JOHANNESBURG - Steve Komphela doesn’t talk in riddles when he discusses Gustavo Paez, the two-goal hero for Kaizer Chiefs in their narrow victory over ABC Motsepe League side Acornbush United in Sunday's last 16 of the Nedbank Cup.
The coach of Amakhosi doesn’t want confusion creeping in or the Venezuelan striker being labelled a misfit. From day one, Komphela has emphasised the need to protect Chiefs’ only January signing when fans and pundits were calling for more fresh faces to boost their title charge.
While there was a general appreciation for how Paez, coming on as a substitute with Amakhosi trailing at Kabokweni Stadium, finished his two goals to send the club into the quarterfinals, where they will now face SuperSport United, Komphela was the least surprised.
“If you had a big striker and played him in that congested area where you have as many as eight Acornbush players in the box, you wouldn’t have gotten anything,” the Chiefs coach explained. “Paez scored from weak areas. You can’t complain and say a team is parking the bus when they are playing like that, you have to find ways to unlock them. Use your brain. So we needed to think.”
It seems Paez might have to be accompanied by Bernard Parker to carry on from where he left off on Sunday, and Komphela admitted he is tempted to partner the two together as early as against Bloemfontein Celtic on Wednesday night in a crucial Absa Premiership clash at FNB Stadium. Paez, many will argue, has perhaps earned a place in the starting line-up, but Komphela has to decide whether it is at the expense of another striker, Parker in this instance, or one of his attacking midfielders.
Given that it was Parker who twice found Paez to score his double, maybe it shouldn’t be that difficult to decide.
“Even at training their combination is evident,” Komphela said. “It is something you always think about as a coach, and there is no sin in thinking or trying. It is only the outcome that will tell you whether your thinking or trying was proper. At training, what he (Paez) gives us is tops. Parker also had a good game, but now you have to ask yourself how your game model will change if you play the two together.”
To experiment could be a potential risk that backfires spectacularly seeing that Amakhosi aren’t spoilt for choice upfront, but then again Chiefs have hardly had a consistent goal scorer all season. Why not throw Paez - along with Parker - in at the deep end to strengthen their title chances?
“It is important not to have the greed to have the best players on the field and yet your team is not well structured,” Komphela reasoned. “Sometimes you need a Lothar Matthäus and not just Maradona. If you have 11 Maradonas, who is going to carry the bucket? You have to come up with something that complements your structure.
"Pirates went through this phenomenon where there were questions about playing two strikers (Tendai Ndoro and Thamsanqa Gabuza). But when you do that and insist on having two wide players, you can only have two holding midfielders. This has a whole lot of dynamics that I cannot even go deeper into because I will start giving away secrets.”
Sounds like a good headache for a man desperate to clinch a first major trophy for a team synonymous with success over the years.