segunda-feira, 19 de agosto de 2013

Flamengo 0 x 0 São Paulo - Campeonato Brasileiro 2013

Flamengo starts better, creates lots of chances, but São Paulo recovers and finishes the game as the best team. The home team starts in a high tempo, pressure high up and forcing the game into the left side of attack. In the second half, SP changes its attack and explore the opponents high line using speed from the attackers, and long passes from the two creative midfielders. Both teams show some qualities but will hope to improve to the next matches.


Flamengo is in a low budget year, committed to a financial recovery that takes its toll in the field. Nonetheless, the team board has found the money to hire a high profile coach - former Seleção's Mano Menezes - and appears, so far, to have given him the time needed to impose his views. Going into the game, Flamengo were 4 game unbeaten, 2 wins and 2 draws. Only Leo Moura, the captain RB, was out on injury, replaced by Luiz Antonio, originally an CM. Mano kept his formation, with André Santos still in the middle alongside Elias. Hernane kept his place in the team after some good performances, with Moreno in the bench. Nixon also started.

São Paulo is currently undergoing its biggest crisis, perhaps in its whole history. In the last 18 games, there's has been but one victory - against Benfica in a friendly cup game. The three times world champions now sits in the relegation zone. In the last weeks, former Seleção captain and world champion Lúcio has been dismissed for dressing room problems. Out of the game were Denilson - former Arsenal -  CB Edson Silv and Luis Fabiano, all injured. Paulo Autuori chose to keep Ganso and Jadson in the team, alongside Osvaldo and Aloisio.  This made for an kind of a brazilian traditional 4-2-2-2.

Flamengo's 1st Half dominance

First half: Elias leads the pressure up high. Focus on attacks down the left with Gabriel, João Paulo and André Santos. Nixon running behind the defence at the far post. Jadson starting left but moving center. Osvaldo staying in positions to run with the ball in counters.
- High Tempo
Flamengo played the first half in a high tempo, pressuring São Paulo in their own field, often dispossessing them before they could pass out from defense, and passing very quickly and mechanically. They played so quickly and directly that it took very few passes to reach an cross. Many times the ball passed right in front of Rogério Ceni, but the strikers failed to make the best of it.

Elias Position
Elias came in this transfer window to become the star performer in Flamengo's team. It is probably not a coincidence that he encountered Mano Menezes, the coach that directed him in his best spell at Corinthians, when he was champion of Brazil's Cup, playing alongside Ronaldo. He is known in Brazil as a "second volante" - that is to say, the half of a midfield duo that has more license to go forward. In English terms, a center midfield. But that isn't really how he's currently being deployed by Mano Menezes. He currently plays ahead of André Santos and Caceres, making him something of a advanced midfield. From that position, he helps the pressing upfront, recovering the ball, initiating counter attacks and sometimes scoring them. In that sense, he has a role similar to that of Toni Kroos in last season's Bayern.

- Route of Attack: Left
Mano brought André Santos, but has not made him start as a LB, as would be expected. Instead he's been deployed in the middle, alongside Elias and Caceres. João Paulo remains as the starter in the LB position. He has been the main attacking threat from a deep position from Flamengo, repeatedly arriving at the end line to deliver a cross. In fact, whenever Flamengo got the ball, it quickly made its way to Gabriel in the left wing. He came inside with the ball, allowing João Paulo or André Santos to overlap, and with that came most of the chances of the first half. It also helped that Osvaldo and Ganso did not tracked back, focusing in remaining in a position to launch quick counter attacks. In the other side of play, Hernane and Nixon tried to profit from this crosses, but failed.

São Paulo ends the better team

Off came Osvaldo and Aloisio, and on came Lucas Evangelista and Ademilson, two boy from the youth squad. They were fast in making an impact, with Lucas forcing an yellow card to an opponent in his first move. Mano Menezes took Nixon off, after he misplaced a few passes and made a few irresponsible fouls. He was replaced by Paulinho who came into the left side and Gabriel went to the right. This broke the fluid combinations between Gabriel, JP and André Santos. A while after, Mano decide to introduce another striker, and brought on Moreno for JP, with Santos going to LB and Elias becoming the "second volante"  he's known for. This put Flamengo in a 4-4-2 that had very little to offer. With fewer players in the middle, Flamengo lost possession to São Paulo, who created more and more. Menezes eventually corrected this replacing Hernane for Adryan, but by then momentum had gone to São Paulo.

- Ademilson x Chicao
This duel epitomized the change in the game. The former Corinthians center back and captain scored a goal in the last game - his first one for Flamengo, and has many qualities. But when facing Ademilson, his lack of pace was crucially exposed. This was the main feature of the game. As Flamengo kept the high line, Autuori introduced two very pacey players to explore the space behind the defenders, who are somewhat slow. Ademilson continually got the better of Chicao - in one opportunity he turned easily past the defender but shot wide of goal.

São Paulo dominates the end of the game. Ganso in the left spraying passes to the quick young playes. Ademilson turning against Chicao. Jadson in the middle. André Santos at left back and Moreno and Hernanes upfront.
- Ganso and Jadson
Key to exploring the space behind Flamengo's line was using the creative capacity of the duo. Ganso got out of Caceres watch by moving to the right, where he would be marked by Andre Santos. From that position, he could pass with his left foot to the middle, making good passes to explore the huge gaps that were left by Flamengo. This positional intelligence is key to Ganso's hope to become the star everybody expects him to. Jadson floated around more, dragging Caceres out of his position and helping to leave the center backs exposed.

-The penalty
Autuori final substitution was to introduce yet another passer, with Maicon coming on for Fabricio. It was he that crossed the ball from the right that eventually became the penalty. By that moment in the game, Flamengo's defender were desperate against Ademilson and Lucas Evangelista, and this contributed to the referee's decision. Jadson took the shot, with Rogério Ceni remaining in his own goal, but Felipe saved it.

Flamengo improves notably, despite its team being built in a very constrained environment. The high line, quick transition and pressure high up the pitch shows that Mano Menezes is in his way of building a team. But they still need to learn how to make the best of opportunities created - many in this game. They also need to learn how to defend against quick strikers. They made a lot of tactical fouls, and this resulted in many set pieces chances for São Paulo. São Paulo on the other hand, has given its supporters hope that they are improving and will overcome this moment, but they still failed to win even when the chance presented itself so clearly. It is obvious they have the manpower needed. The boys from the youth squad are yet one reason to believe, while Ganso and Jadson improve on their relationship on-field.

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