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by Douglas Monaco*

The complexities of running a football enterprise – be it a club or a stock market listed team – are severe and require a permanent eye to innovation and a determined preservation of the knowledge base upon which the entity reaches its successes.

This article draws on lessons from the years 1992-1999 – known in Brazilian football circles as the Parmalat Era – to make the case for a knowledge management – KM – system to be implemented at São Paulo based, Brazilian side Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras.
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The only real source of sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge.

Management guru Peter Drucker

In our paper, we define KM as a collection of processes that includes knowledge generation, storage, transfer, and usage, and whose aim is to increase an organization’s value for its stakeholders. In essence, we can say that KM is a process of ensuring that the right knowledge is available to the right people at the right time[1].

Caveat: by making the case for the KM system, the article does not imply certainty that Palmeiras isn’t presently building one. Such certainty would require a level of access to internal processes that this author does not possess. The purpose here is to advocate for the importance of it not being overlooked. In case there is one already “in the oven”, all the better!

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Palmeiras is repositioning itself to deal with football’s complexities
The complexity of running a football enterprise has always been there. Though in the beginning, this feature wasn’t as prominent as it is today, it’s known now that those that are slow in recognizing the trends tend to lag and the longer the delay, the costlier the catch-up.

Palmeiras is such a case as we the supporters know all too well: for one set of clear examples of the catch-up costs, simply look at the team’s performance between the years 2000 and 2014.

Its recently outgoing president said many times during his two two-year mandates “the champion of the XX century has not yet arrived to the XXI century”.

The current state of the club though is one of strong development and bodes well for the future performance. Here are some current conditions:

  1. Cash position is relatively strong and the predicted outgoing cash-flow composition is well balanced between debt repayment and operating expenditures.
  2. The sources of funding are varied and growing for the coming years: game-tickets (home stadium is frequently sold out), “supporters’ club membership” fee, sponsorship, broadcasting rights, licensed products etc.
  3. The team won two major national titles in 2015 and 2016 – the cup and the league respectively.
  4. The current team is strong and the capacity to sign well-rated players is there.
  5. The infrastructure processes have been constantly adopting state of the art practices in physiology, nutrition, orthopedics, performance management, people management, recruiting of players, administrative controls etc.
  6. The brand is probably at peak level, historically speaking, and supporters’ enthusiasm and adherence grows and strengthens by the day!

So, given this internal scenario, one can surely foresee a forever successful future for Palmeiras, right? Well, obviously not, primarily because risk is inherent to any human activity. And on top of this basic condition, the fact is that the prediction would still require important measures before it could be taken at face value.

Threats recognition and comparison with the Parmalat Era
What one can say is that the current situation resembles that of a good seed that was sowed in 2013 and begun germinating. Then, it almost died in 2014, but picked up again, bore some fruits in 2015 and many more in 2016!

Now, if the current transformation Palmeiras is undergoing is like a good plant, it must be guarded against weeds and ecosystem predators that might suffocate its development. To be sure, there are many potential problems – the political one being a well-known “batrachian-plague” that haunts “Palmeiras’ garden” since late seventies.

But, apart from politicking and its agro-zoo metaphors, most threats relate to potential scarcity of cash and of resources, i.e. if the funding sources begin to dry up, consequently the infrastructure risks deteriorating, as well as does the ability to sign high level players.

So, a massive amount of effort must be concentrated on securing the club’s purchase power by protecting the current funding sources and prospecting new ones. I am sure many within the club are busy doing it.

There is one step though that seems to be overlooked and would mean a great deal to safeguard the current developments; one that doesn’t necessarily require lots of funding, whose triggering should be relatively fast and whose existence would represent a permanent defense against occasional scarcities. 

Before discussing the point, let’s briefly remember another “Palmeiras’ spring” that seemed then to foster a new age for the club, but whose promises faded with the end of the partnership that gave the period its name “the Parmalat Era”.

Then as now, we had flooding streams of cash coming in, we had star players – every year a package of new signings was a fixture in the supporters’ calendar – the team won numerous cups and championships, brand recognition and association were strong.

