The DSTV Premiership was back in full swing which saw the season start with back-to-back games for the 2023/24 season. Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City remain the only two teams with a perfect record of two wins from their opening two league games. Kaizer Chiefs sit 12th with one point from two games whilst last season’s second-place team, Orlando Pirates currently occupy 6th with three points from their opening two games.
Season On Season
A lot was made of the appointment of coach Jose Riviero last year yet he went on to show what he was capable of with the Pirates squad in winning the two domestic cups. Now with a full pre-season behind him, there has been much made of Orlando Pirates’ upgraded squad and transfer activity, as they look to challenge Sundowns to the league title this season. It is still early days into the new campaign but there have been improvements to last season, most notably on the attacking front.
In both post-match press conferences, Riviero mentioned that it was important for the team to take the initiative in their games and continue their goalscoring form from the end of last season. Pirates created lots of opportunities in both games to put the games to bed early but were unsuccessful. This is not necessarily a bad thing where you would rather have lots of created opportunities than none and may pertain to an element of temporarily bad luck in front of goal.
The Bucs were always going to have more possession against their first two opponents – Stellenbosch FC and Royal AM. It was going to come down to what they were going to do with possession once they had the ball and what options in possession would be available to them that ultimately would count.
Shots taken in both games were higher than conceded which is what you would be looking for from a Pirates squad filled with this quality. In the opening game against Stellenbosch FC, the team was hurt in transition against Stellenbosch but came back firing in their second game at home to Royal AM scoring three goals in quick succession without reply. A performance very reminiscent of their performances last season where the Bucs were one of the fastest teams out of the blocks in the first 15 minutes of league matches.
In terms of attack, the two games have already seen the Bucs shoot nearly double the amount of attempts than the previous campaign, as well as hit the target and score more goals than they did after their first two games last season. Taking into account that last campaign also saw games back-to-back at the start of the campaign due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Whilst one area of their game has massively improved, it was their defense that kept them in solid form last season. Their first two games last season saw them concede 16 shots, whereas this campaign has seen 14 shots hit Pirate’s goal with two more goals conceded to date. Conceding three goals in the opening two league games is far from ideal for a team that is looking to emulate and better their goals-against record of 21 goals conceded from last season.
There is little time to rest as the MTN 8 cup competition rolls around on Saturday evening which the Bucs will be looking to successfully defend. They take on fellow 2022/23 Nedbank Cup finalists Sekhukhune United who will be looking for revenge. Their weekend opposition have also started the season strongly with a narrow 2-1 loss to Sundowns and then a 2-0 win against newly promoted Cape Town Spurs FC on Wednesday night.