Tactical Treats – Palmeiras vs. Penapolense & Capivariano

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.

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.
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.
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.

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.

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

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