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Evaluating: What’s Going Wrong At Cape Town Spurs?

Cape Town Spurs have had an extremely underwhelming first half in the 2023/24 DSTV Premiership season.

Cape Town Spurs

Cape Town Spurs have had an extremely underwhelming first half in the 2023/24 DSTV Premiership season. Last week Wednesday, they conceded three goals to Sundowns – the sixth time they have conceded 3 or more goals a game since the start of August. In the last 10 seasons, only 5 teams have conceded 3+ on more occasions over a full campaign. The Cape-based side had already defied the odds at the end of last season as coach Shaun Bartlett guided them into the playoffs and past Maritzburg United for promotion. Since then, however, it has not at all been plain sailing for the team at the bottom of the log. What has happened and where can they go from here?

Current Situation

The latest defeat highlighted one clear issue – as the team played the defending champions, they were unable to register a shot during the game. With a single win from their first 14 league games, they managed to score 10 goals and concede 30. Have they been that bad or rather unlucky at times? Their odds of defying relegation were always going to be difficult but surviving relegation come May 2024 looks to be a far stretch at the moment.

Shots For vs Against

In terms of a pure attack and defence perspective, Spurs are currently on a negative shot differential, i.e. they have conceded more shots than they have taken. In their 14 league games to date, they have conceded on average 16 shots per game but have been only able to produce 10 per game themselves. In terms of these shots hitting the target, opposition teams are hitting their goal at double the rate – 5 shots on target per game compared to two per game for Spurs. A disparity on both figures may be expected for teams that come up a division (due to the added strength of the competition), but Spurs numbers are still worrying.

New Year, New Fortunes?

One good starting point for any club in trouble is to recognise risk in the form of probabilities. According to our league projections, CT Spurs are currently 10 points behind where they should be if they were to have a chance of avoiding relegation.

Any significant changes to either the squad or the operational side should only aim to reduce that risk. They already made a technical change by bringing in experienced coach Ernst Middendorp so player changes may be the next step if they were to make one. However, consider this, football is a low-scoring sport, and even if Spurs were to completely change their fortunes in the second half of the season, they would have to collect 27 – 30 of the available 48 points (10 wins from 16 remaining games). Of course, the other concern is, are there other teams that are also hanging around the bottom within touching distance to give them a chance of survival? Richards Bay are the nearest team, but there is a seven-point gap to make up. Therlo Moosa’s missed penalty in the 96th minute against Richards Bay could prove to be a decisive moment in the relegation scrap.

What Does The Future Look Like?

The January transfer window is coming soon and there are two ways Spurs can look at the window. Either the club can trade aggressively to survive this season, or they can accept their position and trade conservatively with the 2024/25 promotion in mind. Whatever route they choose, there are plenty of methods to do this successfully. Using historical and present data on players and teams to build a successful recruitment and transfer strategy is one. The challenge is to identify undervalued talent and differentiate between price and value – something that league leaders Sundowns have done extremely well in previous seasons.

There are two remaining league games for Spurs before the end of 2023. The first is on 22 December against AmaZulu. Following that is the Cape derby on New Year’s Eve against city rivals Cape Town City. Positive results in these two games may help paint a different picture ahead of the January break.

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