JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs’ 2-2 draw away to SuperSport United in the first leg of their MTN8 semi-final clash highlighted two very important aspects of their game under coach Giovanni Solinas: they have a more than potent attack, but their defence leaks like a rusty bucket.
In explaining why Amakhosi can’t buy a clean sheet, their Italian mentor said that he has asked his team to be attack minded and that leaves gaping holes at the back. Fans can drink the pubs dry arguing in vain how Chiefs can improve their rearguard, but here are three reasons why that’s not likely to change when you consider the gospel according to Solinas.
The pressing game comes at a cost
Modern day defending has forced defenders to pitch in forward transitions. Words like build from the back, play it from the goalkeeper to the rightback have been frequently used these days, and Solinas says Chiefs have to adapt.
The coach has argued that the way he prefers playing means having a high defensive line with centrebacks Daniel Cardoso and Siyabonga Ngezana pushing up. But they don’t recover as quickly to close the space they leave behind when possession is turned over, Solinas explained.
Because the coach didn’t enjoy a full pre-season as a result of his late appointment, there has hardly been enough time to fine-tune this method. Chiefs defenders now have to unlearn three years of work with Steve Komphela to be familiar with how Solinas wants to play - all of that while being under pressure to win games and end the trophy drought.
Solinas is hell-bent on scoring more than the opposition
The Italian told the press after the stalemate at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Sunday that he only knows one manner to win trophies and that’s to “score a lot of goals, more than the opponent” - adding that Chiefs have the playing personnel to execute this.
With Lebogang Manyama also arriving at Naturena, this means the coach will want to have all his best attackers on the pitch when they are fit. The more attack-minded players in his starting eleven, the more likely that Chiefs will be vulnerable at the back and with very few players able to assist when under pressure.
Willard Katsande has already been overwhelmed doing the clean up duty all by himself in midfield while Siphelele Ntshangase looks to spray the champagne passes to Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat. Ntshangase has been asked to help in defence, but that’s never been part of his game and there will be teething problems as he tries to work on this aspect of his playing style.
No room for Mathoho
The absence of Erick Mathoho means Amakhosi have no leader at the back. There is no denying that he is the most experienced member of the back four, but his poor form in the last season or two has left Solinas no choice but to omit him in favour of young Ngezana in central defence.
It doesn’t help that Cardoso, who was superb in a back three for Chiefs last season, seems confused by the new way of doing things and was largely responsible for the two goals conceded against SuperSport. Ngezana has been praised by Solinas and his predecessor Steve Komphela, but he is still very much wet behind the ears.
Chiefs now have two 21-year-olds in Ngezana and Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya at centreback and leftback, respectively. As Solinas pointed out on Sunday after the game, they are young and still need a lot of guidance. Given that there is nobody on the bench to immediately cover for them, Amakhosi will carry on leaking.