Then as now, hopes were high that Palmeiras would never again be “in the queue” for its turn to raise a trophy. Well, that “age” ended basically in 1999 right before the drought in titles mentioned a few paragraphs above (2000-2014) and was followed also by the humiliation of the club being relegated twice – 2002 and 2012.

The case for the knowledge management system
The point missing then, that we – “crossfingerly” – hope will not be missed this time was the skill to absorb the competencies brought in by Parmalat.

Production management, players’ selection, group management, brand exposure, budget management etc. were all processes in which Palmeiras had been behind for many years and that Parmalat exceled at.

km-elementsWe knew then that at some point, the partnership would be over and the money it brought with it would dry out. Therefore, we should have used that experience to LEARN from it and, on top of occasional financial surpluses the period could leave in its trail, the most important legacy would have been the know-how absorbed by the club,  allowing it to replicate methods and not bury itself in failures for the following 15 years.

Okay sure, now Palmeiras is investing in the infrastructure piece and considerable amounts of cash flow are guaranteed for the coming 8 years – from Globo and Esporte Interativo.

But the pressing question is: are all new practices being properly learned and documented? Are we sure that the respective competencies are being absorbed? Just as an example, we know that one of the determinants of the 2015 and 2016 titles was Football Director Alexandre Mattos’ expertise on talent search and deal negotiation; another determinant is Cicero Souza’s skill on what people call “handling the dressing room”, i.e. the people management techniques aimed at keeping players protected from problems that can distract/disunite them.

So, given their importance, are we ready for the situation of them being snatched from our pay roll? We hear/read in the great grapevine of current day – the internet – that both have recently been approached by other clubs and preferred to remain with Palmeiras. How many more attempts will be needed to get them to change their minds?

And this goes to all great professionals currently employed by Palmeiras.

The proposition here is that we build a solid knowledge management system at Palmeiras that documents all this expertise and makes it available to the hired employee of the day.

Of course, there are personality traits that will never be transferable – mostly the players’ skills and the trainers’ game plan capacities. But, there certainly are ways to make much – if not most – of knowledge currently being applied learnable and replicable by new employees.

Doing this will greatly increase Palmeiras’ capacity to make the current situation perennial and satisfy the gigantic and growing legion of Palmeiras’ supporters, avoiding that the current windfall does not turn into another “flight of the chicken”, to use a Brazilian expression.

The benefits of such an implementation are abundantly documented in the respective literature[2]. All that it takes is for Palmeiras to make the move and adopt one more innovation that will greatly enhance its capacity to make the current success perennial.

May the new president pay heed to the opportunity and lay the foundation that may make the difference for generations to come.

This is certainly my new year’s wish!

#ForzaPresidente
#VamosPalmeiras
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[1] Knowledge Management Audit in a Higher Educational Institution: A Case Study”. By Robert Biloslavo and Anita Trnavcevic, published in Knowledge and Process Management Vol 14 issue 4, year 2007.

[2] Two examples of recently published practical literature on the theme: “The knowledge manager’s handbook: a step by step guide to embed effective knowledge management in your organization” published in 2016 by Kogan Page; and “Designing a successful KM strategy: a guide for the KM professional” published in 2014 by Information Today.

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*Douglas Monaco is 57 years old, Brazilian, and the biological child of an Italian man and a Brazilian women. Early in life, Erasmo was adopted by a family of Italian descent: becoming a passionate palmeirense was definitely his destiny. Holding two university degrees (Economics and Administration), he works as project auditor for a Dutch humanitarian entity.

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From time to time, you will find contributions from guest writers, on a variety of topics, here at Anything Palmeiras. Feel free to leave your feedback – either directly in the comments field or contacting the author.

And if you yourself would like to contribute to Anything Palmeiras, enter in contact through anything.palmeiras (at) gmail.com.

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Playing before 40.986 spectators, a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras were Palmeiras like throughout most of 2016: confident, in control, sufficiently efficient to secure the three points against Chapecoense and the 2016 Brazil championship title. The only goal was right-back Fabiano’s, and what a beautiful goal. His first for Palmeiras, one that will be remembered forever.

