With Kaizer Chiefs now seven points clear at the top, here is a list of five factors that have contributed to Chiefs topping the table with seven games to go.
1. Unbeaten At Home
Amakhosi have simply been ruthless at home. They have not lost a single match at home. Added to that, their away record has improved compared to last season. Last season at this stage they only won 3 out of 12 matches away from home. This season they have already won 6 out of 11 away games including the 3-0 thrashing of Bloemfontein Celtic this past Sunday.
2. Taking The Lead And Keeping It
Chiefs have only won once from a losing position (against Free State Stars at home). When in the lead, the Glamour boys have only thrown away 4 point all season from a winning position. While this may point to a lack of fighting spirit for some, one thing it does confirm is that Chiefs know how to sniff and then grab hold of the three points, and then take the points safely home no matter what the opposition may do.
Let us also not forget that from a losing position they managed to take 2 points away from rivals Orlando Pirates while simultaneously gaining an important point in the first derby of the season. It is safe to say that Chiefs do indeed “have Balz”.
3. Change Of Tactics From Baxter
Many may think I will be highlighting the use of an adaptable 5-3-2 (3-5-2) formation from Baxter as a bit of tactical genius. However, the most important decision by Baxter was to simply change from what looked liked a 4-3-3 with the interchangeable three of Josta Dladla, Reneilwe “Yeye” Letsholonyane (in a deep midfield role), and Siyabonga Nkosi, to the more commonly used 4-3-3 (and other adaptations) that has Williard “Salt 'n Pepper” Katsande playing the role that Tinashe Nengomasha made his own as a “destroyer”, thereby allowing Yeye more freedom to attack. This has allowed soccer fans the opportunity to enjoy Yeye at his creative best - distributing balls all over the pitch to allow Bernard Parker and co an opportunity to knock the ball into the Auld Onion Bag.
In August, I wrote that Chiefs may rue letting Nengomasha go as I felt Katsande had not show enough consistency to fill his countryman's big shoes. I also felt that Lucky Baloyi was also not ready to play big role in a title-challenging team Fortunately for Amakhosi, “Salt 'n Pepper” Katsande showed massive improvement and his contribution has been immense ever since he became regular this season.
4. “Major” Strikeforce
When you have the luxury of bringing on a Bafana Bafana striker on as an impact player, you have a quite an advantage over other teams.
With a strikeforce containing the likes of Bernard Parker, Kingston Nkhatha, and Lehlohonolo “Major” Majoro to choose from, Chiefs coach, Stuart Baxter, has been spoilt for choice as the three players have not only been consistent in their performance - contributing over 20 goals - but they have also avoided any serious injuries.
Contrast this to Pirates where Bafana legend Benni McCarthy has remained sidelined for most of the season, Takesure Chinyama has only scored twice in the league, Collins Mbesuma is a shadow of the player he was for Chiefs back in 2005, and Ndumiso Mabena... The mere mention of THAT miss in the Telkom Knockout Cup match against Celtic probably still gives coach Roger De Sa nightmares!
Key players at Pirates including Rooi Mahamutsa, goalscoring centreback Siyabonga Sangweni, the experienced Benni McCarthy, Moneeb Josephs and Sifiso “Myessi” Myeni have all suffered bad injuries during the season which has contributed to the below-par performances.
As I mentioned earlier, Chiefs have had a strikeforce that, fortunately for them, avoided any serious injury problems. While in defence, their number one in between the poles, Itumeleng Khune, has remained injury-free while new signing Morgan Gould was the only senior player to get a long-term injury. Midfield kingpin, “Yeye” Letsholonyane, as a creative force, has played a big part in the title challenge while Pirates have lost their biggest creative force “Myessi” to injury at an important stage of the season.
So, while both teams have had their share of injury problems, Pirates were hit hardest with the loss of key men like McCarthy and Mahamusta for most of the season.
There are of course other factors that may have contributed to Chiefs currently topping the PSL table (and no, the use of brown envelopes is not what I was thinking).
However, with seven games of the season remaining, the title is not yet wrapped up and we may still witness some drama in the run-in.
Let's hope we will have a relatively tight finish(and maybe even see Pirates snatching it late) instead of a situation where Chiefs simply walk away with the title. That is, of course, unless some of you actually take the Q-Innovation table seriously.
By Thomas Monyepao
Do follow me on twitter. The name is @Tom_18Yards.