Thursday, December 10, 2009

3-5-2 in provincial Brazilian football: same as 4-2-2-2?

A few weeks ago, I attended a penultimate match in the Brazilian Serie B. A local side, Juventude, needed to win in order to assure themselves of avoiding relegation- an ignomony for a club that just ten years ago had won the state championship and the Brazilian cup. The visitors were Atletico Goianense, a club that had only come into existence nine years ago, but which through sound administration had managed to scale the divisions. The match finished 1-3 in Atletico's favour; deserved winners who displayed some fluency with the ball and as a local Juventudista remarked: "take three touches and they arrive in our area...". Juventude by contrast, were insipid. No heart and no ideas. To the fans, I'm sure the despondent effort or lack thereof was indignating, but it is the latter fact which discomforted me most, and I felt it was due an analysis: no ideas. Poor structure. Tactically awful. And a microcosm of a trend which has engulfed Brazilian football in recent years.

For one of Juventude's players, it will probably have been his last appearance at the Alfredo Jaconi stadium. Zezinho is a talented 17-year old who will soon sign for Arsenal. He attended a trial at London Colney a few months back, where Wenger, Liam Brady and the coaching staff assessed him. The lad's natural talent shone through, by all accounts, but they sent him back home with a list of things to improve on. Physically, Zezinho is short and slight, and so will have to bulk up before making the move. He will also need to improve his fitness in order to display more movement on European pitches where stationary playmakers are increasingly a rarity; in Brazil, attacking midfielders and strikers are virtually excused from defensive duties. Pressing barely exists, and this tendency increases the further one travels down the divisions. This in itself explains much about the pros and cons of domestic Brazilian football in its present state.

On the positive side, the lack of pressing strategy lends Brazilian games to being more open affair than elsewhere. Players have more time on the ball, and as such one tends to see a lot more dribbling from the offensive midfielders (meias) and forwards (atacantes). Now this is not an indictment of the ability of the defenders; far from it. The tackles go in as hard if not harder than in the Premier League, for instance. These are not weak players. Brazilian athletes are formidable. But what happens as a result is that defensive phase becomes scene to a series of individual duals, which in itself can be quite relishing to watch: the centre-back tries to dispossess the striker with acres of space and a vulnerable goal behind him- and the execution can often be exquisite. In a sense, this offers a snapshot of where, say Italian football was in the 1980s, albeit with a slightly more open and frenetic style. In a post-Sacchi world, European football is characterised by pressing tactics, zonal defending and the ball as a reference instead of the man as is the case in Brazil.

What this means is that the forwards are marked by the defenders, the advanced midfielders by the defensive mids and so forth. All of which is perfectly logical, but which also leads to another outcome: the increasing physicality and athleticism of the modern game entails more defensive work to be done. In Brazil, instead of distributing the ownice of this defensive responsibility throughout the team, in all lines, across all positions, the weight falls disproportionately on the defensive midfielders (volantes) who, as a result, have become almost exclusively destroyers.

Coaches and pundits here speak of '1st volante' and '2nd volante', and one could be forgiven for thinking that this implies that one player is more offensive/creative than the other (as per the Mascherano-Alonso partnership, for instance) but this is illusory. In reality, the first volante is a defensive player who slots into vacant spaces in the back line- typcially between the centre-backs. The second volante has two functions: he is usually a less astute player and as such rushes into the tackle ahead of his '1st' counterpart, and into the face of onrushing opponents. His other function is important for us to consider, as it is indicative of a seperate tactical development of Brazilian football; this defensive midfielder moves out wide to cover the space vacated by either full-back.

At this juncture, we should look at how such full-backs and defensive midfielders are co-dependent. The 'attacking Brazilian full-back' has almost become a cliche, especially in European eyes, where for decades our counterparts were less inclined to storm forward. But one of the great myths that has grown up around this topic, is that since 1958 Brazilian sides have always tasked both full-backs with advancing simultaneously. True, this has become a feature of Brazilian teams during the past two decades, and hence it explains their preoccupation with assigning a midfielder to shore up that flank which is most left vulnerable. In a way, this does a disservice to one of the great contributions of Brazil to world football, arguably the greatest, most enduring and widespread of any country; the back four, whose mechanism operated thus: One full-back advanced, the other one tucked in and the centre-backs shifted across.

