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Mamelodi Sundowns' problems during Covid-19: What is Mosimane doing wrong?

08:49 SAST 2020/08/15
Pitso Mosimane, Mamelodi Sundowns, July 2019
The 56-year-old's commitment and desire to win everything is commendable but he has made decisions that have not been right since football returned

Pitso Mosimane is known and respected for his winning mentality among other traits he possesses as head coach, especially since his arrival at Mamelodi Sundowns in 2012. 

He has already spoken about challenging for everything on offer in the remaining matches of the season - the league title and the Nedbank Cup. 

Sundowns are in second place on the PSL log, three points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs while they are in the final of the Nedbank Cup. 

While it may seem possible to win the two trophies due to the team's depth and quality, things just don't seem to be going their way since the return of football. 

Ahead of their clash against Orlando Pirates in midweek, Mosimane took a swipe at the Sea Robbers, saying they didn't know what his team knew - Covid-19 football because Sundowns had already played Bidvest Wits and won. 

However, that statement appears to be coming back to haunt him because Sundowns are struggling and their struggles can be attributed to three factors.    

Team selection 

Mosimane's team selection has been questionable since the resumption of the season - with a number of his experienced players often left out of the starting XI.

Against both Wits and Pirates, he was forgiven because it was the team's first game in over four months - but there were already concerns about the exclusions of Andile Jali, Tiyani Mabunda, Tebogo Langerman and Wayne Arendse among others.  

The continuous overlooking of Anthony Laffor has also raised a few eyebrows by those who know the Liberia international's big-match temperament at this stage of the season. 

Over the years, Laffor proved very important to the team in the latter stage of the campaign by chipping in with a few crucial goals.     

And one expected Mosimane to at least bank on the experience of his senior players to get the job done. After all, they have been there and done that before and can be trusted. 

However, this hasn't been the case as he appears to be experimenting with new combinations from the back to midfield and upfront. 

For example, Motjeka Madisha hasn't been himself in recent matches and has made some costly mistakes - perhaps because he is not used to playing with Ricardo Nascimento but Mosa Lebusa or Arendse in defence. 

In midfield, Rivaldo Coetzee showed great potential in his first matches there but it is the combination of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda that made Sundowns a force to be reckoned with both domestically and on the African continent. 

Jali came in and took the baton from Mabunda soon before the break and he was on top of his game that he even returned to the Bafana Bafana setup but he has been nowhere to be seen - in fact, he only came on as a second-half substitute against Pirates but had little impact. 

It's good that Mosimane has faith in the younger players such as Promise Mkhuma, Sphelele Mkhulise and Keletso Makgalwa and while they have done tremendously well thus far, they cannot be expected to deliver the league title this season.    

Inadequate preparation 

In July, Mosimane, who is also doing his Caf Pro Licence, admitted to being compromised as he has to juggle his studies with coaching and preparing the team. 

He further revealed how he would sometimes miss classes in order to train the team and contribute to the ideas shared by the technical team during training sessions. 

But he would not be available for all the training sessions, meaning he'd rely on the information from his colleagues to make decisions on who's ready and who's not - and that has clearly impacted how Sundowns play. 

Without undermining the work done by Mosimane's technical team but his lack of preparation has impacted his squad negatively. 

The players are used to having Mosimane around and seeing him hands-on - and the sooner he finishes the Caf Pro Licence the better because he'd be able to get Sundowns back to where they belong - winning games convincingly and playing attractive football. 

Shuffling of player positions 

Mosimane has an eye for talent, no doubt about that but he sometimes has to stick to the basics for his team to grind results.

Playing certain players in their not-so-natural positions has proven costly at times. 

If certain players aren't performing then they should make way for those they are competing against for the same position rather than be shifted around in trying to help them regain form. 

Lebohang Maboe has been underperforming for months now and instead of being benched just like how other players were before him, he has found a new position - he is now a right-back. 

That's from being an attacking midfielder when he first arrived from Maritzburg United to being a false 9 and now right-back. 

This is while there's Nicholus Lukhubeni on the bench and a shortage of goals upfront, especially with Mauricio Affonso not available due to lockdown regulations. 

Coetzee is a defender by trait but he's now Kekana's partner while Mosimane benches natural midfielders such as Mabunda, Jali and Lucky Mohomi.

Lyle Lakay was converted from midfield to defence when he arrived but he has now been moved up and is expected to produce the goods - while Lebusa who's more comfortable as a central defender after losing some pace has gone back to the position he played when he first made his professional debut.