Whilst many South African football bloggers and journalists have their focus on analysing the problems plaguing a certain Chloorkop-based club, I would prefer to rather focus on the current state of affairs at Moroka Swallows.
The 2012 MTN8 champions are currently going through a poor run of form and will be thankful for this week’s FIFA international break.
The recent poor run includes two home draws a Telkom Knockout cup loss (albeit on penalties), and a disappointing away loss to Bidvest Wits. Their last win came over a month ago – a rather fortunate win against Steve Khompela’s Free State Stars team.
Firstly, the loss of key men has contributed to their inconsistency. In the past two games, the Birds have been missing Luvhengo Mungomeni in the backline. The Birds already have a growing reputation for having a leaky defence, and the loss of the form Mamelodi Sundowns man was bound to make the team significantly weaker. In the two matches in which he has been missing, Swallows gained a solitary point from a possible six.
With Mungomeni missing in action, due to the lack of adequate defensive cover, Coach Zeca Marques decided to deploy the Venda boy with a melanin deficiency, Giorgi Nergadze, in Mungomeni’s usual role. Through no lack of effort, but operating with the turning speed of an oil tanker, Nergadze has not been anywhere near the rock solid partner that Marques, would have preferred to partner the robust Ashraf Hendricks.
Swallows are also still suffering from the loss last season’s top goal-scorer, the influential Siyabonga “Bhele” Nomvethe. Many will quickly point out that Katlego Mashego has stepped into Nomvethe’s boots without breaking a sweat, however – in playing the versatile Mashego upfront – Marques lost out on the opportunity of having an extra option on the left to compete with Bennett Chenene (whose performances have dropped severely in recent times) while also resulting in Swallows losing an experienced consistent goal-getter who would feast upon the chances that the team are currently wasting.
This brings me to the second reason for this poor run: wastefulness at the front and carelessness at the back.
The seemingly ageless Dikgang “Terminator” Mabalane, for example, missed two absolute sitters within the space of two weeks against both Leopards and Chippa United at a point in the game where Swallows could have sealed three points had those opportunities been taken.
These were games that the Birds completely dominated but somehow ended up settling for a total of only two point, leaving the man known as Majazana, Zeca Marques, feeling rather frustrated.
Greg Etafia’s penchant for leaving the post which he is meant to be guarding and his peculiar fondness to standing behind the wall during the opposing team’s free-kick, has recently left many of the Swallows faithful quite frustrated. A schoolboy error by Etafia directly contributed to Leopards’ second goal. This basic goalkeeping error cost the team a valuable two points in a game that Swallows deserved nothing less than the maximum. Against Sundowns in the MTN8 semifinal, a similar error did not prove to be as crucial but nonetheless exasperating.
In the recent draw with Chippa United, Etafia decided to leave his near post open like gates of heaven, thereby gifting the ambitious Chilli Boys, Chippa United, an equalizer from what seemed to be a near-impossible angle to score from.
Lastly, Zeca Marques also contributed his fair share to the recent loss of point. Against Bidvest Wits, Majazana replaced left-winger, Bennet Chenene, for the rather one-footed Felix Obada. With the right-footed Obada being played in an unfamiliar role on the left, the 23-year-old looked terribly uncomfortable, wasted a lot of possession, and provided hardly any decent service for Mashego to work with.
One can’t help but feel for Obada as the player literally ran his socks off, but Marques pretty much ended any hopes of snatching a result against Wits with that ill-advised change.
In the final part of the game against Chippa – attempting to shut the back door – Marques, took off Mpho Maleka for Sibusiso Khumalo, and moved Lerato Chabangu into the striker role. However, if Marques saw no problem in moving Chabangu further up later on in the game, then clearly Majazana is aware of the skills possessed by the man who has previously earned Bafana Bafana caps playing as a striker. In this game, Marques deviated from the norm, and played what looked more like a 4-1-4-1 formation. Had Marques stuck to the usual 4-2-3-1 formation instead, Swallows would only have required the use of one creative midfielder (in this case David Mathebula). This system would have eliminated the need to play the ineffective Maleka upfront and Marques could have rather chosen either the experienced Macbeth Sibaya or Sibusiso Khumalo to help Lefa Tsutsulupa in the middle.
Swallows’ next game is against table-toppers, Kaizer Chiefs. Swallows will motivated by the fact that in this season’s previous Soweto Derby, the Dube Birds gave reigning PSL champions, Orlando Pirates, a 3-0 walloping.
However, should the Birds fail to get a positive result in this fixture, Swallows will probably drop out of the top half of the PSL log and the pressure will start mounting on Zeca Marques who – despite bringing silverware to the club – is yet to win over many of the Birds faithful.