The race for the 2011/12 Premier Soccer League halfway through gets underway tonight after some long break. Nothing has been won at this stage but there is so much to lose especially if you keep dropping points. A close look at how the 16 teams have fared up to this stage; who is likely to be crowned champions, who will be in the top 8 and who will be relegated?
The Pace Setters
Judging by the current log standings everyone in the top 4 has a chance to win the league. Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows are all looking like genuine title contenders. League leaders Sundowns have won 9 games finding the back of the net 30 times, that’s a strike rate of 2 goals per match and losing twice in the process. Expect the Brazilians to have a say in the title contention.
Prior to the last games before the Christmas break, SuperSport United were sitting on top but they dropped to 2nd spot when they lost to Bloemfontein Celtic. Gavin Hunt has emphasised the importance of collecting points in the 1st round because teams are hard to beat in the 2nd round. Having accumulated 28 points from a possible 45 Amatsantsatsa are second on the log and anything is possible for them.
Chiefs have already failed to win the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout, the pressure is now on Vladimir Vermezovic who is now serving his final season on his contract to turn things around and lead them to league honours. Amakhosi are one of the two teams to have conceded the least number of goals in the division. Their strikers have been a let-down but having acquired the services Zimbabwean striker Brian Amidu they will be hoping he will give them the edge to go all the way out and lift the title.
At Swallows Gordon Igesund has managed to turn things around compared to last season when they were relegation candidates. They maybe 5 points off the pace but they are still in title contention. However Igesund still has work to do with his defence having conceded 18 goals in 15 matches.
Completing the Top 8
Completing the top 8 are Orlando Pirates, Free State Stars, Ajax Cape Town and Bidvest Wits. They are still in the race because the gap between them and the log leaders hasn’t widened that much, they can still catch up. If any of the top 4 teams drop points in their next two encounters and in the process these teams completing the top 8 win their games they will find themselves in the top 4 challenging for the championship.
Orlando Pirates have played well in the cup competitions but they haven’t managed to live up to expectations in the league games. Already 7 points off the pace setters the Bucs will have to pull up their socks if they want to defend their title. Some of their acquisitions such as Sifiso Myeni and Luis Boa Morte will certainly add depth and quality into their squad.
After surrendering the title to the Sea Robbers on the final day of last season, one would have thought that the Urban Warriors will continue where they left off but it has been a tough ride for the Cape side. One of their star players in the previous campaign (Thulani Serero) having been sold to Ajax Amsterdam things haven’t been the same for the Cape Side. The Urban Warriors have conceded more goals than they have scored which is a worrying factor.
Free State Stars and Wits are in the top 8 because they have also done well for their standards. Their objectives might not be winning the league but in football anything is possible if they keep playing well nevertheless only time will tell whether they are up for the challenge or not. Let’s hope Africa Cup of Nations winner Kennedy Mweene will bring new optimism and inspiration.
Bloemfontein Celtic, AmaZulu, Maritzburg United and Golden Arrows are occupying 9 to 12 spots on the league table. Sometimes you wonder about the objectives of some of the clubs that are campaigning in the PSL. Not to be disrespectful, some of the teams are not PSL material and the value they are adding has to be questioned.
Maritzburg United and Golden Arrows are some of the teams that have more goals conceded than they have scored with both of them having only managed to collect maximum points on only four occasions and each scoring 16 times after 15 games. The team of choice have a goal difference of -5 on the other hand Abafana bes’thende they have a goal difference of -9.
If there is one area that our league hasn’t stepped its authority it has to be the relegation system. This is one of the reason why our league isn’t competitive hence the goal drought. The current system which sees only one automatic drop isn’t helping our league at all. If the last two teams at the end of the season are automatically dropped and those occupying 13 and 14 spots go into the play offs then we might see competition in our league.
At the moment all those teams in the bottom 4 have been nothing but dismal. However knowing well the chances of escaping the relegation are high because the league isn’t tough enough they won’t pull up their socks. Jomo Cosmos and Black Leopards are the favourites for the drop with the latter winning only two games. They have fired the coach who brought them to the elite league and last season going as far as reaching the Nedbank Cup final. Time and again we have seen this trend of teams coming from the first division firing the coach when they get in the PSL only for their decisions to back fire at a later stage.
On the other hand Cosmos midway through to the season have registered one win since they came back from the National First Division. Ezenkosi have managed to find the back of the net on 12 occasions. It’s hard to imagine how they will survive. Maybe it is time for Jomo Sono to get someone do the coaching job for him.
With 15 games left and 45 points to play for nothing is out of reach for all the teams to get better as the season progress. There is still a chance to win the league for some, while others can still finish in the top 8 and those who face the chop can still escape. All shall be revealed when the league resumes tonight.
By Terence Mthembu
Tweet Terence - @Terrypedia