Even accounting for the importance of attacking full-backs - a valuable weapon in any side's inventory, the tradtional 'chain'mechanism of the back four need not be discarded, provided that at least one of the full-backs is defensively sound. Look at how Guus Hiddink made one simple adjustment to override the shortcomings in previous Chelsea coach Scolari's plan. He istructed full-backs Bosingwa and Ashley Cole to simply alternate their forays forward, an instruction which Carlo Ancelotti has continued. As a result, Chelsea have been able to field an extra attacker safe in the knowledge that there is plenty of defensive cover further back.

So how come this mechanism has been all but discarded in Brazil? Well, both full-backs are obliged to move forward in teams that lack any attacking width, as is the case in the 4-2-2-2 paradigm of Brazilan football. With wingers, and even wide-midfielders, discarded as an option, both flanks demand that the full-backs advance- and in the case where both move forward at the same time, the defensive midfielders are obliged to take up the slack. It really is a chicken-and-egg connundrum: 1) the absence of creative holding midfielders leaves the team dependent on the full-backs as an outlet for rapidly bringing the ball out from defence, 2) The offensive brief of said full-backs necessitates that the covering midfielders be overtly defensive. And thus a vicious circle ensues.

A further limitation of this approach lies in how the very thing that once appeared to give the Brazilians such an advantage has effectively been nullifed by developments elsewhere; the rediscovery of wingers by European teams. Not that there were not footballing schools who kept the flame and persisted in fielding outside- forwards since the dawn of the 1980s (the Dutch, FC Barcelona, Zdenek Zeman's teams among them). But in top leagues all around the world, most teams appeared to consider true wingers a luxury in an increasingly defensive football. Two forwards were the maximum that a coach could afford to not have working behind the ball. But the renaissance of outside-forwards, built on the proviso that said players work behind the ball in defensive phase, renders the laneways once patrolled by the attacking full-back a more dangerous place to inhabit. What team would now dare to advance both full-backs simultaneously, or field two positionally suspect full-backs against a competitive side playing a 4-3-3? And risk being overwhelmed by a 2 vs 3 situation at the back? No thanks.

Now to relate all this to Juventude and the Brazilian Serie B, how is it relevant. Well, both Ju and their adversaries Atletico lined up in essentially the same format. With a little variation, here and there, but basically it was the same structure. Juventude played a 3-4-2-1 and Atletico a typical 4-2-2-2 (with two destroyers). I wasn't that impressed by Atletico tactically speaking, I simply felt that their players were better overall than the locals, and unsurprsingly they won promotion to Serie A that very day. A comparative team from a different football culture, operating in a similar division and with similar resources could yet have made a better fist of dismantling the Atletico attacks, attacks which appeared controlled and expansive in light of the shambolic organisation they were up against. This has recently been demonstrated in South American tournaments where club sides from Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay are increasingly inclined to defend zonally when up against top Brazilian teams, and punch above their weight, considering that Brazilian domestic wages and the pool of talent are more generous than in other leagues on the continent.

I recall thinking how I would have taken that same starting XI, those very same players, and simply adjusted their positioning and with a few simple instructions (surely not that arduous to rehearse on the training ground a few days prior to the match), and even though it still would have been less than ideal (I couldn't for the life of me fathom the fielding of two destroyers - a waste of personel and positioning), you still would end up with something more coherent, perhaps a 4-3-1-2 or even a 4-3-2-1 albeit with a less plodding midfield (by moving one of the defensive midfielders back to full-back in a four, and asking one of the wing-backs to tuck in closer to a midfield trio).

