Flamengo won virtually everything on the continent of South America. Beating Argentinian heavyweight River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final, the Brazilians were runners up to Liverpool in the Club World Cup. After so much success, Portuguese manager Jorge Jesus moved back to Benfica after the conclusion of the Carioca Cup.
They came up against the recently promoted Atlético Goianiense. The side from Pernambuco finished last season in 4th place and was one of two sides in the second division to concede 29 goals. After their first game against Corinthians was postponed, this was Atlético Goianiense’s first real taste of the first division.
This tactical analysis will explore what caused Flamengo to struggle against their opponents, and how Atlético Goianiense were able to come away with a comfortable victory against the defending champions of the Brazilian Serie A.
Line-ups and formations
Atlético Goianiense manager Vágner Mancini sent his side out in a fluid 4-1-4-1. The home side’s defence included Jean in goal, both Éder and Gilvan at centre back with Nicolas and Dudu defending the flanks. Edson was the lone pivot, and playing in front of him were Marlon Freitas and Jorginho. Gustavo Ferrareis and Everton Felipe were the wingers, with striker Hyuri leading the attack.
Torrent had the champions repeat the 4-2-3-1 formation from their first game. Veteran goalkeeper Diego Alves started in goal, with new signings Gustavo Henrique and Léo Pereira the centre backs in front of him. Filipe Luis retained his position at left-back while Rodrigo Caio who typically plays centre back replaced Rafinha at right back. The double-pivot were the usual suspects Gerson and Willian Arão, while Everton Ribeiro played as the attacking midfielder. Joining striker Gabriel Barbosa in the attack were wingers Bruno Henrique and Vitinho.
Flamengo’s new attack
Domenec Torrent’s attacking tactics are similar to his former boss Guardiola. With an emphasis on positional play, he wants his teams to draw the opposition to one side with short passes. When Flamengo is in possession they will use the full width of the field, attempting to stretch the opposition defence.
Flamengo was able to enjoy 65% of the possession in this match, continuously moving the ball to draw Atlético Goinianense out of formation. While in possession the visitor’s shape resembled a 2-3-5. By bringing in Rodrigo Caio as a right-back, Torrent had Filipe Luis push higher up the field while Caio tucked inside to balance the defence.
In the above example, Filipe Luis has the ball and has clearly pushed high to make the attacking line of five. Vitinho and Barbosa have rotated, with the striker positioning himself in the defender’s blindside. The players creating the 2-3 in support are also set up in a way to slow down the counter in the central areas.
One of the ways Flamengo attempted to break down the home side was by short passing combinations and Barbosa’s movement off the ball. Using an example from the second half, Barbosa drops into the midfield and lays the ball off to Arão.
Gabigol then moves to receive the ball in the space behind the defenders and continues his run towards the penalty area. After fumbling the ball, the Uruguayan de Arrascaeta plays a through ball into the box for Barbosa.
Although the outcome was a shot at the goalkeeper, it highlights the importance of Gabriel Barbosa’s movement off the ball.
In the next section of the analysis, we see how Flamengo’s attack struggled against the home side.
Goianiense defence and transition
Understanding Flamengo’s potential and the attacking tactics preferred by Torrent, Vágner Mancini set his side up to reduce the spaces between their lines. By forming this compact block, Atlético Goianiense were happy to allow the visitors to play on the flanks. The number of defenders in the central areas also discourages any crosses into the area since the home sides defence was capable of handling any aerial threat. The home side was able to hold Flamengo to 8 shots, with only 3 landing on target.
Using the following examples we see how Goianiense formed their compact block, forcing Flamengo wide. In the first half, we see their 4-1-4-1 shape turn into a 4-4-2. Once they allowed Flamengo to get to the flank, Goianiense would attempt to pin the visitors on that side.
In the example below from the second half, the 4-1-4-1 shape is retained but they continue to reduce space between the lines. This tactic discouraged Flamengo’s attackers from looking for space in the centre of the field.
Goianiense’s defensive tactics were a perfect set up to punish the visitors in transition. Knowing full well that the outside backs would push higher up the field in the attack, their priority was to attack the flanks as quickly as possible.
Analyzing their third goal, we see the perfect example of how Mancini’s players executed their counter-attack. After winning the ball from a Filipe Luis tackle, Edson plays a direct pass into Gustavo Ferrareis.
Once Ferrareis receives the ball he is immediately 1 v 1 with Rodrigo Caio, while Hyuri pins the other centre back with his run.
Ferrareis cuts inside to his favoured right foot, and rifles a shot past Diego Alves. This is a tactic that Goianiense used constantly throughout the game, and even though they had 35% of the possession they were able to hit 13 shots with 7 on target.
In the next section of the analysis, we will highlight one of Flamengo’s defensive struggles that allowed the home side to run riot in possession.
Flamengo’s lack of press
When Flamengo were able to slow the team from Goiana down, they lacked the pressing to force them into mistakes. This was a crucial element to their dominance last season. The lack of defensive pressure from the champions allowed Atlético to grow in confidence and effectively steal the momentum.
Analyzing Goianiense’s second goal, we see how badly the defensive pressure was missing. After initially clearing a corner kick, Jorginho is able to control the ball calmly and begin to dribble towards the penalty area.
Faking the cross he is able to sidestep the first defender and continues his run towards the box. The Flamengo players are slow to react, and by the time they reach Jorginho he has released his shot.
The combination of leaving a man unmarked at the top of the penalty area and the lack of pressure after a clearance doomed Flamengo. Although the champions continued to attack, Goianiense’s defensive tactics were able to win the game.
Flamengo is clearly transitioning between two different playing styles and Atlético Goianiense punished their mistakes. While the newly promoted team from Pernambuco enjoyed a win and a clean sheet in their first match, Flamengo languishes at the bottom of the table after two games without having scored a goal.
While it is too early to predict how the season will end for both, Torrent will need to get Flamengo’s high powered attack going again. The rest of the contenders for the title will have to take notice of Vágner Mancini’s tactics against the champions, and will most likely attack Mengão’s weakness in transition.