Why Benni can turn around winless run despite key injury

After his side’s 1-0 home defeat to Maritzburg United last Friday extended his side’s winnelss run to nine games, Benni McCarthy faces an uphill task to turn things around at Cape Town City after another big injury blow added to his woes.

It was revealed by the club on Wednesday that Dutch goalkeeper, Peter Leeuwenburgh would be out of action for four weeks, leaving the club with the experienced Sage Stephens and talented youngster, Mark Anderson as options. The latter is the son of the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper of the same name and is said to be highly regarded at the club.

City are currently on a run of nine games without a win, with games during that period against all of Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates in the league and Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout. However, the side did not lose any of those PSL encounters and only lost to Chiefs on penalties in the cup.

The results of greatest concern are those at home against teams playing ultra-defensively and sitting back before hitting McCarthy’s men on the break. Polokwane City (2-0 defeat), Golden Arrows (1-1 draw) and Maritzburg United (1-0 defeat) all got joy playing in this manner and City can expect the same next Wednesday when they play Polokwane City again.

Four ways the legendary former player can help to arrest this alarming form are as follows:

Protect the defence

City currently have the PSL’s worst defensive record with 15 goals conceded in their nine games. In the first half of last season, they also had the league’s worst defensive record (22 conceded in 15 games) but McCarthy oversaw a big improvement in the second half of the campaign with just 13 conceded in the final 15 league games.

Whilst focusing on the players at the back is important, and City have signed Greek centre back, Giannis Potouridis this week, they desperately need to defend better as a team. Thato Mokeke could do with some genuine assistance in front of the back four and the answer could be Zukile Kewuti. His greater aerial ability and defensive nous would give better cover than 33-year-old Mpho Makola. The return of one of the PSL’s very best deep-lying midfielders in Roland Putsche will also be a game-changer once he is fully fit.

McCarthy needs to Use Mthembu More

So far this season, Kermit Erasmus has been superb up front. He has netted six times, including against several of the PSL’s bigger sides where there is greater space to exploit. Against deep backlines who limit the space for him to run into, his effectiveness can be limited. Bringing Siphelele Mthembu back into the picture and using Erasmus in support, or in a wide forward role, would give City more box presence against deep-lying defences.

Read Games Better/Quicker

So far as a head coach, Benni McCarthy has shown himself to be very good at putting in place effective pre-game tactical plans (in co-ordination with his analysis staff). However, his in-game management has left a lot to be desired. He has often replaced an attacker with an extra defender and seen his side invite pressure.

In the league defeat to Chiefs, he did not respond to Ernst Middendorp’s half-time formation change and could not stop Amakhosi’s momentum from growing. In the cup defeat on penalties to the same opponents, he had to withdraw an injured Erasmus, but bringing on fullback Ebrahim Seedat simply liberated Chiefs to be more adventurous in chasing an equaliser. When City are losing, he can throw on extra attacking players to turn results in his team’s favour, but the question mark remains over protecting leads and adjusting to the opposition’s alterations.

Stop the Benni Sideshow

McCarthy is one of the league’s most watchable coaches in the media with his constant sound bites. However, his constant criticism of his own players and referees – the latter of which would almost certainly have earned him a stadium ban in the English Premier League – translates to both a lack of confidence in his charges and mirroring behaviour towards officials.

Benni McCarthy - Why Benni can turn around winless run despite key injury
Benni McCarthy, head coach of Cape Town City is interviewed after the 2019 Telkom Knockout last 16 game between Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs at Cape Town Stadium on 19 October 2019 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

McCarthy accuses referees of bias

McCarthy turned City’s fortunes around last season, taking 28 points from the final 15 league matches and he can do the same this campaign with some tweaks to his team selections, tactics and in-game management – of both his charges and his temperament. 

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