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Who contributed the most to this title, arriving after 22 long years of waiting?

Jailson, the 35-year-old who had never played a first division game in his life and stepped up in August, when Fernando Prass was injured in late July, to support an 18-games-streak of invincibility?

Dudu, the hotheaded forward who matured after receiving the captain’s armband to become the player with most assists in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão?

Tchê-Tchê, who last year seriously considered abandoning football for the lack of opportunities, today a given on the midfield on any Palmeiras starting eleven?

Moisés, “hidden away” in Croatia, ridiculed upon arriving, today considered the greatest surprise of the championship?

Gabriel Jesus, who’s splendid first half of the championship set the pace for the title race?

Jean, the experienced, polyvalent, hard-working leader?

Yerry Mina, who went straight into the starting eleven, scored, was injured, came back to score more and form a massive centre lock with Vítor Hugo?

Zé Roberto, the living myth, at 42 the heart and soul of the squad, always reminding us of the GIANT called Palmeiras?

Cuca, the prophet, the professional, the father, who knows how to create a family not through external enemies but common aspirations?

Alexandre Mattos, the director of football who contracted all the aforementioned pieces and then some?

Paulo Nobre, the club president who in four years took Palmeiras from rags to riches?

Palmeirenses near and far, tirelessly reinventing the art of supporting the team, standing ground against everything and everyone, including friendly fire?

None. All. That is what is so special about this campaign: it is a truly collective effort like seldom seen. And unbelievably well deserved.
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celebration.
I still need to come down. Pictures and videos of the magnificent celebration – all over São Paulo and all over the world – only in a day or two.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Today Sunday, Palmeiras might secure the Brazilian championship title. Nothing like Palmeiras’ official photographer Cesar Grecos’ 2015 Brazil Cup picture book to get you into the right spirit!

With more than 400 pictures spread over some 200 pages, this piece of art gives you the expected and unexpected, the official and the unofficial, the glamourous and not so glamourous moments of Palmeiras’ 2015 Brazil Cup campaign, leading up to the club’s third Cup title. Cesar Greco keeps it simple, with clean framing of the subjects, leading us into and through the day-to-day of the squad and everything surrounding it: training, travel, gearing up, play, post-game, medical, training, travel… Like in the best moments of TV Palmeiras, we come a bit closer to the actual human beings behind the celebrity mask: their anxieties, beliefs, superstitions.
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Photographer Cesar Greco with Zé Roberto at book launch

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Currently sold out at Amazon, the book is available on Netshoes.com.br for approximately US$25, but they only offer domestic shipping. If you live outside of Brazil, let me know and we’ll try to work something out.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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prass_jump

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After two years of negotiations between representatives of football clubs, Congress and the Government, President Dilma Rousseff today signed the provisional measure that addresses, among other things, the debt of Brazilian football clubs with tax authorities, estimated at a whopping  R$ 4 billion (US$ 1.25 billion). As the law takes effect, clubs will be allowed between 120 to 240 months to pay off their debts with tax authorities, in monthly parcels and at interest rates of 2-6 per cent.  

Earlier this January, Rousseff vetoed a similar version of the decree, as it contained nothing that obliged clubs to address the root of the problem: irresponsible management practices. The decree signed today contains these mitigating measures, obliging clubs to:  

– publish standardized financial statements audited by independent companies
– pay all fees and taxes on time, including social security, labour and contractual contributions, and image rights
– not spend more than 70% of gross revenue on professional football
– maintain a minimum and permanent investment in youth and women’s football
– not anticipate revenues from subsequent terms, except in very specific situations
– adopt a progressive schedule, aiming at zero deficit by 2021

Clubs that break the rules risk being  downgraded to a lower division. In addition, directors of clubs can be made legally responsible for their actions.
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In her speech, President Dilma recognised that the chaotic situation in many football clubs stems from a combination of anachronistic legislation, little professional management structures, lack of transparency and accountability mechanisms, resulting in a high level of debt.

Representing the clubs at today’s event, president of Flamengo Eduardo Bandeira de Mello stressed that the main virtue of the project was not the refinance of debts, but the necessary measures of accountability and governance that came with it, moralizing and revolutionizing the management of Brazilian football.

