Tactical Treats – Palmeiras vs. Santos, XV de Piracicaba & São Bernardo

First big issues of 2015*

Oswaldo de Oliveira is always a reminder of the real situation Palmeiras are in: a work in progress. With 8 wins and 3 losses, we can say 2015 is a good year o far, but there are lots of adjustments needed for the next phases of the Paulistão and the Copa do Brasil.

Palmeiras’ clash with Santos was disappointing. Many supporters were hoping for victory against a major team, but instead of keeping the leading roll of the first 10 minutes, Palmeiras were completely dominated by the Meninos da Vila, who controlled the midfield, scored 2 goals and called on Prass to executed miracles several times.

There were no changes in the tactical layout: the 4-2-3-1 system was kept, with Allione and Dudu on the flanks and Gabriel and Arouca as defensive midfielders. At first, it seemed it would be a thrashing result with Victor Hugo’s goal and good possession. But, for a reason we still would like to know, Palmeiras started to slow down the pace and let Santos advance their lines, looking for Robinho or Lucas Lima on the left side of the field.
There is no problem with relaxing, but Palmeiras’ marking system was too bad to keep up with a good result. Some weeks ago, the man-to-man marking system was the catalyser for Ponte Preta’s and Corinthians’ victories at the Allianz Parque. Now, it appeared again as the main cause for Santos’ good offensive game. As Dudu and Allione were less obedient when not carrying the ball, Victor Ferraz and Cicinho were always free of marking, allowing Robinho and Oliveira to penetrate behind Tobio.
Tobio deserves a paragraph of his own for his bad performance against Santos. As a defender, he was always trying to anticipate the next play, causing a big hole in the area in front of the goal. This is very common in Brazilian football – just recall David Luiz in the World Cup. Applying speed, Ricardo Oliveira and Robinho caused confusion in Palmeiras’ marking system and appeared free, or passed to ball to a penetrating midfielder, in this case, Renato.
It was Palmeiras’ worst game in 2015, and the next battle would not be a walk in the park either: XV de Piracicaba, a small-town club, came to Allianz Parque to park the bus and spend all 90 minutes defending their goal. As our greatness demands, Oswaldo knew it and always asked for his players to keep the ball away from the opponent, passing it around, looking to create space.
Again, the prospect was unsuccessful, mainly because of Dudu and Allione. As wingers, they have to protect the left and right backs (as they did not against Santos) and, with the ball, they have to create space by using the flanks and then turn inwards, creating the famous numerical superiority.

But our #20 and specially our #7 were not so interested in doing this. Instead, they chose the wrong option when playing small clubs: dribbling in the midfield. Look at the image: there is no use in dribbling Dudu’s marker, because there is another man right by his side, protecting the space. This led to 80 minutes of possession and no shots. Only Gabriel, after a corner, saved the game.
We saw the same difficulties repeated against São Bernardo. Does this mean that the team is poor and that everything is wrong? Certainly not. Oswaldo’s 4-2-3-1 is defined and well-trained. It only needs a better execution. The problem lies not in players, the coach or something else. Look at the frame below: Arouca, Lucas and Cristaldo correctly sync their movements on the flank to create a numerical superiority and Rafael and Dudu are in the area, waiting for the ball. But there is no one in the central area.
This is normal: Palmeiras have played only 11 games in 2015. Palmeiras are more a “work in progress” than a team, as supporters expect to be. Against São Paulo, we hope to see improvement, but in the end of the day, I think you will reason with me: it’s better to be a work in progress now, in the middle of March, than in May, in the final phases of the Paulistão and with the Brazilian championship about to kick off.

* by Leonardo Miranda

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