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Ahead of yesterday’s Brazil Cup debut against Vitória da Conquista, three questions dominated discussions: Exactly in how poor a state is the pitch of the Bahia team? Are Vitória in any condition to surprise Palmeiras? Is there any truth to the gossip that Palmeiras prefer a victory by no more than one goal in order to secure a return game and more revenues?

Well, the pitch was indeed in a criminal state. And Vitória did put up a good fight, even reaching the equalizer, before succumbing as Palmeiras – decimated due to Arouca having been sent off for the first time in eight years – went into overdrive. Finally, as for the “Palmeiras are more concerned about revenues than about winning” nonsense… Highlights below.
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On Saturday, Palmeiras receive Bragantino for the eighth round of the Paulistão. Four players are out: Alan Patrick, with a smaller muscular problem to the back of his left thigh; suspended Victor Hugo and Robinho; and Valdivia, still in recovery but expected to intensify training with the ball next week. Saturday we should see Zé Roberto and perhaps Rafael Marques in the starting eleven. And why not Nathan?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Despite all odds, Palmeiras perform better with Robinho as a centre midfielder – and yes, Arouca can play with him in the 4-2-3-1!*

Last week, the main question was how to find room in the midfield for Arouca, Gabriel and Robinho. After 2 wins, we have some answers and new questions surrounding the team.

First of all, we must recognize the quality of the opponents, despite their small investment. Penapolense and Capivarano rarely tried to exceed their field, opting to explore counterattacks. This made Palmeiras’ task extremely difficult, as Oswaldo predicted. 

Against Penapolense, the 4-2-3-1 layout was kept with Robinho and Gabriel as the central midfielders. The team had a lot of possession – nearly 65% – but few shots. PC Gusmão, Penapolense head coach, put 10 men in defence, in a flat 4-4-2. That said, Verdão always tried to build the game through Gabriel between Tobio and Victor Hugo – what is termed the “lavolpiada build-up”, moving forward Lucas and João Paulo.
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Robinho’s role was important to break this blockage, but once again the connection of the 4 offensive men in the 4-2-3-1 was decisive to the victory. In the image, Dudu and Allione are in the same space – the left flank – and Allione is doing the winger role, allowing Dudu to drop into the centre area with Alan and dribble 2 opponents, then passing to Cristaldo score another goal. This cooperative movement could also be seen in Zé Roberto’s goal against Rio Claro: this is the result of good and intense training.
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The victory gave Oswaldo peace of mind to announce Arouca in the starting 11 against Capivariano. This was very expected by palmeirenses, wondering who should be picked to compose the midfield with so many qualified players. As Alan Patrick’s performance was disappointing, Oswaldo put Robinho in the central role and combined Arouca and Gabriel as the double-pivot.
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Arouca shed a few tears when entering the pitch for the first time in the Palmeiras jersey, but soon had to focus on the difficult task ahead. Capivariano played in a 4-4-2 diamond shape – the midfield had 3 centre-players, with Rodolfo returning as a left winger to hold Lucas, in what we can call a two-line drawing in the defensive phase.

As normal against small clubs, space near the opponent goal was scarce. In tactical theory, this can be explained by numerical superiority: when the opponent has more players then you in a certain space of the field, it becomes more difficult to execute football actions – passing, dribbling and crossing. That’s why there is no magical recipe to attack: it’s necessary to have movement and intelligence, in order to trick the opponent and create space. Look at the image below: there are 8, yes, 8 players behind Robinho, the man with the ball.
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The question is: did Palmeiras have these coordinated movements? Yes, they did. But sometimes that’s not enough to score a goal – the adversary could have a enchanted day, there is bad luck… That’s why it’s so important to have other alternatives, like Robinho’s beautiful shot in the first goal and his intelligence in the second one. He is becoming more and more important to Palmeiras, and it seems his better position is behind the 3-men line. 

If Robinho is crucial to make thing easier, can he play with Arouca, or would the defence be in jeopardy without a strongly defensive players like Gabriel? The answer is yes, Robinho and Arouca may be the best option for the 4-2-3-1. Oswaldo de Oliveira praises Arouca since 2006, when he discovered him at Fluminense, and now the #5 is a modern player, combining marking skills with good vision and pass. Look at the image below: there are two lines in Capivariano, and Arouca manages to find space among them. He is free of marking, ready to make a long-pass to Dudu. With Arouca and Robinho, Palmeiras’ midfield is balanced in attack and defence, just like modern football demands.
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This Wednesday, Palmeiras play in the Brazil Cup and Oswaldo de Oliveira has confirmed Robinho in the 3-men line, with Arouca and Gabriel together again in the 4-2-3-1. This is a good option, but the performance against a defensive opponent may require Arouca and Robinho to furar retrancas, as one would say in Brazil when having to attack a hard opponent. Let´s see!

