South Africa's goals crisis rumbles on in worst PSL season yet
South African football fans endured another weekend of poor finishing as the goals crisis in the country's Premier Soccer League is confirmed as the worst campaign for marksmen in the competition's history.
The PSL has been in existence since the 1996-97 season and so far the current campaign is comfortably the most goal-shy of the 22 seasons to date, with an average of just 1.95 goals scored per game. When you compare that with the goals averages in Italy's Serie A (2.86), Spain's La Liga (2.82), Germany's Bundesliga (2.74), France's Ligue 1 (2.66) and England's Premier League (2.59), it is easy to see that South African fans are getting short-changed on the entertainment front.
It has been a few months characterised by abysmal misses and almost farcical play at times as South Africa's reputation as a nation devoid of quality forwards is confirmed.
Every coach in the top-flight has had their say on the matter and all agree, a lack of technical ability and composure in the box is to blame. "From what I can see‚ there is no problem with our football‚ but it's a mental block to put that ball in the net‚" Orlando Pirates coach Micho Sredojevic said last week.
"I have been in 138 countries in the world‚ and I have never seen this in my life.
"I want them [my players] to have a habit of scoring‚ a culture of scoring and automation with scoring.
"Once‚ in this country‚ we get players to do things automatically when they are getting a cross‚ when they attack through the centre or when they are one-on-one with the goalkeeper‚ we will solve this nationwide problem of not scoring.
"The problem here is that when players miss one chance‚ they spend so much time worrying about having missed that it stops them from working on creating more.
"I try and hammer‚ like putting a nail in the head‚ that if you think about what you have just missed‚ then you are going to miss more. I say 'if you have missed one‚ pay us back by creating three more chances, one should go in'.
"This mental block is not only with us ... the lack of scoring is why our national team is not going to the World Cup. From what I've seen of what Bafana did to Senegal in Polokwane and Dakar in creating chances‚ Senegal could be a punching bag in Russia."
Throw any PSL coach's name into Google along with 'missed chances' and you will find a plethora of complaints, not just from this season, but dating back through the years. But this campaign has been particularly bad, lower than the worst goals average for a completed season -- the 2009-10 campaign when only 2.08 goals were scored per game.
But while those who have been around the game for a long time complain that the product is getting worse with fewer goals, this is not necessarily the case if you look at the last few completed seasons. Aside from 2009-10, the 2006-07 (2.18), 2007-08 (2.22) and 2013-14 (2.20) seasons were all worse than the last campaign (2.24), for example. There is also the theory that teams know each other too well these days and that the science around the game means that coaches are able to prepare much better for the opposition, stunting the element of surprise.
It is also often mentioned that teams are too afraid to lose games with such high stakes in the PSL, but these do not hold water. It is not that teams are not creating chances through enterprising attacking play, it is just that they cannot finish.
Maritzburg United have become the poster boys for this with a quite remarkable barren run in front of goal that is scarcely believable. None of their players have scored in their last 10 fixtures, some 15-and-a-half hours of football. Their only goal-for in that run was netted by AmaZulu's Michael Morton when he put the ball into his own net in a 1-1 draw.
The last United player to score a goal was Lebogang Maboe against SuperSport United on August 26, a little over three months ago. It is a simply astonishing statistic that you would think was virtually impossible were it not true. Of those 10 Maritzburg games, five have finished 0-0, including four of their last five. And clubs and the league bemoan a lack of fans in the stands, but who would go to watch such a team?
The best period for scoring in the PSL was the late 1990s, with the 1999-00 campaign the benchmark with 2.69 goals per game, though in those days there were 34 matches per club in an 18-team league with perhaps a bit less quality. The best mark in a 30-game campaign was 2.51 in 2010-11, with perhaps some post-2010 FIFA World Cup euphoria gripping the players.
GOALS PER GAME IN THE PSL
1996-97 -- 692 goals at an average of 2.26 per game.
1997-98 -- 736 goals at an average of 2.41 per game.
1998-99 -- 782 goals at an average of 2.56 per game.
1999-00 -- 823 goals at an average of 2.69 per game.
2000-01 -- 725 goals at an average of 2.37 per game.
2001-02 -- 754 goals at an average of 2.46 per game.
2002-03 -- 581 goals at an average of 2.42 per game.
2003-04 -- 566 goals at an average of 2.36 per game.
2004-05 -- 574 goals at an average of 2.39 per game.
2005-06 -- 549 goals at an average of 2.29 per game.
2006-07 -- 524 goals at an average of 2.18 per game.
2007-08 -- 532 goals at an average of 2.22 per game.
2008-09 -- 569 goals at an average of 2.37 per game.
2009-10 -- 499 goals at an average of 2.08 per game.
2010-11 -- 602 goals at an average of 2.51 per game.
2011-12 -- 582 goals at an average of 2.43 per game.
2012-13 -- 546 goals at an average of 2.28 per game.
2013-14 -- 528 goals at an average of 2.20 per game.
2014-15 -- 555 goals at an average of 2.31 per game.
2015-16 -- 562 goals at an average of 2.34 per game.
2016-17 -- 538 goals at an average of 2.24 per game.
2017-18 -- 168 goals at an average of 1.95 per game.