For decades, the axiom of Brazilian football has been “when results disappoint, fire the coach”. The carousel is ridiculous, with first division teams sometimes swapping coach four, five time in one season. Experienced Brazilian coaches like Joel Santana, Vanderlei Luxemburgo and Muricy Ramalho have all found themselves returning to a club numerous times during their career: Santana five times to Vasco da Gama, Luxemburgo four times to Flamengo and Ramalho four times to São Paulo. Needless to say this modus operandi, driven by a desire for immediate results, kill any aspiration for continuity or medium-term planning. True, Sir Alex Ferguson cannot be treated as “the mark”: his 27 years at Manchester United are unique in so many way. Still, during the years he coached Man Utd to 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cup titles, 4 League Cup titles and 2 Champions League titles (among others), Brazil’s arguably most successful coach – abovementioned Vanderlei Luxemburgo – swapped clubs no less than 25 times, in addition to computing two runs as coach of Brazil’s national side (one being the sub-23 category).
The Paulo Nobre administration early on signalled they wanted a break from the paradigm, keeping Gilson Kleina for much longer than most would expect and then, when signing Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca, bring in the foreign players he asked for and, directly and indirectly, tell him he would be given decent time to work the squad.
As so happens, Gareca is having one of the worst runs in Palmeiras’ history. Since he took command, it’s been one victory, one draw and seven defeats in the Brazilian championship (including yesterday’s home defeat to Internacional). That’s 4 points out of a possible 27. Add the defeat to Atlético Mineiro in the first leg of the Brazil Cup, and you understand why many a palmeirense is suffering from insomnia. Palmeiras are first team out of the relegation zone, only thanks to the incompetence of other bottom-dwellers to push the club even further down the ladder.
Gareca is no Ferguson, but he is a respected and successful coach, having won the Argentine League twice in recent years. How long can Palmeiras stick to a medium/long term commitment under such circumstances, under such poor performance? When could Gareca be considered have been given “time enough”?
Gareca himself is confident he can turn things around. At yesterday’s press conference, he appealed for supporters to continue believing. “I want the best for Palmeiras. And at the moment I think I’m the best.” He also stressed that Palmeiras always have to enter the pitch seeking the three points, like any big team would.
Palmeiras had problems before Gareca arrived. Obviously he’s not to blame for the current situation. On the other hand, more and more doubts are arising in regard to his capacity to find solutions. Palmeiras are over a barrel on this one. Firing Gareca could bring about a lot of friction in regard to Tobio, Cristaldo, Allione and Mouche: players who attended Gareca’s personal request and are (at least the first three) a given in any regular starting eleven.
One option would be keeping the Argentine coach but in addition hire someone who could have a strong and positive influence on the motivational side of the squad. A number of players could benefit from, well, someone grabbing them by the balls, if you know what I mean.
Tough decisions ahead. I wouldn’t want to be Paulo Nobre. Then again, and regardless of his best intentions: he brought this upon himself.