Juventude simply could string a series of passes together. Despite playing with two destroyers in front of three centre-backs, they appeared disjointed everytime their opponents venture into the final third. Countless attempts to change the direction of the play broke down, since the defensive midfielders were slow-thinking and their attempts at raking long diagonal passes out to the wing-backs went wide of the mark. It resulted in a familiar, dispiriting scenario: the offensive midfielder Lopes found himself obliged to drift deeper onto the toes of his own volantes in order to bring calm and initiate some semblence of imaginative passing. Which led one to think: why are two or even three men doing the job of one? Until Association Football permits the fielding of 12 starting players, I see little point in this burocratisation of the midfield.

Regardless of formation, no top team should need more than one purely defensive midfielder; and quite a few even manage without. That is not to say that holding midfielders should be discarded. Absolutely not. The classical central midfielder (centre-half) was a holding player, albeit an organising figure, who rarely broke beyond the ball and who needed to have a panorama of the play unfolding ahead of him. He was the epicentre of the team, the focal point, a positional reference without which it would implode. The Argentines continue to say to this day, 'show me your holding midfielder and I'll tell you what kind of team you've got'. Now it's one thing to detail your No.5 with a defensive player for added security (hence the double pivot in the Spanish 4-2-3-1), arguably even a necessity. But why go so far as to abolish the organiser, and subsitute him with two defensive midfielders?

Inevitably, and sadly I might add, this brings me to the Brazilian national team where Dunga is content to abolish the midfield; for him it is a pesky nuisance, a liability where any elaboration on the ball will yield the loss of possession and a counter-attack for the opponents. Ignore for a moment the visceral thrill of a Kaka and Maicon led counter-attack. Discard if you will, the admitted brilliance of those immaculately rehearsed set-pieces which unfailingly result in Luis Fabiano's goal-bound headers. No where within this philosophy does Dunga pause to think of the paradox at the heart of it; that such a destructive midfield endagers his defensive security- through sloppy and lethargic passing which puts his team under pressure. Well-drilled opponents who agressively press Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo will invariably draw mistakes from them.

Two years ago, Tim Vickery, the Brazil-based British journalist argued that it would be a good thing for Brazilian football and football in general were Brazil to lose the Copa America final to an Argentina side who valued elaborative and patient passing. His reason, argued Vickery, was that an Argentine victory would impose a temporary freeze on the tendency towards ever-greater athleticism in football, given that winning sides tend to be imitated throughout football's food chain. Sadly for such aesthetes, it was not to be and Dunga's muscular side simply overpowered the Argentines. Even ignoring the subjectivity of such an opinion, horses for courses and all that, Vickery's desire may well be incarnated in reality over the coming years. Indeed, reality as opposed to aesthetics may dictate that Brazilian football's crippling addiction to the "two-destroyers-plus-two-wing-backs" format becomes finally exposed and undone to the national team's expense at a major tournament. And such a watershed may come at the hands of an opponent less self-consciously retro-romantic and diffident than Alfio Basile's 2007 Argentine vintage, but an opponent nonetheless committed to fluency and coherence in central midfield, virtues which Brazilian football seems to have discarded for the past two decades.

Carlos Alberto Parreira argued back in 1994 that his "two-destroyers-plus-two-wing-backs" formula was a necessary evil since he felt obliged by the suffocating pressure of Brazil not having won the World Cup in twenty-four years. Now Parreira is an engaging, worldly and personable figure- one of the more likeable of the prolific coaches in world football and having been raised a Fluminense supporter, the team of Rio de Janeiro's privileged classes, he had an appreciation of aesthetically pleasing football and little time for reactionary posing by many of his successors. Since 1994, Brazil have gone on to repeat their international success; at 2002 in the World Cup and in the 1999, 2004 and 2007 Copa America editions. Consequently, there is no proverbial drought to end. No justifications whatsoever for any assumed inferiority complex when placed alongside the Europeans, whose sports science and fitness levels the Brazilians have matched and arguably even overtaken. But there is the danger that Brazilian football will be schooled in arts that it once gave to the world, and which they might be well advised to go about reviving.

Fernando Calazans once said of this marked tendency towards midfield tussles and disjointed passing thus: " We have foolishly surrendered our arms, handed them over and taken up the weapons of our opponents' choosing".

