JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs defenders have gone back to basics, coach Giovanni Solinas has said following the club’s two clean sheets in a row last week.
The Glamour Boys beat Free State Stars 2-0 last Tuesday and also defeated AmaZulu by the same scoreline four days later in the Absa Premiership, two results which moved them within a point of log leaders Orlando Pirates.
Solinas was criticised shortly after his arrival at Chiefs for paying little attention to his back four, with the emphasis on attack and outscoring the opposition. While his game model is still built around quick attacking transitions and the now popular high-pressing style of play, the Amakhosi coach was pleased to see his charges protect goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in goal. They had conceded 11 goals in nine matches prior facing Stars at Goble Park.
What is even more notable, perhaps, is the fact that Solinas did not use the same players in defence away in Bethlehem and at home against AmaZulu - making two changes after the first clean sheet.
“This crisis motivated us to make good decisions in how we analyse,” the coach said. “I was never happy with how we started because that is not the standard for Chiefs. But we worked hard, especially during the Fifa break. We not only analysed this season, but the last three seasons - the goals we were conceding then.”
Solinas suggested he had to drill into his players the simple, but often very tricky, art of defending. “From that moment on we realised we had to begin from the fundamentals, the basics,” he said.
“It’s a difficult job when you start from the fundamentals of defending. But I am happy because of my players’ cooperation. They have been unbelievable. They want to learn. They want to improve. Our defensive job now is much better because we defend as a team.”
What appears set as the ideal rearguard includes keeper Khune, rightback Ramahlwe Mphahlele, centrebacks Siyabonga Ngezana and Daniel Cardoso as well as recent signing Godfrey Walusimbi, who has displaced Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya.
But given that Solinas made seven changes from the team that beat Cape Town City 4-1 ahead of the trip to Stars and then another six for the AmaZulu match, the Italian mentor could very well be the brave and bold Tinkerman in the Premier League.
Amakhosi will next be in action when they visit their struggling neighbours Highlands Park in Tembisa a week from today, allowing Solinas, who was robbed of a proper pre-season with Chiefs due to his late appointment, ample time to iron out the kinks.