Vital fortnight looms for Giovanni Solinas at Kaizer Chiefs

Kaizer Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung chats with coach Giovanni Solinas Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

November is shaping up to be a crucial month for the future of Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas, with three must-win games if he is to keep the hottest seat in South African football.

It is true that the coach of Chiefs is always under pressure, such is the microscope that they are under and the expectation of fans, which has not dimmed one bit despite three seasons of failure.

Saturday's 2-1 defeat in the Soweto Derby against bitter rivals Orlando Pirates has turned up the furnace further, not so much for the result but also the manner of the defeat, where apart from the opening 20 minutes, Amakhosi were very much second-best. 

Tactically Chiefs looked poorer, defensively they were at sixes and sevens and there was little penetration in attack. 

Solinas was never first choice of the club to take over from Steve Komphela, but instead a hastily unveiled option when all others deserted the club and the start of the 2017-18 season drew near.

There, perhaps, lies his saving grace for the moment, that he had no pre-season to work with the players, which any coach will tell you is a vital part of any campaign.

Just four wins in 15 matches in all competitions this season is dire though and Solinas will know that it is the coach that carries the can, no matter what the circumstances. This is a results business.

Sunday brings a quarterfinal in the Telkom Knockout against bogey side SuperSport United, where another cup exit would be a potentially fatal blow to Solinas' tenure.

SuperSport will be without two of their top performers in the injured Dean Furman and Bradley Grobler, the latter having netted all three goals as Matsatsantsa ousted Chiefs from the MTN8 earlier this season. 

Should they survive that hurdle, there are also two league games that will be considered 'must-win' as the team battles to stay in the hunt for the Absa Premiership title. The first is home to Black Leopards on November 7, before another 'home' clash behind closed doors in Durban against Chippa United on November 10.

It is, in fact, part of a run of five home games in their next six fixtures that provides Chiefs with the opportunity to gain some momentum heading into the new year.

Solinas had told reporters in the wake of the Pirates loss that his "coaching has to improve" but the question is really, where can the side go from here?

They are over-reliant on Khama Billiat as an attacking force and once teams manage to keep a lid on the Zimbabwean, there is not much else to worry opponents.

The January transfer window might provide some opportunity, but having added significantly to their salary bill with the acquisitions of Billiat and Lebo Manyama, there might be no more money in the bank to make the kind of changes the team needs. 

Solinas is well aware that results have fallen short of expectations but says the fixture list now gives the side a chance to put that right.

"I agree that in the last games we haven't collected points and that is not good enough for Kaizer Chiefs," he said.

"But, in my opinion, we have the potential to win several matches in a row. There is no reason we cannot we win three, four or five games in a row.

"This is such a balanced league that if you do that you go right up the table. We will continue fighting and trying to put Chiefs in a high position on the log." 

Solinas scoffed at suggestions his side were already out of the title race despite finding themselves in seventh place, six points behind leaders Bidvest Wits, who have played a game less.

"I believe are able to win three or four games and the league is a long way from being over. The season only ends in May," Solinas said.

The Italian coach has suggested that Chiefs' problems may be as much mental as their ability on the pitch, tellingly suggesting his side needs to "learn to manage the pressure".

He could be talking about himself as much as his playing group in the coming weeks.