JOHANNESBURG – Where is the Kaizer Chiefs of old?
This is the question on everybody’s lips as Amakhosi – under the tutelage of coach Steve Komphela – have simply looked a shadow of the side that clinched two Absa Premiership titles in the three years before he arrived.
Komphela is yet to win any silverware at Chiefs, and his current situation went from the frying pan into the fire when his men suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Baroka FC prior to the international break two weeks ago in Durban.
They’ve not been in action since, and Komphela would have been desperately preparing for the two games against Mamelodi Sundowns on Wednesday and Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday – both seen as career-defining, at least for his job at Naturena.
After seven games Chiefs find themselves in sixth place, which is not much of a surprise given Komphela’s record in the two-and-a-half seasons that he has been with the club.
What irks the supporters is that there seems to be no improvement, and, at the moment, Amakhosi aren’t favourites to beat reigning African champions Sundowns.
Not only have Chiefs been beaten twice in the league already this season by SuperSport United and Baroka, but Komphela also missed out on another chance to get his hands on a trophy.
The same SuperSport side dumped Amakhosi out of the MTN8 competition in the opening week of this campaign.
This sequence of events has convinced Chiefs fans that maybe they need another coach, although management – particularly football manager Bobby Motaung – has called for calm after Komphela again needed a police escort to leave a match venue.
Sundowns are just one place above Chiefs on the league table and have three games in hand.
They are a threat because they are now fully focused on the Premier League after they were eliminated from the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League last month by Wydad Athletic Club from Morocco.
Komphela, however, will draw confidence from the fact that Chiefs had the last laugh when the two sides met in their last league fixture, winning 2-1 at FNB Stadium, even though that didn’t help their chances of winning the championship.
They will need a similar type of performance, or perhaps even a more convincing one, to win over the supporters.
The result against Sundowns will set the tone for the Soweto derby, which will create more of a backlash for Komphela should Chiefs lose.
The growing injury list to key players at Naturena now has everyone guessing just what kind of formation Komphela will deploy.
Chiefs were dealt a blow last week when scans revealed that right back Kgotso Moleko would be sidelined for up to six weeks, a nightmare for the coach given that the player was being used as a stand-in for regular fullback Ramahlwe Mphahlele, who will only return to action in the new year.
Komphela will need a makeshift right back and could be forced to play anchorman Willard Katsande in central defence alongside the off-form Mulomowandau Mathoho, and push Daniel Cardoso to the right of defence against both Sundowns and Pirates.
It’s the last thing he would have wanted to think about when he is under so much pressure, and Chiefs might not even have a goal poacher on the field with striker Gustavo Paez also out injured for three weeks after he hurt his ankle in the defeat against Baroka.
With all that information, it is unlikely we will see the Chiefs of old, which means Komphela could yet be on the brink of departure.