In Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the Soweto Derby against Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates decided to change from their usual 4-2-3-1 shape featuring four attacking players and instead added Ben Motshwari to midfield alongside Xola Mlambo and Musa Nyatama. This meant Augustine Mulenga was dropped to the bench. Did it work?
Coach Milutin Sredojevic may have looked at a strong Kaizer Chiefs midfield and decided he could not afford to start just two specialists in his engine room. Amakhosi have been playing with three in midfield since Ernst Middendorp took over, so this selection seemed to be in order to 'match up' to their opponents. However, Chiefs surprised Pirates by playing 4-4-2 and man-marking Vincent Pule and Thembinkosi Lorch and putting the onus on the Bucs midfield to be a goal threat.
What it means
With Motshwari, Mlambo and Nyatama all together, Pirates are well equipped to dominate possession and control proceedings in the middle of the park, but they lose an attacking player. None of the other three is regular goalscorers or chance creators. This selection meant Ben Motshwari had to play as an attacking midfielder and his lack of finishing ability was seen in the derby as he missed a good chance in the 11th minute.
Has it worked before?
So far this season, Pirates have started that midfield trio on four occasions:
1-0 loss vs. Bidvest Wits (Home - League)
1-0 win vs. Chippa United (Home – Telkom Knockout)
0-0 draw vs. Esperance (Home – CAF Champions League)
1-1 draw vs. Kaizer Chiefs (Away - League)
In those four games, Pirates only won one game and scored just two goals in those matches. Against Esperance, the side made 544 passes but had no shots on target and only six attempts in total. The trio all like to dictate proceedings and keep the ball, but none offer threatening shooting from long-range or able to dribble as Mulenga can offer.
Did Micho get his midfield team selection wrong? Should Mulenga have started? How would you set up the team going forward? Let us know by commenting below!