* by Leonardo Miranda

Capivariano came determined to destroy Palmeiras’ offensive game plan through plenty of disposition, tight marking and roughness. Progressively running out of gas in the second half, the visitors proved unable to prevent the Verdão from stepping up the pressure. Zé Roberto again played an important role being repositioned from the left flank into a central position in the second half, but in the end, it was a night to remember for Robinho, who bagged twice: the free kick opening up the scorecard was a thing of beauty and Palmeiras’ first in close to two years; the second was a perfectly executed shot after a precise pass from Dudu on the left flank, crossing the whole box. Enjoy the highlights below.
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An impressive 32.000 spectators turned up on a rainy Saturday evening, paying rather hefty ticket prices, to watch Palmeiras play a low profile game in the local championship. There’s no telling how long this euphoria will last – certainly the Allianz Parque being part of the novelty feature – but revenues are huge, many times larger than that revenues pulled in by any of our rivals. Right now and finacially speaking, Palmeiras are in a league of their own.

Upcoming Wednesday, the debut in this year’s edition of the Brazil Cup away against Vitória da Conquista, state of Bahia. Nothing is taken for granted and already yesterday coach Oswaldo promoted a light training session. An away win by two goals or more eliminates the need for the second leg, directly qualifying Palmeiras for the second round of the competition.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

In less than an hour, Wesley’s contract with Palmeiras expires. As the clock strikes midnight, the Verdão can finally leave one of the club’s greatest acquisition fiascos behind. Both player and São Paulo F.C. deny it, but Wesley is joining Kardec over at the enemy’s . Good for him. And potentially good for Palmeiras, if Wesley only creates half as much trouble over there as he did at Palmeiras.

Wesley came at an absurd price tag, brought in by then club president Tirone after a pathetic attempt at crowd funding. Well, Conrado Cacace has done the math and estimates that Wesley – after three years and 103 games in our jersey – cost Palmeiras some US$ 118.000 a game; that number includes transfer fees, fines, interest rent due to unpaid parcels and salaries. The sum would be mind boggling even if talking about an actual ace, someone making all the difference on and off the pitch. But we’re talking Wesley: the unmotivated, rotten and blasé excuse for a professional footballer.

To say that supporters will not miss him is quite the understatement: a website has been up since the beginning of the week, counting down the  days, hours and second to his dismissal.
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I would assume Wesley speaks at least some German after having spent a couple of years at Werder Bremen. Well, he’s not getting any “auf wiedersehen” from me: the last thing I want is to see him again.

Off you go.

Yesterday, at the Tenente Carriço stadium in Penápolis, Palmeiras had little difficulty in securing a third straight victory, beating Penapolense 0-2 after two braces by Cristaldo. The Argentine striker is turning into the kind of #9 Palmeiras supporters enjoy: fast, combative, hungry and efficient.

Expectations were for the debut of Arouca, but as the team has been performing rather well lately and, physically speaking, Arouca is still in a preparatory phase, coach Oswaldo is not rushing it. Instead, he opted for the following line-up: Fernando Prass; Lucas, Tobio, Vitor Hugo and João Paulo; Gabriel and Robinho; Allione (Rafael Marques), Alan Patrick (Victor Luis) and Dudu; Cristaldo (Leandro Pereira). Game highlights below.
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In the press conference that followed the game, Oswaldo promised Arouca will pull on his jersey against Capivariano on Saturday; Capivariano who will come pumped after having won their first game in this years’ Paulistão, beating Marília 3-0. The coach did not indicate who will be making space for Arouca in the starting eleven, but as both Robinho and Gabriel have put out solid performances, I’d say it’s between Allione and Alan Patrick, with the latter hanging pretty loose.

Oswaldo’s attitude toward Valdivia is the same as with Arouca: only when the player is 100% fit will he be put to good use. With less than six months remaining of the Chilean’s contract, he is actually free to sign with and other club, but director of football Alexandre Mattos is keeping his cool. We might very well see Valdivia renew his contract in the end, but only if for a shorter period and at a considerably lower price. No doubt Mattos has a very clear idea about where the cost/benefit line must be drawn.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

How do teams play? The question was flourishing a young man’s curiosity for football at the grandstands of the old Palestra Italia. Years later, he became a journalist and copywriter with a taste for football tactics. Now he’s glad to share some of this rational – and why not passionate – vision here at Anything Palmeiras.

As of today, and on regular intervals, Leonardo Miranda will contribute with his sharp observations in regard to Palmeiras’ tactical behaviour. I’m certain you readers will enjoy the ride. In any case and as always: feedback, positive or negative, is always appreciated.

