Downs’ struggle to find a number nine

Mamelodi Sundowns

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Sundowns bought Jeremy Brockie last January in the hope that he’d be their trusted number nine, but things have not quite worked out up to this point. The New Zealand-born forward has scored just one league goal in the last year, while the team’s other number nine – Cuthbert Malajila – has battled with injury at times and been able to break into the team when fit.

Against Highlands Park in the Absa Premiership on Tuesday night, Mosimane played right-back Thapelo Morena as his number nine and the former Bloemfontein Celtic player caused a lot of problems with his speed. He got on the score-sheet as Sundowns edged the Lions of the North 2-1.

Last season Percy Tau, who is now playing in Belgium, was used as a number nine and finished the campaign as the PSL’s joint-top scorer with Polokwane City’s Rodney Ramagalela. Tau, though, is not a natural number nine.

Sibusiso Vilakazi was used a “false nine” before he sustained an injury earlier this season.

“There’s only two players at Sundowns who are natural number nines, which is Jeremy Brockie and Malajila. The rest of the players are not number nines, to be honest. Ali Meza is a [Lebohang] Maboe, he plays on the right, he plays on the left and he can play as a number 10. But he is not a number nine. Yes, we do push him as a number nine and twice he has scored. At Sundowns we really struggle, we don’t normally have nines. The history says it. The number nine we had was Castro, who belongs to the ‘CBD’. He was the only nine we had for the last three years,” Mosimane said.

“We used Percy as a nine and you guys questioned it, because of his size, the height, not bulky enough for a nine. We used Khama [Billiat] as a nine. We tried before with Mame Niang, but it did not work out. It has veen very difficult to have that nine. I guess it’s the way we play because we move a lot upfront, we inter-change position a lot and that compromises the number nine. We use whoever is available upfront, who can create a situation on one-versus-one, can create a situation with the speed and can make sure you can present yourself in front of goal. If I think you tick those boxes, I can take you from right-back and play you as a striker.”