Santos go for another shot at the title
The People’s Team’s off-season work should be hailed as a real success – not only have they made a few useful purchases but the Cape side has also ensured that none of their top players have departed, this despite rumours that the likes of Mogogi Gabonamong, Erwin Isaacs and Eleazar Rodgers were all on the wanted lists of other PSL clubs. (only Ryan Chapman has left, for Wits)
A fourth placed finish last season was an excellent achievement. Coach Boebie Solomons appears to the perfect man for the job and with a good mix of experience and youthful players who now have a couple of seasons behind them, there is no reason why the People’s Team can not be amongst the front runners in the league title race.
In Isaacs, Rodgers, Phikolethu Spelman and new signing Sekou Camara, they have the players to score the goals to fire them to potential honours.
Solomons stated towards the end of last season that his side was approaching the level they wanted, and with his team also reported to be extremely fit ahead of the new season, this promises to be a successful campaign for the Landsdowne-based outfit.
Santos player profiles
Langeveldt had a mixed campaign last season, not getting much game time in the wake of Tshepo Motsoeneng’s impressive form. He is a solid enough goal minder, but could again struggle to feature much with Motsoeneng the top dog and Wayne Roberts again in the picture.
Motsoeneng was simply outstanding last season and will be looking to maintain his focus and drive this campaign and again make himself the club’s number one. With very few weaknesses in his game, he could surely come into Bafana reckoning if there are any injuries to the national team’s current incumbents.
The former Wits and Pirates shot stopper’s off-the-field issues have been well enough documented. Having been given yet another chance by Santos he will surely want to show that he still has what it takes – if he can regain form and fitness Roberts will push Motsoeneng hard for a first team berth.
The experienced Malawian makes the move from Black Leopards – despite being 29, Mponda appears to have been around forever on the local soccer scene and has a wealth of experience and excellent leadership qualities to offer the team.
Fransch will need to work hard this season to get his starting place back in the team after Ricardo Skippers dominated the left back role last season. It will take character for the young but talented left back with the lethal left boot to bounce back from the disappointment of last season, when he failed to get any league action.
Ntloana was outstanding at right back last season and was a near ever-present with 24 league games under his belt. This season he could face renewed competition for his place from a fit-again Bongi Macala, meaning that Santos are well covered at right back with two of the best players in the PSL in this position available to Boebie Solomons.
Zairon Van Beulen
Van Beulen always puts in reliable and solid performances and his versatility mean he can play in the centre of defence or in central midfield. He played in 17 games last season, but will have to work extremely hard for a place in the starting line-up – when everyone is fit, Santos have an abundance of defence-minded central players.
Oakes found game time difficult last season, having had to play second fiddle to Ricardo Skippers, who made the left back position his own. The former Durban Stars player faces another uphill battle this season and Skippers proved himself a solid an reliable performer. Oakes does possess plenty of pace and can also fill the left wing role if needed.
The club’s player of the season last season, Arendse is one of the most under-rated players in the league and it’s a surprise he has not been in and around the Bafana Bafana set up yet. Now 26, Arendse is nearing his prime and will be a regular smarter in the central of defence and indeed will be the rock around which the back four is built. His calm demeanour, pace and reading of the game will again be a big asset for the People’s Team.
Macala had injury problems last season which limited his starting games to just 11, plus another six off the bench. There is no doubt that he is a top performer in the right back position, offering great options going forward, so much so that at times he was used as a winger. However, in his absence Thabiso Ntloana staked his claim as the regular full back and Macala has a hard task ahead if he is to dislodge Ntloana.
The veteran defender faces an uphill task to force his way in to the starting line-up, and is unlikely to start too many games. However, his experience, reading of the game and ability to instigate attacks from the back will provide Boebie Solomons with good options should tactics or injuries require it.
Skippers will be looking to build on the momentum last season, when he returned from loan to make the left back position his own, dominating the role with consistently strong performances. Well built and blessed with pace, Skippers has a bright future ahead of him if he can continue to progress.
Now 37, incredibly this veteran has shown no signs of wanting to retire and he will again form a stabilising influence in the squad – whether or not he is in the team, Otieno’s presence alone will be respected and an inspiration to the youngsters. Will still play his part although Boebie Solomons is likely to use the Kenyan more when tactically necessary, such as in situations when the team are defending a narrow lead and need someone to shore things up.
Nkondo looked set to become a regular starter before injuries curtailed his season during the last campaign. He’ll be looking to get back to full fitness and should provide a solid claim for a place in the centre of the midfield where he has the strength and ability to provide good cover for the defence and free up the attack-minded players ahead of him.
