JOHANNESBURG - Josef Zinnbauer may be yet to take charge of his first match as an Orlando Pirates coach, but time is already against him to produce positive results.
The German, whose appointment received mixed reaction, takes over a Sea Robbers team that has failed to live up to the lofty expectations so far this season.
Football Writer Mihlali Baleka looks at three areas of Pirates’ game that Zinnbauer needs to improve in order to produce a well-oiled machine.
Pirates’ leaky defence has been their weakest link. Last season, under Micho Sredojevic, the careless mistakes the team committed defensively duly cost them the PSL title.
Since the departure of Sredojevic at the start of the season, things went from bad to worse under Rhulani Mokwena, whose team conceded 16 goals.
Sure, captain Happy Jele brings a wealth of experience to the back-four, but his inability to have a steady central defensive partner has been the team’s biggest weakness, and that’s why top of Zinnbauer and the club’s to-do list should be solving their defensive problems during the Christmas break.
Irregular engine room pairing
Mokwena’s tenure as Pirates coach was always going to test his readiness for the rigours of top-flight football, and the 34-year-old came across as stuttering from the outset.
To begin with, the former Mamelodi Sundowns assistant coach didn’t have a well-established engine room, chopping and changing his central midfield pairing like nobody business.
Following the arrival of former Maritzburg United duo Fortune Makaringe and Siphesihle Ndlovu during the close season, there were going to be adjustments in Pirates’ central midfield, but there was no need for Mokwena to fix it if it wasn’t broken.
After all, central midfield trio Ben Motshwari, Xola Mlambo and Musa Nyatama were the cogs of the team that pushed Sundowns all the way the last two seasons.
So, the sooner Zinnbauer gets the spine of his team in shape, the moment he’ll have fluidity going forward and solidity defensively.
Signing quantity not quality
Considering that Pirates find themselves seventh on the league standings, it appears as though their shopping spree during the close season was nothing but a waste of the club’s resources.
In July/August, the Sea Robbers bolstered their squad with nine new signings, which were mostly midfielders, in pursuit of helping the team return to the top of South African football.
However, only a few of those new players have hit the ground running, notably strikers Tshegofatso Mabasa and Gabadinho Mhango playing starring roles in the team’s 19-goal tally so far, while Makaringe has been finding his feet in midfield.
With the January transfer window a few weeks away, Zinnbauer will have to make a decision on whom he needs and who he does not. And that’s why the guidance from his assistants, Mokwena and Fadlu Davids, will come in handy.