Are the Chiefs Center Backs Good Enough?

Look at any of the top leagues around the world, and you will find that the teams that occupy the top position on the log, are also the teams that have conceded the least number of goals. Gone are the days where the top teams would spend big on their attacking players and pay very little attention to their defensive options. Often the attitude of the top teams in Europe and South America was to go out and simply outscore the opposition. This has now clearly changed.

In order to win leagues titles nowadays, the need to have a top defense is non-negotiable.

So, what do you need from your center backs when you are a top PSL team wanting to challenge for the title?

Siyabonga Ngezana of Kaizer Chiefs during the DStv Premiership 2022/23 game between Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs at Cape Town Stadium on 23 August 2022 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

1v1 defending

You need your center backs to be good at 1v1 situations. The better your CBs are at defending 1v1, the more confident your midfield will be to join the attack.

Good reader of the game

A good CB is able to anticipate and read the game. Apart from the goalkeeper, as a center back you have the best view of the game. From your position, you’re able to see every player in most situations. This also automatically makes you the most important communicator. As a center back, you need to be able to coach and help your team take up the right position, and keep the correct shape during the game.

Then there are 2 important requirements for a good CB that we are going to analyze here: Aerial ability and the ability to play out the back.

Aerial ability

All of the Chiefs CBs are big and strong, yet they don’t have the timing or the ability to win the aerial duels, not in the way you would expect from players of their size. CBs need to win their headers to avoid the ball ending up in the back of the net, and also to avoid giving the opposition the chance to win the second ball near to their goals.

Zitha Kwinika of Kaizer Chiefs during the DStv Premiership 2022/23 match between Kaizer Chiefs and Maritzburg United, at FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg on the 9 August 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Good at playing out from the back

Chiefs coach, Arthur Zwane has promised the fans expansive football from this new Chiefs team. For a team to play the kind of football Zwane has promised, they need to have possession, and to do that you need to be able to play out from the back.

All the top possession teams in the world today need CBs who can play out from the back. In fact, most top teams today go further than that, and make sure their keeper is also comfortable playing out from the back.

In the goal keeping department, Chiefs have brought back veteran Ithumeleng Khune. Regardless of his fitness issues over the last few seasons, or whether you think he is still the goalkeeper he was, one thing you cannot take away from Khune is his top class distribution skills. Khune is probably the most comfortable and most confident goalkeeper in the league when it comes to playing out from the back.

In the video below you will see in both examples, how uncomfortable the Chiefs center backs have been at playing out from the back, and in winning their headers.