Why Kaizer Chiefs have found a winning formula

By David Minchella - 12 August 2019Views : 3716


Two victories in a row have some Kaizer Chiefs fans talking of a campaign to really challenge for trophies in 2019/20. Have Chiefs found a winning formula? SABN's David Minchella takes a look.

One of the hallmarks of Stuart Baxter's great Chiefs sides from 2012 until 2015 was the ability to score from dead-ball situations.

Siphiwe Tshabalala's foot was the wand and Baxter's carefully choreographed set-piece routines were often the difference between a draw and defeat, or victory by the odd goal.

Perhaps even more significant than that was the rock-solid make up of the back four - a line-up that any Chiefs fan worth his mustard can reel off still today - Siboniso Gaxa, Tefu Mashamaite, Eric Mathoho and Tsepo Masilela.

Yet, while Baxter seemed to try to build from a strong defensive base - it appears that current incumbent Ernst Middendorp has decided to take the shackles of and let Amakhosi really attack sides in 2019/20.

In the recent 1-0 win over Black Leopards, a central midfield of Lebogang Manyama and George Maluleka supported an attack that included the likes of Bernard Parker, Lazarous Kambole, Leonardo Castro and Samir Nurkovic.

With wing-back Reeve Frosler bombing down the right flank with regularity, it meant Chiefs had plenty of attacking width and passing options in the final third.

Relegating the more defensive-minded Willard Katsande to the bench has seemingly aided Chiefs' ability to move the ball forwards more quickly, with the Zimbabwe veteran often accused of passing it backwards and sideways.

The front three of Kambole, Nurkovic and Castro also gives the Glamour Boys a huge amount of physicality and aerial ability in and around the box.

In the opening day victory over Highlands Park, it was Serbian Nurkovic's aerial knockdown for Manyama's equaliser that made a big difference in the contest.

A set-play came to the fore once again as Chiefs used their physicality at a corner to engineer a shooting chance for Eric Mathoho, who struck home the winner from a deflection.

It was another corner that made all the difference against Leopards - from Maluleka's corner the in-form central defender headed home to take Chiefs top of the standings.

In the same game Manyama had a golden chance to extend his tally to three goals in two matches as after an intricate team move, he was put through one-on-one but was denied by Jonas Mendes.

The form of 'Kaka' is another exciting sign that Chiefs have found a winning formula. In 2016/17 he was the Premiership's leading scorer for Cape Town City and was subsequently named South Africa's Footballer of the Season.

There are signs the prolific style of play he produced for the Citizens is being replicated for Chiefs - his trademark late runs into the box are bearing fruit in front of goal.

His opening goal against the Lions of the North came from a near post run that no defender had picked up, and he headed home from Kearyn Baccus' cross.

For his brace, he burst into the area with a late run and converted from Nurkovic's aerial knockdown.

It was the same against Lidoda Duvha as he dove-tailed in from behind the advanced attackers to go one-versus-one, only to be denied by Mendes. If he gets towards anything close to the 13 goals he got for City in 16/17, Chiefs definitely have a chance to be contenders in all competitions.

Yet, perhaps most promisingly, it is the form of Mathoho that seems a reason for a genuine feeling of optimism at Naturena.

The centre-back looks a player re-born or put in another way - a 'Tower' re-built. Since the Baxter era ended and his great friend and partner 'Masha' left the ship - he has been a pale imitation of himself since around 2015.

However, his physical conditioning in 19/20 looks peak perfect and he looks once again the physical unit who wins everything in the air, and acts decisively and instinctively in pressure situations.

Chiefs have their rock back in defence and he looks hungry. When you factor in that Khama Billiat is set for a return against against SuperSport United, there is seemingly no end of options in attack.

Should Kambole and Nurkovic start hitting the goal trail as well - there is seemingly no limit to the heights that can be reached.

When you consider that inspirational goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is nearing a return from a shoulder injury - the brains of the back four - it appears to be the final piece of the puzzle.

Chiefs are an organised aggressive unit and seem to be playing with a passion and belief perhaps rarely seen in Steve Komphela's days. The club's catch-phrase this season is 'Back to Brilliance' - it seems this could prove to be prophetic.