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What we’ve learnt in the PSL this season

Mamelodi Sundowns celebrating their eighth PSL title

The joy and excitement of sitting back on your favourite couch, watching the Absa Premiership week in and week out can always be exhilarating. However, in the space of 10 months, there is plenty we could still miss out on.

With the Premier Soccer League drawing to a close, we’ll be taking a look at three major things we have learnt in South Africa’s top-flight this campaign.

Are Sundowns the best team in the PSL era?

Firstly, we just have to congratulate Mamelodi Sundowns for what has been yet another remarkable season. The Brazilians have claimed their eighth league title, doing so in quite some fashion. The champions boast a seven-point advantage over second-placed, Orlando Pirates, heading into the final game, but it’s the way they’ve stayed in front from the get-go that is most impressive.

The debate can go on and on whether this is the best team in the history of the PSL, but Maritzburg United coach, Fadlu Davids, certainly thinks so. Before facing Sundowns in the semi-final of his side’s Nedbank Cup clash, the 36-year-old was full of praise for this season’s champions.

We’re playing the best team in the history of Sundowns, the best team in the history of South Africa,” he said.

Coming from someone who has played at the highest level, and mastered the coaching of it too, we have to respect what Davids is saying. The way Sundowns go about their business, looking to break every record the PSL has to offer, not to mention the fast-paced football and their fluidity in spreading the leather.

Fadlu Davids coach Maritzburg United and Pitso Mosimane coach of Mamelodi Sundowns

They also have a mastermind tactician in Pitso Mosimane, a coach who has won everything that is there to be won, while also conquering Africa for the first time in Sundowns’ history. The 2016 African Coach of the Year is widely regarded as the best manager in the land. With the league’s so-called “greats” in Gavin Hunt and Gordon Igesund not being as consistent as the Sundowns mentor, sir ‘Jingles’ is clearly well above the rest.

Because of Pitso, teams now fear Sundowns in the league, and with a star on top of their crest, they’re worthy of being considered as one of Africa’s biggest giants.

I firmly believe that this Sundowns team is of the highest quality, and if this keeps going on, who can disagree with them being the best club in the PSL era?

There’s just one team in Soweto

From the start of the campaign, we sort of knew what to expect from both Soweto clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. In the annual Carling Black Label Cup, neither team gave us any indication that they could challenge at the very top.

I must say, I, along with many others, was completely wrong about the Buccaneers. Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic came in and changed the club completely. Pirates haven’t won a trophy since 2014, but Micho has brought back a sense of optimism within the camp and the fans truly feel that next year could be their year.

At times like these, we have to give Chairman, Irvin Khoza, the credit he deserves. To bring in Micho, who has experience across Africa, as well as assistant coach, Rhulani Mokwena, who knows every little detail about every opponent in the PSL. Together, the pair have done a superb job.

Pirates’ game is now based on possession, and their 3-4-2-1 formation just proves that keeping the ball is the way they want to go about their business. From the start, Micho and Mokwena distanced the club of any title talk, meeting expectations by finishing second and qualifying for next year’s CAF Champions League.

I say that there is one club in Soweto, because right now, Kaizer Chiefs have become a business. Yes, they’re in third place, but they’re far behind their rivals at the top. The club have gone without a trophy for a third season in a row now, with that being one of the reasons they have parted ways with Steve Komphela.

Orlando Pirates FC of South Africa

There’s no passion or desire to strengthen from the likes of Bobby Motaung, and, for me, that has been the main reason the club have dropped in the last couple of years. Chiefs still have the same old players that have been key for them for far too long, most notably Siphiwe Tshabalala, who has been the club’s best player this season, but we could argue that he too had reached his peak way back in 2010.

Foreigners continue to boost the standard of our league

Often we tend to criticise those “YouTube stars” who fail to make it in South Africa’s top flight. However, when we do get it right, we can’t help but sit back and admire the foreign gems that come into our league.

We’ve had some quality players over the years, and this season has continued to live up to what we expect of our foreign nationals. Gaston Sirino of Sundowns, who I admire as a footballer, has taken the PSL by storm. He’s yet to score in the Absa Premiership, but his all-round contributions have been immense.

Gaston Sirino, Luc Eymael, Khama Billiat

Khama Billiat, another player who is no stranger to bossing the league. The Zimbabwean international has been a part of the best attacking trio I’ve seen in the league, alongside Keagan Dolly and Leonardo Castro, becoming the unstoppable ‘CBD’. This season, Billiat has featured in just 16 games, but somehow, still has eight goals to his name, as well as a further six assists.

When we say that foreigners boost the standard of the Absa Premiership, it’s not only the players that we are referring to, but the coaches as well. The likes of Micho, Free State Stars boss, Luc Eymael, as well as Ajax Cape Town coach, Muhsin Ertugral, are all at the top of their trade.

Eymael’s stellar job at Ea Lla Koto has not gone unnoticed, with Kaizer Chiefs headlining a list of clubs interested in the Belgian’s signature.

Written by Jesse Nagel