Not everyone is impressed with Mamelodi Sundowns’ appointment of specialist set-piece coach Michael Loftman on Tuesday, but his arrival in Pretoria proves—once again—that the Brazilians are head and shoulders above the rest.
Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, fallen giants watching on as Sundowns sit 23 points clear at the top of the PSL table, and currently on a record-setting winning streak, will surely be concerned, as the Brazilians again demonstrate themselves to be South Africa’s innovators…as well as their dominant force.
For the greatest teams and head coaches in football history, one of the keys to success, to building a genuine dynasty, has been to improve when you’re on top.
Some champions rest on their laurels, accept and admire their achievements when they’ve conquered the rest…it never lasts.
Sundowns, by contrast, are moving to further improve, bolster and refine their options, even when they’re comfortably atop the pile anyone.
There’s no complacency here, instead, the Brazilians are demonstrating the qualities—imbued in them by Caf President Dr Patrice Motsepe—that are keeping them clear of the chasing pack (and the two Soweto strugglers) in the PSL standings.Backpagepix
It should be Chiefs and Pirates, attempting to find ways to bring down the dominant force and restore their place at the pinnacle of the pyramid, who ought to be experimenting, innovating and thinking outside the box in order to overcome Downs and their superior roster.
Instead, the Soweto brothers will find it even harder to overhaul the league leaders in the months—and possibly years—to come.
Set pieces are a clear area of improvement in South African top flight football, with too many clubs opting for relatively rudimentary strategies—often lacking genuine innovation—in order to make an impact in the opposition box.
Loftman’s arrival should both raise the bar for Sundowns, but also getting other teams thinking about how they can give themselves an advantage—even if we’re only talking in percentiles—compared to what they’re currently achieving.
The man himself believes that strategies when defending set pieces is the single main reason why teams around the world concede goals, so expect to see the Brazilians—already the best defenders in the league—become even tighter at the back.
The 33-year-old has also worked at a high level within the African game, notably alongside Carlos Queiroz with Egypt. Imagine what he learned while working closely with former Manchester United assistant and Bafana Bafana head coach Queiroz, who has enjoyed some of his finest hours because of watertight defensive structures and an effective approach to thriving in both boxes.
Loftman’s arrival should be considered a major boost for Sundowns, a point of innovation in the PSL, and yet further evidence that Pirates and Chiefs are set to lose even more ground on South Africa’s dominant force.