What he might have added was that the opponents (the Europeans) have taken up those very weapons that Brazil once discarded, refined them and adapted them to the modern era, whilst offloading such outmoded practices as man-marking onto the Brazilians.

You never know a good until you've let it go.


  1. Wonderful article Roberticus, and well worth the wait since the last one.

    How would you go about exposing the leaden-footedness of a defensive midfield pairing like Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo? I wonder what would happen if you used a really tenacious player like Gennaro Gattuso or Wilson Palacios or Owen Hargreaves at the tip of your midfield - either in a 4-4-2 diamond or a 4-3-3 with two registas behind him. Might that enable you to exploit the lack of creativity in the opposition's defensive midfielders while still maintaining numerical parity in the middle of the pitch?

  2. I hate the two destroyers as much as the next guy, but at this moment does Brazil have a world class option to play next to a destroyer. (lets assume they have to play one) I can think of only one but he's Spanish now.

    Speaking of Argentine #5's who's the latest and greatest?
    Banega (not the toughest # 5) is playing well at Valencia, who unfortunately on a couple of occasions have played two destroyers lately as well.

    I think Brazil V Spain could very well happen and in that case Silva and Iniesta pestering Silva and Melo will be a tough match for them. I hope Queiroz can convince our attackers to get in their face.

  3. Hey Tom, really impressed with your blog, and I heartily recommend it to any other readers here. Astute observations about player movement and positioning which go beyond the veneer of numbering and superficial and tendentious analysis by the mainstream media. Re: your question about exposing Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva; just make sure that whatever your formation is, have your centre-forward drop off and exchange passes with the advanced playmaker(s). Swift exchanges of passing should short-cut your way through and around this pairing. As for configuring a midfield that might disrupt a Brazilian defensive pair.. I don't think you would need to go so far as putting a breaker like Gattuso/Palacios/Hargreaves ahead of the midfield. Don't get me wrong: it is a very good strategy, and would doubtlessly force errors from Melo and Silva, perhaps even causing the loose ball to fall generously to your striker(s). But what concerns me is how this would affect the overall set-up; you say that one of your preferences is for two regista's behind and with the Hargreaves type ahead. For most of the play this will result in the destroyer being close to areas of attack and in a position to shape procedings, feed the strikers, bring onrushing midfielders into the play; i.e. a job he is clearly not apt for.
    So how do we enable our Hargreaves to participate in pressuring the Melo-Silva partnership without necessarily being stationed so far upfield?
    I think your 4-3-3 is more useful at this juncture.
    I can provide you a link to scouting videos which show how Mourinho's Chelsea pressured opposing defensive midfielders all within the structures of their 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 and without an advanced midfielder/No10 assigned to the hole. You will note how, with Makelele holding, one from Lampard and Ballack would venture forward to pressure whenever the opposing Def Mid attempted to get on the ball. But once this period of pressure subsided (usually when the ball advanced with the either of the full-backs), our pressing player then fell back into a line of four ahead of Makelele, all behind the ball. Now, whilst that Chelsea did not use any regista as such, both Lampard and Ballack were good enough technique to be effective going forward. My personal preference would be to have some sort of playmaker in this arrangement in-line with a box-to-box player like Essien and both ahead of a holding player (preferably not a regista). It's like how Barcelona appear that bit more aggressive and defensive whenever Keita takes over Iniesta's left-of-centre spot alongside Xavi.Although your playmaker will defend behind the ball, I guess the most hard running and energetic pressing should be entrusted to the box-to-box athlete, and if he can also provide goals with his late arrivals, even better then.

    So, I think that the midfield triangle in a 4-3-3 can fluctuate and adjust depending on the personel in such a way as to upset a leaden-footed duo ahead of them, and without recourse to playing the destructive component so far ahead.

  4. Hey Steve,

    << I can think of only one but he's Spanish now..>>

    A nice allusion to Marcos Senna there, and considering that he alone anchored the Spanish midfield at Euro 2008, I think Brazilian football is light years away from properly utilising such a holder either alone or accompanied.

