How Gavin Hunt's Wits have lost their Mojo - and how they can get it back
How do you dissect Bidvest Wits’ six-game start without a win in 2017-18 as league champions?
Simply‚ as Wits aim to turn around their defending Absa Premiership season against Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium this evening (kickoff: 6pm)‚ it can be summed up in four neat points:
The injuries in particular to goalkeeper Darren Keet and centreback Buhle Mkhwanazi have destabilised Wits. So too‚ more recently‚ that of striker James Keene. These have resulted in adverse spinoffs.
2. THE SPINOFFS FROM THE INJURIES
Coach Gavin Hunt initially tried to rush new signing Slavko Damjanovic into service in place of Mkhwanazi‚ who got a red card 21 minutes into Wits’ first game – the MTN8 penalties win against Golden Arrows – where the Montenegrin looked bewildered by the pace of the SA game.
Then Hunt had to turn back to Bongani Khumalo. The former Bafana Bafana captain may be hugely experienced‚ but in all honesty only barely managed to steer Wits to the league title last season in Mkhwanazi’s absence. At one stage early this season Hunt went as far as to say that his side needed to cut out the individual errors at the back‚ and that there was‚ “only one man doing it”.
Then Damjanovic came back. Most recently‚ Phumlani Ntshangase was deployed in a three-man defence alongside the Damjanovic and Thulani Hlatshwayo.
It's all been disruptive and the central defence has been a mess.
Moeneeb Josephs‚ at 37‚ this season has just not looked himself and has struggled to command his area in Keet’s absence‚ adding to the uncertainty at the back.
As Wits have bled goals – 11 in six games – their most important weapon‚ their iron-like structure‚ has unraveled. And the enforced chopping and changing contributed.
Keene’s injury meant Amr Gamal had to rushed into a starting role at centre-forward.
Like Damjanovic‚ or just about any foreigner new to the frenetic pace of the PSL‚ the Egyptian has shown his potential‚ but struggled to catch his breath.
One might have imagined an equalising goal in Wits’ 3-1 league defeat against Arrows at Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday night might have settled the nerves‚ but then Gamal missed two open goals.
Phakamani Mahlambi has also been lost to Al Ahly.
Certainly Wits’ porousness at the back has been the bigger problem. But with the team missing chances at the same time‚ it has all spiraled a little out of control‚ and Hunt has some work to do reeling the situation back in.
Hunt is the coach‚ and with his immense experience and four league titles‚ will have Wits winning again at some stage. It’s just a question of: when?
The coach has been known for slow starts‚ and then rectifying them. As one Wits official said this week in conversation‚ and I will paraphrase to some extent: “Gavin loves chaos.
“He loves it when it all falls apart and then he can come in‚ pick up all the pieces‚ and then put them back together again – and then he’s the hero again. That’s what it’s all about‚ isn’t it?”
Hunt might opt to give young keeper signing from Cape Town All Stars Kyle Peters a run against Chiefs‚ and Josephs a rest.
Being a conservative coach‚ though‚ he will probably decide rather to coax some confidence back into Josephs.
Mostly Wits‚ injuries or no injuries‚ just need to start settling on a consistent lineup again‚ and begin snapping back into their famous shape.
How long that takes to achieve will decide whether they can be serious contenders defending their title.