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Evaluating PSL Transfers: Thapelo Maseko

Mamelodi Sundowns announced the signing of Thapelo Maseko this morning, adding yet another wide-attacker to their forward options.

Thapelo Maseko

Mamelodi Sundowns announced the signing of Thapelo Maseko this morning, adding yet another wide-attacker to their forward options. The trend we recently highlighted about this transfer window was how the big teams were investing heavily in different types of wide attackers. Lesiba Nku & Junior Mendieta have already joined Sundown, Pule Mmodi & Tebogo Potsane went to Chiefs, while Katlego Oltadisa & Patrick Maswanganyi joined Pirates. You can now add Thapelo Maseko to that list. We explored what type of player he is and what he can bring to the champions.

Maseko has been an attacking force this past season and was a key part of the attacking system that Gavin Hunt relied on. SuperSport averaged almost 20 crosses per game (a league 1st) and also took the most shots via headers last season (2.5 per game).

Maseko was at the forefront of these efforts, leading the team for crosses – sending in just over 5 per game for the like of Bradley Grobler to attack. The touch map below shows the area of the pitch which he occupied. Often playing ahead of the marauding Onismor Bhasera, he made most of his touches in the left zone, the closest you’ll get to a player “hugging the touchline”

He profiles as you would expect of an old-school winger. This is a player that loves to get forward down the wing and employ the traditional tried & tested tactic of crossing the ball a lot. Across the entire division, only Kgaogelo Sekgota (6.1) completed more crosses than Maseko’s 5.1 per 90 minutes.

However, Maseko separates himself from other wingers in that he is also a very good dribbler. If defenders were not being beaten with a cross, they were most likely to be dribbled past. He was in the league’s top 10 for dribbles attempted at 5.6 per 90. Of players attempting three or more dribbles per 90, Otladisa was the most effective, with a 71% dribble success rate.

With rumours of Cassius Mailula on his way out, Maseko may be primed as part (or all) of the replacement. If that is the case, there will be work to be done on his shooting. There were a few occasions when he was in good positions last season, only to fluff his lines and shoot wide. His 30% shot accuracy indicates that. But the kid is only 20 years old, and should certainly improve.

Of course, a lot of his output last season was driven by the system. It would be naive to expect the same output in a Sundowns side that was 10th in the league for crosses last season. In Bradley Grobler, Maseko had a leaping target man ahead of him (no player had more shots with his head than Grobler), at Sundowns he may not have the same.

But the radar reminds us he has other virtues besides crossing, including progressive runs and penetrative passes into the penalty area. Sundowns struggled to break down some low-blocks last season, and having the Maseko option could give Rulani the flexibility of using different combinations in the attack. If he can add other elements like finishing to his existing talents, he could be another special player.

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