After being published in the official annals, the decree turns into a law valid for up to 120 days. During that period, a special committee composed of members of parliament from both chambers examine the text, approve it, rejects it or suggest changes. In the case of the latter, it will have to go back for voting n the Congress before again being brought up before the president for a final approval or rejection.

The law is an important step forward. There are still major question marks regarding who will be responsible for monitoring the clubs’ compliance and who will have punishing authority. Ideally, an external organ should be set up, having a mandate to regularly, for example on a monthly basis, make sure clubs are honouring their obligations. Another welcome feature would be progressive punishments, with clubs loosing points when behaving badly. The “sudden death” approach, with relegation or no relegation being the only option, tends to both limit the inclination for punishing wrongdoers and, rather contradictious to the previous statement, open up frightening prospects for foul play and traps.

Many things in Brazil look good on paper, and only on paper. Time will tell.

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Hard battles, big lessons*

Palmeiras’ last two matches were not walks in the park, even playing against small teams like Vitoria da Conquista in the Brazil Cup or Bragantino in the Paulistão, the latter with only Prass and Zé Roberto kept in the starting eleven. What was the legacy of these games?

In Bahia, Oswaldo spared Zé and Victor for physical reasons and Palmeiras played in a blue kit, a not very likeable colour for palmeirenses: they claim it gives bad luck since 1954, when Palmeiras lost a Paulista championship to Corinthians playing in a navy blue jersey.

However, the team performed well. Cristaldo’s first goal, a converted penalty, gave the team tranquillity and stability, allowing Allione and Dudu to exploit the flanks and open spaces in the centre of the field, while Robinho and Arouca were passing the ball with speed. Do you remember Robinho playing well as a centre midfield? Seems he plays well in the central 3-men position too. Good news!
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The defensive system was solid and allowed only a goal and few shots for both opponents. In Oswaldo’s 4-2-3-1, the flank players (Allione and Dudu) join the midfielders when the team loses the ball, changing into a 4-4-2 formation. This was visible during the defensive phase against Vitoria, even playing on a small pitch with lousy grass.
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Palmeiras’ system is very defined, trained and has many combinations. The goals always happen when the midfield line link between them, or when Zé and Lucas play in great depth in the attack, keeping the organisation of the team as one.

The battle in Bahia was tiresome, making Oswaldo opt for sparing the “ideal” eleven against Bragantino, already thinking about tonight’s clash against Santos. The alternative team were not bad at all – some may in fact consider Palmeiras’ starting eleven against Bragantino better than any starting eleven in 2014 – and he kept the 4-2-3-1 formation. Oswaldo rarely uses another tactical drawing and insists with some players in specific functions – this is very good, because they get used to a defined way of playing.
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It is the case of Rafael Marques. Palmeirenses don’t like him much, but his tactical importance and intelligence defined the 1-0 result last Saturday. Let’s take a closer look at his goal: João Pedro and Maikon Leite combined on the right flank and Leandro dropped in on the side to receive the ball. In this movement, he attracted three opponents, opening up a large space in front of the box.

Renato saw this and advanced, but instead of trying the shot, he preferred to pass the ball to Rafael, who had been “reading” the game and already occupied the open space (the red area in the image below). This is a collaborative and intelligent movement led by three players. Football is a collective game!
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When the game was in the bag, Oswaldo tested Gabriel Jesus, Palmeiras’ golden boy from the youth academy. He played as the single striker in the 4-2-3-1, in front of Zé Roberto, Rafael and Victor Luis in midfield. Palmeirenses need to stay calm and have patience with the young player: he has good movements, always looking for spaces on the left flank and in Zé Roberto finding a companion, but it’s yet too early to expect great things.
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These tough fought victories have left some good impressions in relation to a team only beginning to show results, but that has good tactical and physical outsets. For now, one can conclude that Oswaldo, Altamiro, Gabriel and all the folks in the technical team are doing a good job. Now is the time to step up to the challenge of the Classico da Saudade against Santos, in the famous Vila!

* by Leonardo Miranda

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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

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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

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