Part 1: Chiefs defensive frailties under Middendorp


Ernst Middendorp is finally gone from the Naturena village at Kaizer Chiefs. The club duly fired the German and followed up by releasing his local assistant Shaun Bartlett.

The disastrous Chiefs campaign saw the team lose all domestic cups, including a last day heartbreak 1-1 draw with lower bottom outfit Baroka FC.

In a three part analysis, the FARPost Technical Study Group (TSG) will look at the defensive frailties of the team, anti-Chiefs approach and leadership and management challenges under Middendorp caused pain to over 16 million Chiefs supporters.

1. Chiefs v Polokwane City (3-2)

In the match played in the bubble between the two teams (Chiefs v City), the latter scored 2 goals through the central defensive corridor.

The Chiefs central pairing opted to play high-line, whilst committing fullbacks aggressively in attack. As a result the 2 goals scored by City came through the central defensive corridor.

2. Chiefs v Bloemfontein Celtic (1-3)

Although Chiefs scored first with a characteristic Erick Mathoho header, the ‘Glamour Boys’ were thoroughly outclassed by ‘Siwelele’.

Celtic’s opening goal was a result of lack of communication and lateral shifting of the central defenders. The central pair failed to minimize their defensive distances to less than 10 metres between themselves and the fullback Ramahlwe Mphahlele.

The other 2 goals was an individual blunder of Mathoho who failed to clear the ball and his 1v1 defending against Victor Letsoalo. Again, the Chiefs central defensive corridor was easily breached and Celtic pounced handsomely.

3. Chiefs v Sundowns (0-1)

This clash was dubbed the title decider by many in the media and supporters alike. In essence, the winner of that tie had a sniff in the bigger scheme of things.

But the Sundowns goal could have been avoided if the central defensive corridor was well marshalled. Middendorp’s defensive pairing outlined Sundowns to play in front of the defensive line and be breached as Gaston Sirino scored easily.

In dissecting the cause of the goal, 4 key observations were made, namely:

3.1 Disorganized defensive line
3.2 Confused orientation of Daniel Cardoso
3.3 Bad positional orientation of central defensive pairing
3.4 Failure to stop the through pass from Themba Zwane to Sirino

4. Chiefs v Bidvest Wits (0-1)

Wits scored 2 goals against Chiefs in the bubble from the central defensive corridor. In the opening match at Orlando Stadium (Cole Alexander) and the second match (Bienvenu Evan Nga) at FNB Stadium.

It is, however, the Nga goal in the dying minutes that confirmed that the Chiefs coach failed to structure and tighten the central corridor. Cardoso and Mathoho had committed forward and exposed the central defensive corridor.

Whilst the line was evidently high and the distance between the defence and the goalkeeper was too huge, an experienced coach and his players should have dealt with the situation better.

5. Central defensive corridor

The central defensive corridor means the very central space that a defensive pairing must not open at all cost. It is imperative for the defensive pair to work in sync, communicate all the time, shift systematically to support the lateral defenders and minimize the actual spaces between defenders in the defensive line to 10 metres or less.

Failure to protect the central defensive corridor by the defence, will lead to the defence and goalkeeper continuously exposed. A coach who cannot stabilize the central corridor will never win any major silverware and Middendorp is a living classic case.

RELATED STORY: 7 possible Ernst Middendorp replacements at Chiefs

By FARPost Technical Study Group

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