Johannesburg - It’s a question that has been posed to PSL strikers a million times. Why is it that strikers in the local league are not hitting the 20-goal mark in a season?
I sometimes turn my recorder off when I hear this question asked at a press conference or at a media open day because the answer is almost always the same old standard one. “The defenders in the PSL are getting better” and “teams are too defensive” are answers I’ve heard most often.
I’ve heard this from Bradley Grobler of SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates’ Kermit Erasmus and recently from Bidvest Wits’s new recruit Christopher Katongo. But I don’t buy the stories. I never have and I know I never will.
There can be no excuse for the terrible strike rate we have seen from PSL strikers. Some clubs break the bank to sign these strikers, who are incidentally paid very good salaries, yet they do not deliver on their hefty price tags.
It’s certainly not the defenders nor the defensive approach from opposition teams for the frontmen’s inability to convert inviting chances into wonder goals. It’s the strikers themselves who are, to put it bluntly, incompetent. Chances were created, lots of them, in the first round of PSL matches and many were simply wasted by the likes of Erasmus and Grobler.
On Tuesday, I went to Bidvest Stadium to watch Wits play the University of Pretoria and Wits coach Gavin Hunt bemoaned the missed chances. Wits could have buried Tuks – literally and figuratively – but they let their opponents off the hook.
Every season in Europe, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo score 30-plus goals in La Liga and European competitions. Mind you, they are not really strikers. Then you get strikers like Karim Benzema who score just under 30 goals season in and out, which is a handsome tally. Does this mean defenders in La Liga are not good enough? Certainly not! These guys know how to take their chances and are versatile enough to find their way around the toughest defenders. Strikers should, after all, be hustlers.
It’s no different in the English Premier League. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge last season combined to score over 50 goals between them. Four Manchester City players - Yaya Toure, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko - bagged more than 20 goals each on their way to lifting the league title and league cup. Does that mean the defenders in the Premier League are not good enough? Certainly not! I could go on all day if I wanted to. In France, there’s the free-scoring Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain. In Germany, they had Bayern Munich talisman Mario Mandzukic, who has left to join Spanish champions Atletico Madrid. These guys are paid millions for a reason, and a lot of them deliver on their hefty price tags.
Our top scorer in the PSL last season, Bernard Parker, scored 10 goals. That should be a tally for a midfielder, not a striker. The likes of Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard are happy with 10-15 goals a season from the midfield. And they’ve done it many a time in their careers. We often say this problem of not scoring goals needs to addressed, but can you really teach a 23-year-old or someone who is 28 how to score goals? It’s too late.
New Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba recently said that this problem has to be addressed at Under-13 or 14 level so that we can have better strikers in future. I agree, because we are not likely to see any improvements this season from the strikers currently playing in the PSL.
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