2017/18 Season review: Orlando Pirates
Posted: 23 June 2018 Time: 18:00
With the 2017/18 season officially over, KickOff.com looks back at each club’s campaign over the past year, reviewing their relative success, failures and where improvement is needed. On the list today is Absa Premiership runners up Orlando Pirates.
Following a disastrous season the previous year where the Soweto giants finished a disappointing 11th in the league, major improvement was not only expected but demanded by the Bucs faithful ahead of the new campaign. Apart from recruiting Bloemfontein Celtic star Musa Nyatama, two of the biggest off-season arrivals included changes on the bench, with Serbian Milutin Sredojevic roped in for his second spell in charge to replace the departed Kjell Jonevret, while highly-rated assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena swapped Chloorkop for Mayfair.
The season started well enough, with three wins and two draws from their first five games, yet no victories in the next five had fans worried that the ghosts of the past season were back to haunt them. Yet as time passed, the squad became more accustomed to 'Micho' and Mokwena’s philosophies, improving as the season wore on as they reached the halfway mark in fifth place and still in contention for the title.
Suffering just two defeats across the second half of the campaign, Pirates won five consecutive games over February and March to keep the pressure on favourites Mamelodi Sundowns, but the bridge was ultimately a step too far as they finished in second, five points behind the Brazilians.
Following a 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows in the Last 16 of the 2017 Telkom Knockout, Pirates exited the tournament in the quarter-finals on penalties, losing to Polokwane City 4-2 after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
They lasted just two rounds in the Nedbank Cup as well, first beating Ajax Cape Town 2-0 before succumbing to Ajax’s rivals Cape Town City 1-0 in the Last 16.
Pirates scored the second-most goals (41) while enjoying the highest percentage of ball possession (56.6%) of any team in the league this season.
Second best in terms of shot accuracy percentage (35%), The Buccaneers led the way in terms of number of passes (533.1 per game), passing accuracy (84.4%) and number of final third passes (100) per match, beating all other 15 clubs in the league in those categories.
They also conceded the joint-least amount of goals (5) in the last 15 minutes of the game, an indication of both their fitness and mental fortitude over the entire duration of the 90 minutes.
Areas of improvement
Pirates won just 8.1 aerial duels per match over the course of the season, the second worst tally of all teams in the PSL, and an area the coaching staff will no doubt look to improve on ahead of next season.
Consistency in selection will be another area the Bucs technical staff will look into with 38 different players used across all competitions last season, with only 10 players featuring in more than 20 games, and the three goalkeepers being used almost equally, making it difficult to build on a solid defensive foundation. That being said, a clear rotation policy may need to be stated from the outset ahead of the club’s return to CAF competition next year.