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Why Sundowns Have Been Above The Rest

Mamelodi Sundowns

With Mamelodi Sundowns on course to claim their eighth Absa Premiership title, we take a look at why the Brazilians have been well-above the rest this campaign.

For the last five seasons in the PSL, the top three teams have been different each year, but Sundowns, somehow, have managed to stay up in the mix, proving that they really are the best team in the land.

They continue to outshine their rivals and Masandawana still have a shot of claiming the league and CAF Champions League double, with the PSL all-but wrapped up and a fairly easy group to advance in, judging by their standards.

Consistency is key

Finding a consistent balance for so many years can be one of the most difficult parts of football. Also, it is one of the most important elements in success. Sundowns have always produced a great crop of players, and the minute a big-name superstar leaves, a ready-made replacement is already lined up. Pitso Mosimane reiterated that when he spoke to SuperSport TV after his side’s 1-0 win over Golden Arrows.

“You have to understand that Percy [Tau] came-in in the space of Keagan Dolly, [Tiyani] Mabunda came-in in the space of Bongani Zungu," Mosimane said in a post-match interview.

"It has not been easy; it has been difficult. Now we are trying to put [Gaston] Sirino in the space of Khama [Billiat].

"We are trying to make sure the team becomes stronger because we are going to lose players, but what is important is that at all times to make sure that we have a back-up and that is my job," the Sundowns mentor continued.

The above-mentioned trio are just a few names that have helped build the consistency in the team. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to one man.

Jingles all the way!

I’ve said this before, and I’m not afraid to say it again. Pitso is by far the best coach in Mzansi. You can tell that despite him being at the top of his trade, he is always willing to learn new methods in achieving success. He’s kept up with the times, and since he’s been at the Sundowns helm, the club have taken several steps forward.

After five seasons with the Brazilians, ‘Jingles’ has won seven trophies, consisting of two league titles, four cups, and the club’s first Champions League triumph. This year, Mosimane looks set to claim his third Absa Premiership title with Downs.

The 2016 African Coach of the Year is also the only manager to win all domestic trophies since the start of the PSL era, and with a side that has conquered Africa as well, winning the treble is always a likely target.

Choose your foreigners wisely

I think it’s fair to say that foreigners are the most important players, not just in the rainbow nation, but worldwide as well. They certainly help boost the standard of our league in particular, and Masandawana certainly have the best of the lot.

Only five non-South African nationals can be registered per season, with Bangaly Soumahoro, Brimah Razak, Ricardo Nascimento, Jeremy Brockie and Sirino making the cut for Sundowns. The club also boast the likes of Billiat, Denis Onyango and Anthony Laffor, who have all acquired permanent residency, so they are not registered as foreigners.

Despite having the best foreigners in the league, Mosimane knows how to manage them and keep the continuity going. When Jingles said that Tau came in to replace Dolly, ‘Shuga’ came in for Zungu, and Sirino in for Billiat, I noticed that it’s like-for-like replacements. One South African in, one South African out. Likewise with the foreigners, one in, one out.

Sundowns don’t park the bus

Winning trophies is one thing, but when you do so while playing an exciting brand of football, the fans will always be on your side. Soccer lovers want to see Sundowns play, and very seldomly do you see empty crowds when they’re involved.

The passing, their movement off the ball, the way they make football look so easy, you just have to admire how Sundowns handle their business. From Onyango in goals to Sibusiso Vilakazi up front, it’s short, one-touch passing, with not much long balls in their play.

When his side lost to a very defensive Kaizer Chiefs team earlier in the season, Pitso called out the Soweto giants on their tactics, saying that we would never see that from his team.

"We don't know how to park the bus," he said."We have a team that believes in going forward and believes in playing football.
We have never had a training session of parking the bus. So we always have to go and try and win," Mosimane concluded.

Of course the electrifying attacking quartet of Vila, Tau, Sirino and Themba Zwane have something to do with Downs’ success, but credit needs to be handed to Mabunda and Hlompho Kekana in the double pivot role as well.

As classy as Sundowns are, the duo are accountable to do the dirty work, while they manage to do so with a sense of swagger in their play.

Squad depth

If you want to compete at the highest level and challenge in all competitions, you need a relatively large squad to contend with. Masandawana are at the top of the pile because of their amazing depth in the team.

Every game, I look at the Sundowns bench and think to myself: “Wow. So many options for Pitso to choose from.”

The Brazilians are spoilt for choice in every single position. The likes of Brockie, Aubrey Ngoma, Oupa Manyisa, Thapelo Morena and the young striking sensation, Keletso Makgalwa, who goes by the nickname “Aguero” – for obvious reasons – have all been waiting in line for an opportunity.

What is most important is that no matter who comes in, Downs stick to their usual fast-paced, free flow football.

Percy Tau

In a side full of superstars, one name has stood out above the rest this term. Tau has had a remarkable campaign and is the favourite to notch the Player of the Season award for 2017/18. The little maestro is also on course to claim the Golden Boot award, with Polokwane City’s Rodney Ramagalela being his only real challenger.

Senegalese legend, El Hadji Diouf, also had high praise for Tau, saying that the 23-year-old has the talent to perhaps one day surpass Liverpool duo, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

The sky is the limit for Tau, and after contributing to 27 goals across all competitions so far, next stop will most definitely be Europe..

Written by  Jesse Nagel