Have the wheels come off for Sundowns?
There was a time when Mamelodi Sundowns seemed invincible.
They were a juggernaut that mowed everything that stood in their way.
Not only did they win the Absa Premiership title in a canter, but went on to conquer Africa by becoming the African Champions League kings before adding the African Super Cup by defeating giants TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo who had won the CAF Confederation Cup.
A month ago everyone was prepared to bet their last Rand that ’Downs would again easily defend their league title.
They had a sizeable number of games in hand and were continuing to destroy everything that stood in their way.
But all that has changed.
Their 1-0 loss to Golden Arrows in the Nedbank Cup this past weekend marked their sixth game without a win.
Out of a possible 15 points from five outstanding matches, they only managed to collect three points from three draws with the other two matches ending in losses.
This has seen their chances of winning the league diminish. Mark my words, not disappear, but get slimmer. That five-game winless league run also included a 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs who are still within a touching distance of the championship.
Unless they can get back to winning ways soon, their chances of retaining the title they won so easily last season will be gone.
And it doesn’t get easier going forward.
They have tough back-to-back Tshwane derby matches against SuperSport United who are also still in the running for the league title.
They meet them this Thursday and again next week (April 19).
The fixtures are not easy for other contenders as well.
Just next week, Bidvest Wits who are perched at the top following a resounding 3-0 victory over a hapless Golden Arrows, meet Cape Town City in another six-pointer.
Sundowns’ misfiring on the pitch seems to be rubbing coach Pitso Mosimane up the wrong way.
From statements such as “football can be humbling”, that were becoming a mantra in his post-match interviews, he has gone back to his old sulky self, blaming everyone but himself for losses.
On two occasions, against Chiefs and Arrows, he has been entangled in ugly post-match scenes - much as it has to be pointed out that on both, he was the provoked party - but he needs to know that people will always take advantage of his short fuse.
Mosimane has proved to be one of the best tacticians at club level on the continent, proof of which is the CAF Champions League title and the CAF Super Cup trophy that decorate the club’s Chloorkop offices.
Instead of allowing himself to get involved in unnecessary skirmishes with individuals who are not even his coaching peers, he should focus on getting Sundowns back on track.
On the other hand, Wits coach Gavin Hunt seems to have mastered the art of diplomacy and army-tactic-like decoy by mentioning the other clubs as the main contenders at every given opportunity while quietly collecting the necessary and crucial points.
So as the season draws closer to its conclusion, expect a lot of scintillating football - as well as a lot of quiet diplomacy from the coaches.
Interesting times indeed!
S'Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.