Keeping a cool head at boiling point

After losing to Sport, I lamented Palmeiras were specialising in the worst kind of predictability: defeat after defeat against opponents who should tremble when stepping on our pitch. Sadly, the feat of giving Sport their first away victory in this years’ Brasileirão was followed by defeat also to Santos, then yet another pathetic display at the Allianz Parque, 0-2 against bottom-feeders Vasco da Gama. After that, the insane 90 minutes against Atlético Paranaense, where Palmeiras were losing, winning, and then losing again before finding the equaliser on stoppage time. And yesterday, after trailing behind Cruzeiro, Lucas Barrios averted a third humiliation at home, closing the scorecard at 1-1. Leaving Palmeiras parked in tenth, six points from the Libertadors Cup spot with only two rounds to go.

It is hard to pinpoint individuals or specifics. The collective is not clicking, everything seems slightly off, in a peculiar way. Lines are not compacted, movements between segments uncoordinated. A certain and growing frustration is noticeable among players, which of course is problematic for a team two games away from a national title. That being said, in the last two games, at least the heat was there.

It’s Marcelo Oliveira’s fault, essentially. No secret our coach is struggling with forming a cohesive and minimally reliant pattern of play. It is almost as if he tosses a jersey to each player in the locker room and tells them to go out there and do their best. True, a team is not built in a day and the Palmeiras squad was remodelled from scratch at the start of the year. But none other than Alexandro Mattos did the remodelling, and Oliveira has had time enough to put something better out there. He needs to step it up.

“Too late for that”, many say. After all, this is Brazil, where coaches are chopped on a weekly basis. Doriva was dispatched from São Paulo FC a couple of weeks ago after only seven rounds with the club: his fourth A-league teams this season. Are Palmeiras’ directors determined to break the paradigm?

They should be. As has been stated numerous times here: in the last few years, Palmeiras have had Luxemburgo, Scolari, Muricy Ramalho, and now Marcelo Oliveira in command. Upon arrival, these were all considered top of the crop. They all failed (Oliveira, not yet). No need for brains to figure out the coach is not the problem. Now, how do you discover and address root causes, if the coach is never allowed to stay on?

How much time is sufficient time to evaluate the work of Marcelo Oliveira? Let us consider a few things before answering the question.

Marcelo Oliveira obviously knows football. No one becomes champion of the Brazilian league by fluke, much less twice in a row. And do not think Oliveira received a winning machine to work with upon arrival at Cruzeiro: he and Mattos built it up from the ground. Moreover, football has not seen a revolution in the last year or so: if Oliveira’s methods worked a couple of years ago, calling him outdated today is nonsense.

Considering the above, we’re left with four hypothesises: 1) Oliveira isn’t doing his job; 2) Oliveira’s lost the confidence of the squad; 3) Oliveira’s methods are inapplicable on this squad; 4) Other factors are influencing progress.

Number two and three are out the window: Oliveira is respected, and there are no reasonable arguments for the claim that this particular squad cannot be made to work under his command.

Is Oliveira doing his job? Some claim he is not, or not doing it well enough. Too little training, wrong kind of training, insisting on maintaining certain players in the starting eleven even as mounting evidence suggests they should not be. One thing is the average frustrated supporter, with his “more training is always good” mentality. Another is the comments surging from people following training sessions with certain regularity. In addition, sources must be carefully assessed, as some of the noise is coming from individuals (read investors/agents) with vested interest in the career of certain players.

At last, the enigmatic “other factors”. The peculiar bundle of characteristics of the club, its members and its supporters – be they static or not – that originate comments similar to Alex de Souza’s – undisputed #10 at Palmeiras and Fenerbahçe: “If you can take it as a Palmeiras player, you can take it anywhere”.

Why is it so hard to play for Palmeiras? We will only learn why, by maintaining certain things static while observing others. Oliveira must be given more time, time that will allow us to identify and address some of those “other factors”, while he tweaks his training and tactics. This is my firm belief, and the same reasoning that had me oppose the swap from Oswaldo de Oliveira do Marcelo Oliveira in the first place.

Now, that is all aiming the Brasileirão, Copa do Brasil and Libertadores of next year. This year, it is all about 180 minutes – this upcoming Wednesday and the next – of distilled fury and determination. Take note, Santos: the trophy is ours, and convincingly so.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!


  1. There has been some really awful defending from individuals in the last few weeks in particular, just elementary mistakes like missing easy clearances and players running into each other. Maybe lack of concentration? Disappointing either way. Praying for a victory in the Copa do Brasil and a spot in the Libertadores next season!

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