield.

So with all these player troubles, we can now start to clearly identify the reason as to why the Chiefs players are struggling.

Chiefs can be analysed as a team low on confidence overall, with less creativity in midfield and little to no attacking threat in attacking areas.

Compounding this is Hunt's inability to address these issues as the club is serving a two-window transfer ban.

Middendorp regret?

This has to also raise the question that perhaps the issue last season wasn't Ernst Middendorp, with the German perhaps unlucky to have lost his job.

Seemingly there are many underlying issues as to how the club is run by the Motaung family, with their mismanagement resulting in a trophy drought since 2015.

It perhaps also reveals just how impressive Middendorp performed last season and Chiefs would probably have gone on to lift the league trophy if the season hadn't been suspended due to the global pandemic.

The transfer ban could prove to be a blessing for the club as it could force some introspection. It could finally force the decision-makers to look in the mirror and that could leave the club in a healthier position in the near future.

It is unclear whether Gavin Hunt will still be at the helm when those glory days return.

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