Klopp has same problem with Firmino - AmaZulu FC's McCarthy defends misfiring Mthembu

Benni McCarthy AmaZulu
The legendary South African striker has had to defend Shaka, who is enduring a six-match goal drought

AmaZulu FC head coach Benni McCarthy has compared himself to Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp because he praised Siphelele Mthembu following a win over Kaizer Chiefs. 

Mthembu was a constant threat to the Chiefs defence throughout the PSL match which ended in a 2-1 win in favour of AmaZulu at FNB Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The experienced marksman caught the eye with his link-up play with fellow attackers Augustine Mulenga and Lehlohonolo Majoro, who both scored and he has been likened to Liverpool's industrious forward Roberto Firmino by McCarthy.

However, Mthembu was wasteful in front of goal as he squandered several clear chances with the Chiefs defence exposed and McCarthy has now defended the 33-year-old player. 

What's been said

“Shaka [Mthembu] is a one of the best team players you can find in the PSL, I think people don’t give him enough credit for the hard work he does and the interlinking football that he plays you know,” McCarthy told the media. 

“Sometimes I feel like Jurgen Klopp because Klopp has the same problem every week with Roberto Firmino. Players criticise him but they don’t understand what he brings to the team. If he doesn’t play, you see there’s a little bit of a difference in how they play.

“With Shaka, when he plays he brings that calm on the field and of course as a coach and player you want to be on the scoresheet and score, but he just slotted into that role because he always takes the option to look for a teammate that is in a better position than him. He is not the most selfish striker and sometimes he needs to be more selfish," he continued. 

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“If you see the assist ratio under me, Shaka has made an assist and I’m happy with that. I don’t care about what others would think, for me as a coach when he is on the pitch I know what we are going to get and 99 percent of the time we come away with three points when Shaka plays.

“So I’m very happy with him, but as a player he would like to score and it’s about the team, not individuals. Shaka is not one of those players that is not all about himself, he is all about his teammates to get into the goals and is happy to see the team win, and that’s what some don’t understand." 

Why does it matter & what's the bigger picture?

  • Mthembu has netted just once in 15 appearances across all competitions for the KwaZulu-Natal giants this season.
  • Shaka, who is known for his ability to hold up the ball and link up with his teammates, has also provided just two assists from 15 competitive games for Usuthu.
  • The former Orlando Pirates striker will be looking to end his six-match goal drought when AmaZulu face Black Leopards in the Nedbank Cup Last 16 game on February 27.  
  • Usuthu are enjoying an eight-match unbeaten run across all competitions at the moment, having registered three draws and five victories. 
  • AmaZulu are also undefeated in their last four competitive games against Leopards having recorded two successive wins and two consecutive draws. 

Itumeleng Khune, Kaizer Chiefs & Siphelele Mthembu, AmaZulu FC, February 2021

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