And to Leonardo: welcome, the floor is yours!

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Palmeiras’ 4-2-3-1 is gradually gaining shape and fluidity*

In December, recently-announced coach Oswaldo de Oliveira showed his fondness for the 4-2-3-1 system, imagining a midfield fit for Valdivia’s lack of defensive strength. While Alexandre Mattos was signing a lot of players, Oswaldo started to design Palmeiras in the 4-2-3-1. A couple of friendlies later, Oswaldo finally made up his mind with a new four-back defence and Leandro Pereira as the lone striker.

Last week, the palestrino coach made some replacements. At this point in time, we can consider the figure below to represent Palmeiras’ tactical layout:
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IMAGEM 1

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After two consecutive defeats at the Allianz Parque, Oswaldo tested Cristaldo as the single striker and Alan Patrick in the central 3-men position. The idea was to let Dudu and Allione exploit the open flank when Cristaldo and Alan dropped to pick up the ball, or to attract the opponent by setting a numerical superiority near the goal: with this, there is always a man free of marking (commonly the full-backs), in conditions to pass, to dribble and to score.

The second goal against Rio Claro occurred by these movements: Dudu, Allione and Alan linked up well in the centre-left halfspace and started to drag their markers away. This cooperative movement created the space for Zé Roberto to move into the penalty area and score.
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IMAGEM 2
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But the main difference in the last two victories was Robinho: his build-up role helped the team to create attacking situations with pace and fluidity. With him, passing of the ball from defenders to forwards were faster and gained quality with his good vision and pass. This allowed Palmeiras to press his opponent high and to dominate ball possession, controlling the match, as against São Bento.
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IMAGEM-3
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Brazilian “small teams” are tricky to play against because they put too much men in defence and exploit counterattacks. Knowing how to construct attacking situations starting by the centre midfield can break this strategy and turn difficult duels into easy ones.

As usual, there are some negative points to be discussed. The strict man-to-man marking system, very common in South-American football, was exploited by Corinthians in the derby and may be a reason for concern in important matches. But let´s wait a little bit to see if this will work out for the season.

This upcoming Sunday against Penapolense, only Zé Roberto and Tobio are not guaranteed from the previous starting 11. If the four-back are well-settled and the attacking men have good movements, Oswaldo’s main “headache”, as they say in Brazil, is laying on the “double-pivot”: how to find room for Arouca with Robinho’s build-up role and Gabriel defensive importance? Soon to be answered!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

* by Leonardo Miranda

Specialised in sport stadiums, the “Stadium Database” website has since 2010 been launching the “Stadium of the Year” competition. In total, 32 stadiums opened in 2014 and thus entered the competition (full list of nominees here).

Today it was announced that the Allianz Parque, with close to 34.000 votes computing more points than previous years’ winners combined, had been chosen “2014 Stadium of the Year”. San Mamés (Bilbao) was the runner up with Otkritie Arena (Moscow) coming in third. In the jury vote, the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium  (Al Ain) came first, followed by Brazilian World Cup stadium Arena da Amazônia (Manaus).
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On the Stadium Database website, it reads:

“Already before this year’s competition we knew Brazil will be a country well-represented in our Public Vote because of the spectacular World Cup stadia. After all, never before have there been 8 nominees from one country.

Still, by far the most supported new stadium in Brazil turned out to be the one opened after the FIFA tournament had long gone. Allianz Parque was occupying one of three top spots nearly all the time, from day one. And that result was achieved without any campaign to support it. In fact, it wasn’t until the last few days that the stadium itself promoted the vote via one facebook post.

A magnificent sign of support from Palmeiras supporters and not only them. The stadium also received significant number of points from voters in Europe and beyond. The final number of points is stunning: 134,725 is more than all previous winners received combined (!!!).

The new stadium in Sao Paulo had to match high expectations of a century-old Palestra Italia. It also had to fit within the extremely tight location it had to occupy. The challenge was faced very well.

Bruno Campos, architect of the redeveloped Mineirão: ‘An extremely compact and efficient Arena “squeezed” in a dense consolidated area in São Paulo, the Allianz Parque is designed to be adaptable for many types of events, dealing successfully with an existing structure and challenging urban conditions.’

Bob van Bebber: ‘The adaptability of the stadium in various configurations seems well resolved. The façade mesh is an interesting choice and may help diminish the immense scale against the close urban fabric.’”

— ooo —

Coincidentally, today, the Allianz Parque facebook page upped a series of pictures showing the progress of construction during four years, the transformation from Palestra Italia to Allianz Parque. Below, the thumbnail version: click on the image to go to Allianz Parque’s facebook site and the full version.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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arena_evolution

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