Keegan Ritchie has filled in for the injured Tsepo Masilela in Kaizer Chiefs last couple of matches and his performances have really caught the eye at times. While one-on-one defensively he sometimes still gets found out, it seems his ability to get forward on the overlap into advanced positions is really outstanding.
Masilela has proven himself to be a very competent defender but it's going forward where it seems he doesn't quite offer the same threat as Ritchie. The same can be said on the right hand side of defence where Siboniso Gaxa seems to offer little threat going forward.
Our exclusive Soccer Laduma stats show that Ritchie is far more successful at getting forward than Masilela. Against Free State Stars he made eight successful final third entries which is very favourable indeed. He also got into the penalty area successfully with the ball at his feet on three occasions as well.
He also showed good composure in these heavily defended tight areas further forward. Ritchie completed eight out of 10 passes while he was in the final third. This shows he can move the ball quickly and skilfully under pressure in tight advanced areas up the pitch. A key sign he's technically good enough to operate as an attack-minded weapon on the left hand side.
By comparison, Masilela's success at getting forward on the overlap seems to be far less. In Chiefs' match against Ajax Cape Town recently, the 28-year-old made just two successful final third entries as well as one unsuccessful penalty area entry.
What these numbers appear to show is that Ritchie is much more of a natural fit as an attacking 'wingback' whereas Masilela offers more defensively. It indicates that there is a real difference between the two players at both ends of the pitch.
With Ritchie's contract expiring in June next year, it could be that his attacking qualities may be enough to win him a new deal. Then again he hasn't played a lot in the three seasons he's been at the club and some may say his recent good performances are a little too late in the day to win him a new deal.
Then again Ritchie is only 23 and he could be on the verge of maturing into a top class attacking left back, meaning Chiefs should further invest in his potential by offering him an extended deal. Nonetheless, it seems to be very hard for Chiefs not to offer him a new contract if he can keep performing as well as he has done so in recent times.
The Siya crew will monitor any developments in this regard at Naturena.