Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three things for Matete to tackle at Matlama

A struggle ahead for Matlama in 2017 to regain top form...
Last week Tuesday Seephephe “Mochini” Matete was confirmed as Matlama’s latest coach. Matete’s first game in charge of Tse Putsoa will be on January 7 when Matlama host Bantu at Setsoto Stadium in the Vodacom Premier League.

The former Lesotho caretaker boss has penned an 18-month contract which will start in January.

Upon signing with the club, Matlama said Matete’s mandate for the rest of the season is to win the LNIG Top 8 title and secure a top four finish. Tse Putsoa added that when the 2017/18 season begins, they expect Matete to lead a challenge for the league title.

Matlama, of course, are without silverware since winning the league in 2010. Nevertheless, Matete said he will not make any radical changes. “I’m not here to teach Matlama players, they already know how to play football but the players have to know that they win as a team and they lose as a team.” Matete said

But, as Matete acknowledged, these are tough times for Lesotho’s most successful club and one-time pride of Maseru. “The city is no longer a happy place for its residents anymore, and I am determined to address the situation,” he said

Addressing the situation will require some work. Here are three things that will be on Matete’s to-do list from the get-go.

Restore confidence
One thing Matete has been known for throughout his coaching career is instilling confidence in players and wanting his teams to play an imposing style of football.  After starting this season well Matlama’s confidence is at a low. Their title challenge has fallen apart and they were outplayed against Sky Battalion in their last game of the first round in a 2-1 loss.

Overall, Matlama have just one win from their last five games. Tse Putsoa have slipped to seventh place, seven points off fourth place and 10 points behind league leaders Bantu.

Matlama’s last five results
Sky Battalion 2-1 Matlama (December 3)
Matlama 1-1 Kick4Life (November 26)
Matlama 3-0 Rovers (November 20)
Matlama 1-1 Sundawana (November 17)
Lioli 3-0 Matlama (November 6)

Clearly, then, one of the first things Matete has to do is restore confidence to a squad that still overflows with top talent.

This Matlama squad still has the same players that took the league by storm last season and finished just a point behind Lioli in the title race. The only difference lately is they are low on confidence and playing below their potential.

Last year, Jane Thaba-Ntšo and Motebang Sera were the most dangerous duo in the league. Thaba-Ntšo scored 13 league goals and Sera struck 14 as Matlama led the scoring charts with 46 goals. Behind them Mabuti Potloane, Phafa Tšosane, and Kefuoe Mahula were a well-oil machine that made Tse Putsoa the hottest ticket in town once again. Matete’s challenge is to get his stars and talented squad believing once more.

A talented squad needs a confidence boost
Combine youth with experience
Matete has a good track record of coaching young players. Most famously he was coach when Lesotho made it to the African Youth Under-20 Championship held in Benin in 2005. It is true that Matete was in charge of a golden generation of talent that included the likes of Bokang Mothoana, Dlomo Monapathi and Neo Makama, but he got the best out of the players.

The same side also made the final of the 2005 COSAFA Under-20 Championships which remains the closest Lesotho has come to winning the regional junior crown.

Matlama have one of the youngest teams in the league. But, while their talent is unquestioned, Matlama have shown signs of cracking under pressure this season.

Addressing the situation may mean introducing one or two experienced faces to mesh with Matlama’s youthful talents. Whether Matete will find these players from within his squad or the transfer market remains to be seen. If Tse Putsoa can find the right balance, Matete’s skill with youth players will make them dangerous.

Get the best from his midfield
Last season Matlama’s biggest strength was without doubt their midfield. The emergence of Mahula strengthened what was already an impressive collection of midfield talent.

Mahula, long touted as a future prospect, thrived last season and took his game to greater heights. Deployed in a deeper role, Mahula was the perfect foil for playmakers Tšosane and Potloane to control the tempo of games and create chances with their slick passes.

However, this season there hasn’t been the same fluency and consistency in selection. For example, against Sky Battalion, Potloane was played on the wing and he was not the same force. 

If Matlama are to dominate games again they have to get the best out of their highly talented midfield. For Matete that will mean finding formations and tactics that will once again get the best out of their talents. 

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