Tsabedze has proven himself in the Premiership to be a winger of top quality and he put in a couple of useful performances after joining Santos mid-season during the last campaign. However, the man who also occupies his position, Graham King, was superb last season and will probably have the edge over Tsabedze if he maintains his form and fitness. Boebie Solomons may however even be tempted to play both at times; one on each wing.
Last season Basie failed to show the impressive form he had during 2008 / 2009. The right winger never lacks effort and usually delivers a good cross and intelligent through balls into the box. He will however need to be at his very best to avoid becoming a fringe player again this season.
Mafoko looked very good in the few games he played last season before being struck down by injury. He will be hoping to recapture that form in the season ahead – when fit he is a cool and calm customer in the middle of the park who has the composure and physique to control the game.
King’s phenomenal pace, close control and lethal left foot will again make him a valuable asset to the team if he can remain fit. He was outstanding last season, constantly showing the type of form and bursts of inspirational play that were able to break a game and he should again be vital to Santos’ attacking aspirations this season.
Along with Wayne Arendse, Isaacs is a player of potential national team quality and he will be looking to demonstrate this as he now moves towards his mid-twenties. Last season Isaacs seemed to be back to near his best under Boebie Solomons after a subdued 2008 / 2009 campaign and his eight league goals will have provided encouragement as he looks to make his mark in 2010 / 2011. A player with pace, skill, game intelligence, a good touch and a clinical finish, Isaacs needs to establish himself as the team’s number one striker and his form could be crucial to the club’s hopes.
Paulse found himself a fringe player last season, only playing three matches. He remains however an exciting talent, but he will have to work hard to force his way into the reckoning, either as a wide or central midfield player.
Arendse only made two starts and a further three appearances off the bench last season after his move from Tuks. Having failed to make much of a mark, this all-action central midfielder has a tough task on his hands in trying to get more game time this season and will need to take any chances that come his way to full effect.
Scott has never really quite realised his potential in his time at Santos and last season was no exception as he was limited to 12 PSL starts. Scott will be looking to make the right wing position his own this season, especially considering Ryan Chapman has left the club. Expect nothing less than all out commitment to the cause again from Scott this season each time he dons the club jersey.
Chimodzi was such an exciting talent when he joined the club two seasons back, but last season injury struck and he featured in only two league games. The young Malawian will be hoping of once again grabbing the headlines if he can put his injury problems well and truly behind him – the gifted playmaker certainly has the ability to change games.
Arendse was one of Santos’ best and most consistent players last season when he played in 25 games and scored five goals. The 30-year-old commands vast respect at the club and he should again be a regular starter from the central midfield position, where he will contribute to all facets of the team’s play.
Gabonamong was rumoured to be leaving the club, either for an overseas team or for one of the big Gauteng clubs, but Santos have managed to hang onto the talented Botswana international. The former Santos Player of the Season was perhaps not at his very best towards the end of the campaign and he will be out to prove he is still one of the club’s top players, be it in the centre of defence or in midfield.
Spelman had a very successful first season at Santos, scoring six league goals in 17 starts. He showed himself to be an all-rounder: good on both feet and in the air, adept at holding the ball up and intelligent in linking up with team-mates. If he can continue to show these qualities and improve on consistency, it could be another good season for the well-travelled 28-year old.
Bacela showed enough promise to gain selection to the South African national development side last season, where he did well and got on the score-sheet regularly. However, in a star-studded line-up this former amateur player could find his chances limited again unless he can really raise his game a notch or two.
The Botswana international barely got a run last season and with several players ahead of him in the starting line-up, he will again find it difficult to make his mark.
Camara stood out last season in a Cosmos team that stumbled their way to relegation as an exciting talent, ending the season with five goals even though he made only 12 starts. His pace, power and bustling style will add another dimension to the Santos front line and he has the potential to be one of the best signings (Santos have him on a season-long loan deal) of the PSL season.
There were times last season when Rodgers battled to find full fitness and he certainly never really found his stride. Form is temporary though and class permanent – Rodgers must certainly fall into that last category and he will surely come back this season stronger and better than ever – he will need to in the face of stiff competition for starting places.
Powell made a reasonable impact, putting in some good displays in his fairly limited game time for the Peoples’ Team in his debut season. His versatility means he can play either on the left wing or as a striker. But like so many of the Santos players in a very strong squad, he may battle for regular game time in the face of stiff competition for starting places.