Micho's tinkering can only plunge Bucs into stormy seas

22 August 2018 - 08:49
By Nkareng Matshe
Orlando Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic.
Image: BackpagePix Orlando Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic.

The year 2018 began with so much promise for Orlando Pirates. From being nowhere near the title race at the beginning of the previous season, back-to-back wins over Baroka and Mamelodi Sundowns in January leapt them to a position where they could begin to dream.

They eventually fell short of Sundowns by five points, having been upended by a draw with SuperSport United and a loss at Cape Town City in the final stretch, but also in the main by Sundowns' unrelenting consistency which saw them win all of their games in a demanding schedule of April.

Still, the general agreement among the Ghost was that, after the travails of the 2016/2017 season which plunged Pirates to 13th place - their worst position in PSL history - there finally was light at the end of the tunnel.

The results of the past week, during which time Pirates were floored via penalties by SuperSport United in the MTN8, stunned at home by Bidvest Wits and outthought by Bloemfontein Celtic away, suggest something is going horribly wrong for the Buccaneers now.

There are many things which have puzzled about Milutin Sredojevic's selection decisions in this campaign. The Pirates coach doesn't seem to know his best team. He has made changes to each of the five starting XIs he's sent out for official matches since the season began on August 4.

The most obvious change came after the first game against Highlands Park, where Pirates dropped two points following a howler by Wayne Sandilands.

Sredojevic's reaction was to drop the goalkeeper for the next game, away to Chippa United, in favour of Siyabonga Mpontshane.

But the question was, why was Mpontshane dropped in the first place after he had done so well in helping Pirates mount a championship challenge towards the end of the previous campaign?

Mpontshane played in seven of Pirates' last eight games, of which only one - away to Cape Town City - ended in defeat. Somehow Sredojevic decided Sandilands should be given the nod following the injury to new recruit Brilliant Khuzwayo, who apparently had been earmarked for the number one slot.

Pirates added nine players to their squad at the start of the season, but throwing most of them in from the word go was always going to be a challenge. This is where Micho got it wrong.

He could have retained some of those who were so instrumental in the previous campaign but instead he opted to make wholesale changes, experimenting from game to game.

While that can be understandable, the most curious was the past weekend's recall to the starting XI of Thabo Matlaba, who had been on transfer just a few weeks ago.

But this sort of tinkering can only lead to disaster, as we've seen with Pirates losing three of their five official games this season.

Sredojevic needs to find his starting XI, play it and back it for a few games. The haphazard dropping of players after the slightest mistakes can only breed instability and a possible dressing room upheaval.