    There is a player who would make an excellent regista; his name is Hernanes, though I think his best position is that of Xavi's ( wide-of-centre in a 4-3-3 or in a diamond)since he likes to get forward to build attacks and even take shots. He's like Fernando Redondo but with the movement and dexterity of Zidane - really hope he makes the jump to a big European club. But as I've said before, Dunga seems to believe that central midfield is an area purely designated for demolition.
    I wouldn't play Gilberto Silva full stop and, though I have my reservations about Melo's positional discipline, I think Hernanes could be paired alongside someone like him in a double pivot. Melo's substitute in the national team is Josue, who would suffice. Even better, for me, would be Dudu Cearense from Olympiakos who at least robs and distributes with criteria and positional discipline.

    For Argentina's No.5, I think Banega is more of a No.8 (an organiser like Veron) but one who can easily play in the double pivot alongside a destroyer like Mascherano (the 'doble cinco' as the Argentines call it). Perhaps ten years ago Banega could have played as a lone '5' in the Redondo mould ( I think this is how he started out at Boca, as did Gago)but Redondo said himself that the athletic demands of that role in today's game are such that he would find it difficult to play there alone.

    Perhaps in this light, Cambiasso is the most balanced holding midfielder for Argentina right now. What do you think?

    For Portugal vs. Brazil, I think that Pepe's injury could almost be beneficial - not in and of itself, since Pepe is a terrific defender and more than competent defensive mid- but because I think that it will force Quieroz to play Veloso at the base of midfield, certainly in the friendlies before the tournament. Bruno Alves and Carvalho are class at the back. In terms of pressing Brazil's central midfield, I would be concerned about Deco's condition. Certainly Meirelles will not shirk from pressurising, though I would still like to have another more physical midfielder in there (on the other side of the diamond/three-man midfield?). This got me thinking that if Cristiano were to play as false centre-forward, his constant dropping-off would bring him into contention with Gilberto and Melo - and Cristiano would be very useful for those physical battles.

    By the way, what is your preference for a Portuguese line-up?
    the 4-3-1-2 (Cristiano as one of the strikers)
    the 4-3-3? (but Cristiano as outside or false centre-forward?)
    Any other variant you'd care to venture?

  5. Roberticus,
    Re: Hernanes, I have only seen a bit of him, and I still don't see what everyone is ranting and raving about. What I did notice is he seems very two footed. Do you know of any game in particular that he was fantastic in that I can see if I can find a way of downloading it?

  6. As for Portugal,where do I start! Not only are we in a group of death, I don't find our squad very settled. Pepe's injury is a big blow to us because, that core of Alves, Carvalho and Pepe is very hard to beat, and all the fuss about our pretty boy attackers aside, that is the most important and strongest part of our squad.
    I also worry about our Deco dependency. He is far too moody, he can be bloody brilliant or brutally awful and I can understand why some coaches tend to shy away from players like him because you never know what you are going to get, as a neutral fan I love them, but having them on my team, does stress me out.
    We definitely don't have a like for like replacement for Deco (at least not a world class one anyway, Hugo Viana seems to be having a great season at Braga, not sure he is of International Quality though) )I would like to see Veloso given a shot at the #10 role at Sporting to see how he does, he doesn't lack the technical ability, just a little short on pace. However, my conclusion to rid ourselves of the Deco dependency is to find a spot for Veloso in our midfield as he has that eye for a pass and that little bit of futebol sense that no one else on our squad seems to have.
    So my original idea for that was to go back to the 4-2-3-1 that served the Golden Generation quite well, with a runner and a ball player in the 2 with 3 players who can interchange positions behind the front man. By using a ball player in the regista/Xavi Alonso role (Veloso) will hopefully free us from being dependant on Deco. When our midfield 3 is Pepe Meirelles and Deco, only Deco has an eye for a pass. Both Meirelles and Pepe are not horrible on the ball but are very limited and take too long to make decisions. I would try this line up.

