Tite- 5 changes he has made to reboot Brazil
A SETTLED CENTRE HALF PARTNERSHIP
Shortly before the 2014 World Cup campaign, the combination of David Luiz and Thiago Silva was seen as one of the most symbiotic in the game. Paris Saint Germain paid close to £50m to lure Luiz from Chelsea to replicate it at club level. However, the partnership ruptured in the wake of the tournament.
Thiago Silva was actually suspended for the chastening 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-final. The break up of the Thiago-Luiz axis was a contributing factor to their disintegration in Belo Horizonte. This ought to have solidified their status as the country’s premium centre half duo. However, new boss Dunga took a strong distaste for Silva’s demonstrative shows of emotion during the tournament and froze him out upon taking the job from Felipe Scolari.
Without Silva, Luiz began to struggle, despite the impressive performances of Miranda. Luiz made a catastrophic error in the opening minutes of the Copa América 2015 match against Peru. He was subsequently dropped and Thiago Silva was welcomed in from the cold. However, Silva’s nerve failed him with a ridiculous handball to concede a penalty in the quarter-final against Paraguay. Silva was banished once again and Luiz reluctantly reinstated.
An avoidable red card against Argentina in Buenos Aires tested Dunga’s patience with Luiz once more, before Luis Suarez gave him a torrid time in a 2-2 draw with Uruguay in Recife. The manager was left with a scenario whereby he didn’t trust Silva or Luiz individually. Given that both men are in their 30s, their shelf life was limited in any case. Tite has handled a hot potato with customary adroitness. Marquinhos has waited patiently for his chance at club and international level, where the Luiz – Silva partnership has restricted his opportunities.
However, the PSG youngster has seen his path cleared at club level with Luiz sold to Chelsea. He performed excellently in the Olympics in August and Tite, who has recalled the exiled Silva, stuck with the talented 21 year old alongside the more experienced João Miranda. The two have worked together excellently, with Miranda the brains and Marquinhos the legs of the partnership. As such, Thiago Silva has had to wait patiently in the wings as his junior clubmate assumes the mantle at centre half. With one goal conceded in six matches, there is absolutely no reason to divide this duo.
Dunga inexplicably burdened an already tactically overloaded Neymar with the captaincy. He did not wear it especially well, with fits of temper often leading to disciplinary issues and a sense that the Barcelona frontman was expected to win games on his loneseome. It was clear that the armband needed to change hands and one of Tite’s most pressing concerns upon taking office was to remove the added layer of responsibility from his star turn without hurting his ego.
Tite approached it by insisting that the captaincy rotates from game to game. This was a policy he implemented with great success at Corinthians. In a stroke, he promoted the concept of shared responsibility and did not emasculate Neymar by giving the armband to a specific teammate. The sense of collective leadership has really showed too. When Paulinho scored Brazil’s 3rd against Argentina, Tite sprinted down the touchline to celebrate with his players and his substitutes. It’s an image that encapsulates the harmony he has brought to the squad.
As well as removing the unnecessary burden of leadership from Neymar, Tite has tactically liberated him too. Paradoxically, by giving him a more defined role. Under Dunga, he had an almost entirely free role. Starting as a kind of false 9, with Willian and Douglas Costa either side of him, Neymar would drift around the pitch in search of the ball, often dropping into the centre circle, before embarking on an attempt to take on the opposition single handedly.
The emergence of Gabriel Jesús has fixed Brazil’s decade long centre forward issue, allowing Neymar to play the roving left sided role that he enjoys at Barca. With Coutinho drifting in from the right, Brazil’s front three is an interchanging unit, as opposed to a pair of orthodox wingers and an unstructured forward. Neymar is enjoying life as part of a constellation as opposed to being a lone star. His partnership with Jesús in particular has been inspired. The Palmeiras forward started out as a left sided attacker and understands how to interchange with Neymar and to make decoy runs that open up space. Brazil’s attack is now more flying V than lone ranger.
There is one respect in which Tite has been fortunate. He has taken the hot seat in concert with the rise of Gabriel Jesús. The Seleção have struggled for an established centre forward since Ronaldo’s retirement, with a series of underwhelming (Fred, Jô, Jonas), ageing (Tardelli, Robinho, Ricardo Oliveira) or underperforming (Pato, Julio Baptista, Luis Fabiano) options.
Dunga, sensibly, incubated Jesús in the U-20 Olympic squad until he was ready for full international level. He has been a revelation at Palmeiras this season as a number 9 and having won Olympic gold with the U-20 side in August, Tite decided it was time to give Jesús his chance. It is likely that Dunga would have come to the same decision were he still in situ. Instead, Tite has been able to benefit from the teenager’s talent. 5 goals in 6 internationals tell the statistical story, but he has also been able to free Neymar and Coutinho alongside him in a fluid attacking triumvirate.
AN ESTABLISHED SYSTEM
Tite’s title winning Corinthians team played in a 4-1-4-1 shape, without orthodox wingers. He prefers for his attacking wide players to move in from the flanks and create centrally, while his central midfielders diligently plug the gaps. Tite had little time with the squad prior to his first match, so he’s picked the players that know his system best. Renato Augusto is the bow that holds the Seleção together, with his ability to build play from deep and simultaneously facilitate Neymar’s wandering by filling the gap he leaves on the left.
The recall of Paulinho caused some arched eyebrows, but he is another of Tite’s trusted lieutenants from the coach’s Timão days. He understands perfectly how to play the box to box role with discipline, which is required for the system to work. Tite was not afraid to drop the in form Willian for Philippe Coutinho, who is simply a better fit for the formation. The coach is also perceptive enough to make the necessary tweaks according to the opposition, or even in-game in response to the pattern of the contest.
Against Argentina he had Paulinho and Renato Augusto swap sides, so that the defensively superior Augusto could help Fernandinho counter the threat posed by Messi. He made a similar switch in game against Peru, asking Augusto to move to the right to free Coutinho. Peru had focused their energy on the left hand side, double and triple marking Neymar. As a result, Tite perceived that would open up space on their right hand side.
Coutinho set up the opening goal with a mazy dribble from the right and Renato Augusto doubled the score himself, receiving the ball in the right channel from Gabriel Jesús before firing home. Tite’s system is well established and easily understood by his players, but he has been intelligent enough to cut his cloth as the game demands and make decisive interventions from his dugout. In short, he is a good, proactive tactician and a respected communicator.