While Samir Nurkovi lacks confidence in front of goal, coach Stuart Baxter has stated that he will not bench the prolific Serbian while he is playing a crucial part for Kaizer Chiefs and getting into scoring opportunities.
Nurkovi, according to Baxter, needs a goal in 2021-22 to begin to relieve some of the pressure he has put on himself. Nurkovi has been playing in a left midfield position this season, which the club's supporters have not fully grasped.
When Chiefs put Baroka FC to the sword in the first 45 minutes at FNB Stadium before the Fifa break, Baxter's inventive use of Nurkovi showed promise. Amakhosi could have easily scored more than two goals in a DStv Premiership match that they eventually won 2-1.
The combination of left-footed Keagan Dolly in right midfield and right-footed Samir Nurkovi on the left, who came inside as additional roaming playmakers to Bernard Parker, and Khama Billiat as a false No 9, with overlapping fullbacks Njabulo Blom and Sifiso Hlanti providing width, was too much for Baroka. When the ball came in from the right, Nurkovi also attacked the crosses.
The system, which had been adjusted to a 3-4-3, did not work as well in Chiefs' 2-0 loss to Mamelodi Sundowns over the weekend, with Nurkovi looking odd on the left.
Nurkovi's difficulties with form date back to last season, therefore fans blaming the striker playing on the left for his poor performance against Downs aren't entirely true, according to Baxter.
In a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's showdown against Royal AM at FNB Stadium, Chiefs' coach was quizzed on some of his early-season decisions that have raised eyebrows, saying, "I'd still want to believe we got him into more scoring positions from that position" (5pm).
“I watched a lot of tape from last year when he was playing as an out-and-out 'nine' with his back to the goal and lacked confidence and was having trouble getting into scoring opportunities.
“I don't think fans are particularly interested in false nines and inverted fullbacks. They want to see objectives.
“I believe that when the outcome is disappointing, a lot of the details of how you tried to set up your squad fade away. As a result, I believe we must accept it.
“However, I can't keep shuffling the pack every time a result goes against us [against Sundowns], especially if it's a result that I thought was a poor reflection of the game.
“I believe we'll need a little more patience and perseverance than that.”
Baxter concurred. Nurkovi has struggled to find his footing in front of goal.
“I don't think Samir is in a crisis, but he's a striker who has spent his entire career chasing goals,” the coach explained.
“And even if he's doing well for the team right now and getting into scoring positions, he's not tucking them away, which irritates and frustrates him greatly. And, absolutely, he is anticipating that aim in order to relieve the strain on himself.
“If it becomes an issue to the point where I believe he needs to take a step back, I'll rest him.”
As Baxter looks for his finest combination, the Chiefs have demonstrated varying degrees of development with a new-look squad. Against Royal, the coach will be hoping for more answers.
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