    Danny coming back to the form he was in before his injury is another point of concern.(I will scour the internet after I am done this post for news on him, hopefully Zenit will loan him to an Iberian team so that he can get some matches in)
    We could even possibly play Ronaldo "behind Liedson" but free to roam the pitch where he likes so that he can find that space between the lines of defence and midfield to gain steam and run at people. With Simao and Nani on either flank, who neither of them are in good form but will fight for the cause and help their fullbacks.
    The possibility of playing the 4-3-3 without Deco is another option. Same back four with this in midfield
    Meirelles----Tiago/Pedro Mendes---

    With the acquisition of our latest luso-brasileiro Liedson, playing Ronaldo upfront on his own is not necessary, especially since when he comes back to receive the ball neither Simao or Nani would run past him so it wouldn't really work. Besides that fact Liedson is full of running and definitely works hard for the cause, I definitely want him in the starting 11.
    Queiroz seems to have been using a a diamond in midfield as a second option and that did bring us the best futebol I seen us play in a long while in the first half in Denmark. It looked like this
    So I will assume that will still be his second option and maybe Veloso at the base of that diamond and Liedson instead of Simao, might be what he has in mind. Which is very similar to the 4-3-3
    that I posted above.
    Pedro Mendes also has a shot of making it in to the squad as he looked the most natural DM we had the whole qualifying campaign(ideally a box to box player though) but he got injured, and I believe is just starting to train again now.

  7. It's looking pretty complicated right now for us so we'll see how it goes. Sorry I rambled so much I had to seperate the posts!

    About the vids on Mourinho's Chelsea, links would be awesome!
    Also, if I can make a suggestion for the blog, a list of links! You always seem to have the most interesting facts and I always wonder where you get them from!

    Also I have started a blog as well no where near as good as this one (post about as oftend though!) or Football Further which I just started reading yesterday and am really enjoying it.
    Nowhere near as well written as either of them, but I will post from time to time when I feel inspired. Should really have posted after the weekend Barca and Benfica had but I doubt I will!
    Anyway here it is.

  8. I hate two destroyers. I hate the term because it implies a hard man who just tackles - like Melo. At least Dunga had good awareness and could pass short.

    I actually don't mind Gilberto; he's a bit underrated in my eyes. Maybe not spectacular but he knows how to pass simple and his mentality is very good i.e. concentration.

    But he's quite slow off his feet and pressuring him will surely win you the game. I remember for his last few games at Arsenal when the team lost 4-0 against United and he had so much trouble against Rooney, Fletcher et al. and could not cover for the full backs who were dreadful (Hoyte and Traore).

    - Regarding Portugal. I would play Mendes because he works his socks off and that could make all the difference. Maybe could even free up space for Deco, who mustn't play as a playmaker. He should be as an interior; a dictator as deeper he's harder to disrupt.

    Ronaldo v Maicon? Interesting battle but I sense each canceling each other out. But watching a few Portugla games, they need movement. Have they got that?

  9. Roberticus, this is a brilliant, brilliant blog. Keep it up.

    Brazil lack options, but as you point out in the comments, they still have some - but sooner or later the success of Parreira's 'necessary evil' could lead Brasil down a well, to paraphrase Vickery. So my questions are:

    1) Does Brasil's youth football coaching reflect the senior game the way it does in Britain? - if so, is this (as opposed to the professional domestic leagues) where the 'necessary evil' is coming from?

    2) How close to this well are Brasil currently? Is it possible that the trend away from 'fluidity and coherence' in their midfielders has gone so far that the position is irretrievable, in the next decade at least?

    bobeto (from the GU sportblog)

  10. arsenalcolumn,

    We have had very little movement off the ball and pass and move futebol since the days of Scolari, not entirely his fault, I don't think this batch of Portuguese players is as good as the last, nor are they as intelligent.
    Regarding Deco, the Deco of Barca was a fantastic interior, who could put a tackle or two in and rarely get caught in possession, the Deco of the present gets caught in possession way too often and his tackling is just getting worse.

