Since Ernst Middendorp was appointed Kaizer Chiefs coach in December 2018, Khama Billiat’s goal scoring numbers have been at an uncharacteristically low level.
His most recent return from injury – playing the second half against Royal Eagles last weekend in the Nedbank Cup – will only boost Amakhosi’s title tilt if he is utilised properly by the coach.
Billiat goal drought
In the Zimbabwean’s 12 league games under Middendorp last season, he scored just one goal in 945 minutes of league action, and things have not improved this time around. In his 10 ABSA Premiership matches this season, Billiat netted against AmaZulu in September for his only goal thus far across 786 minutes.
To have played 22 games and 1731 minutes and yet only have two league goals to his name since Middendorp was handed the reins is a major concern. To be fair, a run of one goal in eight league games pre-dated the re-appointment of the German coach, but he has not got the star player to recapture his best form on a consistent basis.
Chiefs have changed their playing style this season to a direct game where they look for target man, Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro with long diagonals passes, and this has not suited Billiat’s skill set.
Against Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg United, prior to Billiat’s most-recent injury, he was used as a number ten behind the tall target man duo and had minimal effect from this deeper role and without players to combine with.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 09: Khama Billiat of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership match between Bidvest Wits and Kaizer Chiefs at Bidvest Stadium on January 09, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
All of the Zimbabwean’s best outings since joining Chiefs have been when he has been played as one of two strikers, where he can focus his energy on leading counter attacks or pulling central defenders into the channels where they are not comfortable. This role also places less defensive responsibilities on his shoulders.
That striker role is where he played the second half against Royal Eagles and his most-recent impressive PSL performance, the 4-0 win against Stellenbosch FC, before his withdrawal due to injury.
Considering the recent hot form of Castro and the importance of Nurkovic despite his slight dip in performance level of late, it’s unlikely that Middendorp will tweak the style of play or his preferred striking personnel for Billiat. Therefore, his goalscoring numbers are not likely to see a major upturn.
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Instead, the German may use a midfield diamond with Billiat at the top or a 4-2-2-2 shape with Lebohang Manyama and Billiat in front of two holding players. This will give a fearsome foursome in attack but place significant pressure on the backline without much protection.
Having Billiat back will give more quality and more options at just the right time for Middendorp, but unless the Zimbabwean playing his best football, his availability may lead to a less balanced sided. That could be more of a headache than a boon as Chiefs look to lift the league title.