JOHANNESBURG, September 4 – It is time for the Kaizer Chiefs players to man-up and take the pressure off head coach Giovanni Solinas by putting together a run of winning form after the international break.
Looking at the results column, the Italian has endured a pretty dismal start to his time in charge of South Africa’s biggest football club – just one win in eight matches.
While Amakhosi management have seldom been hasty to wield the axe at their head coach when things aren’t going according to plan, there is already a sense of growing discontent amongst the Chiefs faithful, who are still hurting after three trophy-less seasons under Steve Komphela.
That pressure and sense of unease will only ratchet up if Chiefs are unable to record a run of wins in their matches – Cape Town City, Free State Stars, AmaZulu and Highlands Park are on the horizon, after the international break for the Afcon qualifiers.
Somewhat ironically, it’s the Amakhosi defence – which was the best in the league last season, which has so far proven to be Chiefs’ Achilles Heel; were it not for some careless mistakes at the back, things could have been a lot rosier for Solinas.
In attack, where the Glamour Boys struggled in the previous campaign, there can be little complaint from the hard-to-please Chiefs fans after the arrival of forward Khama Billiat and playmaker Siphelele Ntshangase, while the latest addition, Lebogang Manyama, will be another boost to a forward line already containing Leonardo Castro, Gustavo Paez, Bernard Parker and Ryan Moon.
With what on paper looks a pretty decent squad, surely one capable of challenging for honours, it’s now up to the players to take on board Solinas’ instructions during the break and to fully come to terms with what it means to play for the Soweto giants.
Meanwhile, Billiat’s departure from Sundowns, together with Percy Tau’s transfer to Europe, has left Masandawana coach Pitso Mosimane needing to rebuild somewhat.
And although it has been a tough couple of weeks for Sundowns after they crashed out of both the Caf Champions League and MTN8 in quick succession, one would expect the Brazilians to soon get back on track.
Venezuela-born winger Jose Meza already looks like a great buy for the Pretoria giants, as does Lebohang Maboe from Maritzburg and Lyle Lakay from Cape Town City. And once the latest arrival, Bafana-capped striker Phakamani Mahlambi, settles in, Downs should be soon firing on all cylinders once more. Even more so if Jeremy Brockie can rediscover the scoring boots he used during his time at SuperSport United.
Over at SuperSport, the acquisition of Evans Rusike from Maritzburg United in January as a replacement for Brockie is now bearing fruit after the Zimbabwean made a blistering start to the new campaign with four goals already in league and cup.
And with an MTN8 final ahead for Matsatsantsa, its already shaping up to be a good season for new head coach Kaitano Tembo, the man who replaced Eric Tinkler on an interim basis midway through last season.
Tinkler has of course just started a new chapter at Chippa United, a team notorious for firing coaches over the years, which has provided the first managerial casualty of the season after Dan Malesela was sacked just three games in.
Tinkler spoke recently of Chilli Boys boss Siviwe Mpengesi being a ‘misunderstood’ man, but with the Port Elizabeth-based club currently propping up the table, Tinkler may have to work some real magic to make it through to the end of the season with his job intact.
Tinkler’s former club, Orlando Pirates, have meanwhile made a bit of a sluggish start to the season, with just seven points from five league games and an early elimination from the top eight cup, their stuttering cause aided by a succession of own goals scored by the opposition.
Coach Milutin Sredojevic was able to buy himself a bit of time after an excellent campaign last season which saw the Sea Robbers ending second, but at some point, Pirates need to start finding some winning momentum. As many as ten new signings were made, but it’s only really Vincent Pule who has made a significant impact so far, and Bucs fans would surely have expected a better start from their team.
Pule’s former club Bidvest Wits also made around 10 new signings, and so far Mxolisi Macuphu, Deon Hotto and Gift Motupa have already proven wise buys, the six goals scored between them ensuring top spot on the standings for Gavin Hunt’s side.
Another team who seem generally to be in the mix for silverware are Cape Town City, and they booked their spot in the MTN8 final after overcoming Sundowns on penalties last weekend.
The Cape club are not shy to splash the cash in the transfer market abroad, and have made some significant signings in goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh, winger Gift Links, and most recently Tokelo Rantie. If Rantie can find his best form under coach and former international striker Benni McCarthy, the Citizens could just add to the Telkom Knockout trophy they won in their first season of existence, in 2016. (ANA)