Mhango concerns highlight Orlando Pirates’ struggles up front

Frank Mhango, Orlando Pirates, January 2021
In the Sea Robbers’ last 10 matches, only two goals have been scored by recognised strikers – Tshegofatso Mabasa and Jean-Marc Mundele Makusu

The need for an out-and-out goalscorer at Orlando Pirates has become increasingly clear as the season has progressed.

The problem was again highlighted last weekend when Bucs wasted a great chance to secure what would have been a fantastic away victory over Al Ahli Benghazi as they fired blanks in a 0-0 Confederation Cup draw.

Malawian marksman Gabadinho Mhango was especially guilty of some big misses and he drew some stinging criticism online as a result.

Mhango though is not the only striker in stuttering form this season – between Bucs’ four main forwards – Mabasa, Makusu, Mhango and Zakhele Lepasa, only nine goals have been scored - in all competitions.

To be fair, part of that is down to injury – Mabasa is still finding full fitness after several months out while Lepasa has missed a big chunk of the season.

Lepasa certainly showed plenty of promise early on and looked an exciting prospect. Although to say he’s a youngster with potential for the future is stretching it as he’s 24-years-old now and has scored only 13 career goals so far (in the PSL and National First Division combined).

In terms of presence, pace and power, and a killer instinct in front of goal, Mabasa has at times looked the part since his arrival from Bloemfontein Celtic two seasons back.

He did chip in with a useful seven league goals last term, but this season he’s managed just two in the league (from seven games) and one in the Caf Confederation Cup, having been limited to just 11 appearances (many of those coming off the bench) in all competitions due to injury. There’s certainly a good striker there, but Mabasa badly needs an extended run without injury to get his rhythm going.

Mhango meanwhile was the joint top scorer in the entire league last season with 16 goals in 28 matches. This time around, he’s got only two league goals in 15 league games, with his progress also stifled by injury. But even so, it’s been a poor return.

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However, a look at Mhango’s stats since his arrival in the PSL, show that he’s never been an especially prolific striker – last season was an exception to the rule. Before that, his tallies in the league per season were: three, two, nine, six, five and nine. And in that entire time, since joining Golden Arrows in the 2013/ 14 season, he’s scored just three domestic cup goals and one in Africa.

And so while he’s certainly had a decent career in the PSL, the question must be asked as to whether a club of Pirates ambition can pin their hopes on Mhango being their leading marksman.

Mhango, Mabasa and Lepasa aside, Bucs’ only other out-and-out striker is Makusu. The DR Congo forward has failed to inspire this season and has scored only once. He certainly doesn't seem to have the trust of head coach Josef Zinnbauer and there have been times when Makusu has remained on the bench when all the other strikers were unavailable, as Pirates opted instead to play an attacking midfielder up front.

It seems more clear now than ever that a couple of new strikers will be top of the Buccaneers’ shopping list for next season.