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THE BREAKDOWN: Why Pirates Need Mlambo

With a move for Bidvest Wits' Xolani Mlambo on the cards, we take a look at whether the midfielder can help Orlando Pirates improve next season.

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In Soccer Laduma issue number 1025, it was revealed that the Buccaneers have expressed their interest in the 25-year-old in an effort to boost their midfield for the upcoming season. When looking at the statistics, it is apparent why they are looking for a man to line up alongside Abubaker Mobara.

Taking a look at Pirates’ season average, it will be a cause for concern for their coach, Kjell Jonevret that the team has averaged only 51,9% possession. A team of Pirates’ reputation should be holding onto the ball for longer periods of time and an average of 376.8 passes per game could explain why they are only able to create 1.6 chances per game. In his short time on the pitch in 2016/17, Mlambo made 0.61 assists to shots, showing that he can massively boost Pirates’ efforts to be more effective in the final third. With Tendai Ndoro struggling to replicate his form from 2016, with just one goal scored in the second half of the 2016/17 season, the midfield should have taken more responsibility for failing to create chances

Mlambo is known to be a talented player when it comes to keeping hold of the ball, winning the ball 11.39 times per game, and making the short passes in the middle of the park (25.45 per game) to keep the ball moving and helping the team tick, as was the case in his spell at Chippa United. His work in the middle of the park saw him win 1.81 points per game in his 16 games played in the 2015/16 season and he scored twice while assisting a further two.

Standing at 1,78m tall, Mlambo is also a very capable player when it comes to aerial duels, winning 1.42 aerial challenges per 90 minutes this season, while Pirates have the second worst aerial duels per match figure (9.3) in the league. Another factor is the recent return to form for Marc van Heerden, who has made 83.6 passes per 90 minutes this season, the highest amount out of all the players in the league. Mlambo knows the left back well from their days at Chippa togetherand the two can form a vital partnership for Pirates in the efforts to launch attacks on the left flank.

Mlambo could return to his favoured position as a slightly more advanced midfielder, while playing alongside an effective defensive midfielder in the form of Abubaker Mobara, who has completed 1.3 tackles and 0.3 interceptions per game in the middle of the park. However, he has won 2,35 and won 11.39 balls per game, showing that he is capable of taking on a dynamic role in the centre of the park, adapting to his coach’s requirements.

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A defensive midfield pivot, could be seen as somewhat static,  Mlambo could prove to be the ideal candidate in either midfield role.

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