Orlando Pirates or Mamelodi Sundowns: Who has the most potent midfield?

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Vincent Pule Kabelo Dlamini Deon Hotto Orlando Pirates
Goal uncovers the numbers to reveal the closest of differences between the attacking midfield departments at the Brazilians and Bucs

Championship challenging teams - the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates included, often need goalscoring midfielders to back up their strikers.

There's no doubt that Sundowns' two main strikers, Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus have been leading from the front in terms of goals and assists, especially the Namibian international.

Pirates on the other hand have been quite severely handicapped this term by injuries to their leading three front-men, Gabadinho Mhango, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Zakhele Lepasa. On top of that, DR Congo striker Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele has yet to settle in.

But in the interim, Bucs have been able to rely on a number of attacking midfielders chipping in with goals. That was the case on Tuesday night when Fortune Makaringe got the only goal in a 1-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic.

The likes of Deon Hotto, Vincent Pule, Kabelo Dlamini and Linda Mntambo have also been keeping the scoreboard ticking. Currently injured, Thembinkosi Lorch has not been at his best this season, but will surely be back amongst the goals sooner rather than later.

Considering that Pirates also have options aplenty in the defensive holding midfielder positions - Thabang Monare, Ben Motshwari, Siphelele Ndlovu and Nkanyiso Zungu and not forgetting rising midfield star Azola Tshobeni, its clear that the Bucs midfield department is top quality and that competition for places is very high.

In the PSL, it's only Sundowns who can compete in that department with the Sea Robbers. Kaizer Chiefs certainly don't have the same depth of quality. Bidvest Wits are no longer around in the top-flight and the likes of SuperSport United and Cape Town simply can't challenge in the market like Sundowns and Pirates can.

The Sundowns midfield attacking array, like Pirates, is also one that will strike fear into any defence.

Themba Zwane, Mamelodi Sundowns, November 2020

It includes a long list: Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Lebohang Maboe, Gift Motupa, Aubrey Modiba, Lesedi Kapinga, Mothobi Mvala, Promise Mkhuma, Grant Margeman, Haashim Domingo and Keletso Makgalwa.

Gaston Sirino also arguably falls into the attacking midfield category rather than an out-and-out striker And even though he also operates at left-back (as well as a wing-back), Lyle Lakay’s stats are so impressive, he also has to be considered.

It's difficult though to compare such lengthy lists when so many factors, such as injury and game-time opportunities, are taken into account.

But if one had to pick three of the best midfielders from each side - in terms of goal involvements over the course of the season - the list is as follows (based on goals and assists stats in all competitions):

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Orlando Pirates:
Deon Hotto - Goals: 5 assists: 7
Thembinkosi Lorch -  Goals: 4, assists: 5
Vincent Pule - Goals: 6, assists: 0
TOTAL – Goals: 15, assists: 12

Mamelodi Sundowns
Themba Zwane - Goals: 10, assists: 2
Lyle Lakay - Goals 2, assists: 5
Gaston Sirino - Goals: 3, assists: 2
TOTAL – Goals: 15, assists: 9

Based on those numbers, Bucs edge it on the narrowest of margins. It’s worth noting though that Downs are leaning heavily on Zwane. But it should also be mentioned that Sirino missed the first three months of the season. For Bucs, Lorch has missed quite a bit of action. There’s certainly massive talent at the two clubs in midfield and plenty of options for national team coach Molefi Ntseki.