  11. Steve

    Hernanes' best patch of form by far was from 2007-08 until about halfway through that year ('08)when he slumped, following a call-up for the Olympics. His poor form continued over to the first few months of this year when his club coach Muricy Ramalho shifted him to a more advanced position, linking midfield and attack. Then when present coach Ricardo Gomes took over in June he restored Hernanes to more of an 'interior' role and his performances have improved, most notably his desire and workrate. I still do think that he is stagnating though and needs to move quickly to a European club; he has won two Brazilian championships so now would be a good time to leave; funny, since normall the opposite is true for Brazilians in that they leave too young, but this guy is already 24 and his football is wasted on this league.

  12. By the way Steve,

    here are the links to those Chelsea tactical vids:

    Bear in mind, they date back to Avram Grant's time in charge but he basically didn't alter the methodology that Mourinho had left in place.

  13. Hernanes videos... a scouting compilation.

    The seocnd is an isolated incident from a game, but it just goes to sum up the guy's agility and awareness.

  14. @ Arsenal column

    I wouldn't mind a younger Gilberto Silva accompanying a creator like he did with Edu, or even Vieira years ago. But now he is half a player.

  15. Hernanes definitely looks special, I love how two footed he is he passes and controls the ball just as good with his left as his right! Very impressive, if Benfica make big money on Di Maria I'd love to see him in Lisbon.

  16. Folks,

    for 2010 I intend to do up the blog. Perhaps even transferring it to another site; anything that will permit an easier-on-the-eye format for the reader, but principally on account of graphics. The idea will be for better tactical diagramns to accompany the texts.

    Any other suggestions will be duly noted.

    Thanks a million, wishing you all a Happy New Year.

  17. This is fantastic. I've added you to my blogroll.


  18. Thanks Rob,

    I'll check out your blog in due course!


  19. Brazil would be an interesting case to study how much the evolution of strategies and tactics is imitative and how much innovative. A lot of times, from your posts, it seems to me that tactics are just imitating a better strategy, at times however someone comes up with an innovative strategy which later gets adapted by many more(hence again imitated).

  20. @ bobeto

    apologies for not responding to your post; I completely overlooked it!

    In terms of youth coaching in Brazil, I would go so far as to include senior level here given that a disproportionate number of players on the books of every team is composed of youngsters. And yes, fitness and physical conditioning is a major component here. But I think you'll find that the training sessions in Brazilare not as integrated; one day dedicated to fitness and musculation, another day to tactics, another to skills etc.
    At the risk of herding together a disparate group of elite coaches such as Mourinho, Wenger and Pellegrini who are based in Europe - their sessions tend to be more dynamic and integrated and even, well, fun. For a great outline of Wenger's training sessions check out Arsenal Column's blog (listed among my links).

    Pellegrini has said that he prefers to have the ball at the centre of most of his training sessions, even building it into the fitness work, reasoning that the players will prefer to run after a ball twenty times in a controlled strategical exercise than to run laps around an athletics track. It's a subtle method to achieve the same results albeit easier on the player's psyche.
    Mourinho has a reputation for basing much of his fitness work around strategic exercises though perhaps not to the same degree as Pellegrini or Wenger.
    Internacional of Porto Alegre have recently hired a Uruguayan coach who prefers a more 'European' methodology (making waves in Andean football, such as in Ecuadorean club sides)and indeed his previous sides have stood out for their high intensity in comparison to Brazilian counterparts. This guy Fossatti's methodology has caused something of a ripple among the sports commentariat in the southern states; and the players seem to have responded favourably. For example, D'Alessandro said of the typical Brazilian methods "When you wake up knowing that the first thing you've got to look ahead to is a seven km jog, you arrive at the training ground in a bad mood" Instead, Fossatti has demanded high tempo tactical exercises such as rapid movement in blocks (as in 'defenders', 'midfielders' etc), choreographed counter-attacks and severe attention to detail.

  21. On Fitness and training methods I'm not quite sure about the effectiveness of European training, since when such ball-centered methods were applied in Brazilian football, they failed terribly, Fossati's mediocre Inter is just another example of that (the early Fluminense of 2009 is almost a case study).