Kaizer Chiefs have hit rock bottom, so much so that almost all and sundry feel the team doesn’t have a turnaround strategy to revive itself to its rightful state as kings of South African football.
Chiefs haven’t won a trophy since lifting the Absa Premiership title in the 2014/15 season, and their defeat to NFD upstarts TS Galaxy in the Nedbank Cup final last weekend marked an all-time low for the one-time powerhouse.
The composition of the Chiefs technical bench during their 1-0 defeat to coach Dan “Dance” Malesela’s side somehow gave a hint of where Amakhosi should start their rebuilding process.
Address lack of depth in the technical team
In the absence of assistant coach Shaun Bartlett, who is serving a red card suspension, Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp barked the instructions alongside team manager Gerald Sibeko from the Moses Mabhida Stadium dugout last Saturday.
A close look at all the successful clubs around the world shows that such entities are as strong as their technical departments. Modern-day football requires a big technical team, and Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane recently cited this as one of the reasons behind his team’s success.
Chiefs’ rivals Orlando Pirates, who also finished the season without a trophy, have invested heavily in their technical department, which welcomed former Maritzburg United head coach Fadlu Davids as second assistant to Milutin Sredojevic. Sundowns have 16 technical members and Pirates have 13.
Should Middendorp remain at the helm?
There is no doubt that Chiefs once boasted several brilliant tacticians. However, the club has struggled to find credible replacements post the tenures of astute coaches such as the late Ted Dumitru, Joe Frickleton and Jeff Butler, to name just three, although Muhsin Ertugral (in his first spell in 1999 to 2002) and Stuart Baxter (2012 to 2015) came in and won what would be the last of Amakhosi’s trophies.
Middendorp’s appointment for a second stint in December raised questions, but he responded with a series of positive results that attracted rave reviews from his counterparts, who said Chiefs finally had structure following Giovanni Solinas’ time at the helm.
The high hopes were soon replaced by anxiety as the club hit a serious slump that saw it ending the season winless in eight official games, culminating in last weekend’s humiliation.
Perhaps it’s time Amakhosi hired a young, vibrant coach in the mould of Cape Town City’s Benni McCarthy, or even got someone like Malesela, whose coaching credentials have thrived even under difficult working conditions. If they are to get rid of Middendorp, they should do so now and get a replacement urgently.
Keep up with the longstanding tradition of believing inhome-grown goalies
For years, Chiefs have produced top-class goalkeepers and didn’t panic even when they lost their regulars at any given point.
The team’s overreliance on Itumeleng Khune backfired when the 32-year-old was taken out by a shoulder injury that subsequently required surgery.
On occasions where Khune was out, Brilliant Khuzwayo would come in and help the team. Ironically, Khuzwayo, who is now with Pirates, was in goal when Amakhosi last lifted a knockout trophy – the MTN8 in 2014.
It was surprising when Amakhosi went for Virgil Vries, who did not even make the cut at Baroka FC, at the start of the season.
The Namibian goalie’s calamities – notably his howlers in the defeats by Sundowns and Cape Town City – prompted Chiefs to scour the market for another goalkeeper, despite having the promising Bruce Bvuma on the bench.
The club acquired Daniel Akpeyi from Chippa United during the January transfer window when strong indications were that Middendorp was willing to throw Bvuma into the deep end in following the long-established tradition of Amakhosi’s trust in home-grown keepers.
This is how the likes of Khune and Brian Baloyi made their names at the club.
Improve player acquisition
Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung has been responsible for the recruitment of players for some time now – without technical know-how.
There is a feeling among the club’s agitated supporters that Motaung has missed the mark during the past four years, which coincides with the lamentable downfall of Amakhosi.
There is a clear need for a technical director or an adviser who will not only recommend players, but also keep the coach on his toes.
Without a technical director, the coach cannot be answerable to Motaung, who, with due respect, does not have technical and tactical nous, or the requisite expertise. It is about time the club’s former head of development, Walter Steenbok, showed his hand as the head of scouting. He was recalled to Chiefs late last year after doing commendable work at Sundowns.
If Chiefs want to match their rivals Pirates and Sundowns in terms of squad quality, they must open their cheque book. To their credit, Amakhosi did well to bring in Khama Billiat, Lebogang Manyama and Leonardo Castro, but the team doesn’t have depth on the bench.
Chiefs is well on track at the rate in which they have been fusing in youngsters in the starting 11, but the likes of Happy Mashiane and teenager Nkosingiphile Ngcobo need more Billiats and Castros around them.
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