We continue our review of the recently concluded DSTV Premiership season, with the third of four articles in the series. Featuring a few stats on each team (both ordinary and extraordinary), the focus today is on Teams M to S, starting with the champions.
Top Scorer All Comps: Peter Shalulile (22).
Sundowns began the 2020/21 season with the knowledge that they were about to lose their most successful coach (Pitso Mosimane) to the biggest club on the continent, Al Ahly. That did not faze the new coaching trio – Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela.
Instead, the team picked up exactly where they left off the previous season and went on to set records few thought they were capable of. They say ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, meaning that if you become accustomed to a similar situation for a long time, you may start to lose respect for it or take it for granted.
The same applies to a team that wins 11 Premier Soccer League (PSL) titles and four in a row. Yet, the danger in thinking of this particular Sundowns as the team that almost became invincible is that it could downplay their other achievements.
35 – Downs’ +35 goal difference in the 2020/21 season is the joint-best goal difference in the 30-game era, equaling their own +35 GD from the 2015/16 season.
13 – The 13-point gap between 1st & 2nd at the end of this season is the second biggest in PSL top-flight history, bettered only by the 14-point gap between 1st (Sundowns) & 2nd (Wits) in 2015/16.
This is a side that scored 75 times in all competitions this campaign.
By the time they lost their only game of the season (Game 22), they had already set a record for the longest unbeaten run from the start of a season. Add to that a club record for clean sheets, the first team to complete a season unbeaten away from home – and you have the markings of a special team.
With sixteen different scorers, Sundowns also had the most goal contributors in the league – the last time they had more players find the net in a season was in 2004/05, when 18 players scored. That said, the Footballer of the Season Peter Shalulile deserves special mention, with 30 goal contributions in all competitions in his debut season at the club.
3 – Shalulile is only the third player in Sundowns’ PSL history to score 15 league goals in a season (after Katlego Mphela and Daniel Mudau (twice).
Top Scorer All Comps: Thabiso Kutumela (13).
Only two teams experienced a negative 10+ points swing between last season and this one – Kaizer Chiefs dropped 21 points from last season, while Maritzburg dropped 12. The former have a transfer ban as a decent reason, and Caf Champions League football as a solace, but the latter have none of those.
If it were not for Thabiso Kutumela’s goals, Maritzburg would be 14 points worse off than the measly 30 they managed all season. It doesn’t work that way, but it’s worth noting his importance to them:
44% – Kutumela scored 44% of his team’s goals in the league this season (12/27) – the highest proportion of any PSL player.
Maritzburg will be mortified when they look at other KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) sides, AmaZulu and Golden Arrows finishing in the Top 4. The Team of Choice’s regression is also evident in their change in league positions from last season, dropping 6 places (from 7th to 13th), the joint-biggest drop of all sides (Chiefs also 6).
Their season can be summarised into 5-game chunks, starting with a 5-game losing run in their first five games of the season – the joint-worst losing of all teams. The return of Ernst Middendorp in December resulted in one loss in the next five, before a second slump (one win in five) was followed by another five game unbeaten run in March – with one man leading that charge.
5 – In March/April, Kutumela became the first player in Maritzburg United’s PSL history to score in five successive league games.
Two wins in the final ten games (only three goals for Kutumela in that period) made for an uncomfortable ending, but ultimately they managed to survive.
Top Scorer All Comps: Vincent Pule (9).
Orlando Pirates’ season started in triumph with an MTN8 win over Bloemfontein Celtic less than two months into the season. It ended in deflation as they were humiliatingly knocked out of both the Nedbank Cup (4-1) and the Caf Confederations Cup (5-1 on aggregate).
Their early season form included a 5-0 aggregate win over Chiefs which seemed impressive at the time, but as the season progressed, it soon became evident that Chiefs were there for the taking. If you offered any fan at the start of a new season that they’d end one position lower on the table, but with a trophy in hand, they’d probably take it.
But if that same team finished 2 points behind the champions one season, seven points the next and then a whopping 17 in the third, feelings would be mixed. As with recent Pirates sides, the intertwined evils of inconsistency and lack of goals have been the main problem.
2 – Pirates strung two league wins in a row only twice this season – once in November, once in March.
The fact that a Chiefs side experiencing possibly their worst ever season scored more goals (34) than Pirates (33) will be a sore point. In 25 seasons, Pirates have scored fewer goals in a season only three times. When you consider that three other clubs had former Pirates players as top goalscorers this season – Maritzburg, AmaZulu and TTM, more questions arise.
While Pirates playing more matches than any other side this season (49) may be a legitimate reason for fatigue as the season progressed, it also becomes an indictment that their top scoring player had just 9 goals when they played so many games.
Top Scorer All Comps: Stanley Dimgba (6).
Steve Barker’s Stellenbosch survived relegation in the final gameweek of the season and earned themselves the chance to fight another day.
A lot of focus at the bottom of the table has been on Black Leopards (rightfully) and Chippa, so the underwhelming efforts of Stellies may have gone unnoticed.
In the last two months of the season, Stellenbosch played nine league games and failed to score from open play in all nine (their only goal was a Mendieta penalty).
Since 10 March, Stellies failed to win any of the 12 games they played (D8 L4), and if we go further back, the picture does not look any prettier. In fact, if the league had started on 6 January, Stellenbosch would be bottom of the table and relegated.
6 – Stellies failed to score in their last six games of the season, the longest such run by any top-flight club in the last three seasons.
RELATED STORY: STATS: DSTV Prem Season Review (Teams C – K)
By Opta Jabu