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How Baxter can set Kaizer Chiefs free against Swallows FC

11:00 EAT 28/11/2021
Stuart Baxter, Kaizer Chiefs, August 2021
Following Wednesday's 1-1 draw against AmaZulu, Amakhosi head to Dobsonville to take on the struggling Birds on Sunday afternoon

Despite Kaizer Chiefs' recent improved results, the current Glamour Boys side under Stuart Baxter have not yet fully convinced.

It's hard to knock a team when they're on a good run of results. But it feels a bit like Chiefs have been papering over the cracks in recent weeks and that despite earning 13 points of the last available 18, the team is not firing on all cylinders.

There's a restlessness among some of the Chiefs fans on social media. Among the criticism of Baxter has been that there are 'favourites' in his team, who are 'undroppable'.

Cole Alexander is one of those players, and it's his omission from Sunday's match against Swallows, due to suspension, which might even prove a pivotal moment in Chiefs' season.

It could be argued that Baxter is too defensive-minded or conservative, due to his tendency to field three players who are more hard men than creators, usually Alexander, Phathutshedzo Nange and a converted defender, Njabulo Ngcobo.

For Sunday's game against Swallows, Baxter may be cautious of a backlash from the struggling Birds, expecting Swallows coach Brandon Truter to have his men fired up and ready to charge into battle.

In that case, he'll probably replace Alexander with someone like Anthony Agay or Kearyn Baccus - both hard-working, strong, but also not the type to make things happen in attack.

Or, he could decide to throw just a little caution to the wind and play Nange and Ngcobo as the two deep-lying midfielders and replace Alexander with a more forward-thinking option, someone who can get up and support Bernard Parker.

The options to play in that free-roaming central midfield role are numerous - Nkosingiphile Ncgobo, Khama Billiat, Lebogang Manyama, Kgaogelo Sekgota, Njabulo Blom or even Happy Mashiane.

Effectively, instead of a three-point attack, which has usually been Keagan Dolly, Billiat and Parker, Chiefs could have a four-man front-line by playing two wingers, a striker and a support striker/ advanced central midfielder.

It would mean Baxter having to place more trust in his defence. But he could still have Njabulo Ncgobo, reigning PSL Defender of the Season, playing as holding midfielder and shielding the actual defence.

Such a team would also surely be more exciting to watch and better appreciated by the supporters, and why not get more of Amakhosi’s exciting attacking array on the field at the same time?

With just that one simple tweak, it’s possible Baxter could set his players free and take the team to the next level - one that plays on the front foot with confidence and purpose and scores lots of goals, rather than a side ready to grind out results.