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Brazil's new breed of guard dog

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Tim Vickery | 11:25 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

Brazil coach Dunga is fiercely loyal to his group of players - which is hardly surprising.

When he was appointed after the last World Cup, this novice coach was widely seen as a short-term solution, a poor man's Luiz Felipe Scolari keeping the seat warm while the real thing was unavailable.

Instead of which, Dunga and his band of men have, bar last year's Olympics, won everything in their path - they have claimed the Copa America, Confederations Cup and finished top of South America's World Cup qualification table.

Dunga, then, stands by those who have stood by him - none more so than Gilberto Silva. The more his central midfielder is criticised, the more firmly his name is written on the team-sheet.

Arsenal, he said a few months back, have become a 'timeco' since they let Gilberto Silva go.

It is not a word that lends itself to an easy translation, but it is not at all complementary - it means a small, insignificant, rubbish team - and hardly seems an appropriate term for the dash and fluency of Arsene Wenger's side. Surely this is taking loyalty too far.

Gilberto Silva is a player with many virtues - and can point to a truckload of titles to back them up. He is also by all accounts an excellent dressing room influence, the kind of person who naturally puts team above self. And the fact that he was willing to accept responsibility to take Arsenal's penalties speaks well for his strength of character.

Brazil's Gilberto Silva takes on the US in the Confederations Cup Final Gilberto Silva takes on the Americans in the Confederations Cup Final in June

One of the great things about football - a key part in the game's global success - is that in can be interpreted in different ways. We can all have our own preferences for certain styles and approaches.

And, for what it's worth, I find it somewhat depressing that Gilberto Silva stands by to represent Brazil in central midfield for the 84th time against England this weekend.

One of my most enriching experiences was to talk football with the late Zizinho, Pele's idol and the star player from the 1950 World Cup. Having played through a period of intense tactical development in Brazilian football, he was obsessed with different formations. In 1985, he published an autobiography.

The last words were as follows. In Brazil, he argued, "the cabeca-de-area [midfielder who sits in front of the centre backs], a man who can control 70% of his team's possession, has now been given the specific function of destroying, when it should be to set up the play."

I'm with Zizinho on this one. Effectively, centre backs have often been played in front of the centre backs - a trend which has reached its logical conclusion with Gilberto Silva, originally a centre back, enjoying such a long international career in midfield.

It is because of this development that Brazil are no longer as attractive to watch. They can still count on fabulous individual skill. But with guard dogs in place of artists in such a key position, their game seldom flows as sweetly as it used to when Clodoaldo, Falcao or Toninho Cerezo set the moves in motion.

The other side, though, has a very powerful argument in its favour. Brazil went 24 years without winning the World Cup. The titles, at all levels, started piling up once more when they closed down the centre of the pitch.

The physical development of the game, it is argued, mean that it is no longer possible to waltz through the middle of the field as the 1970 team did when becoming the best in the world - and the 1982 side did while losing it.

It is a respectable line of thought. Dunga has even gone as far to suggest that calls for Brazil to return to a more traditional approach are part of a European plot to ensure that his country stops winning.

But evidence from this year's youth tournaments suggests that Brazil's model, so successful over recent years, might be tiring.

In the final of the World Under-20 Cup, Brazil lost on penalties to Ghana, after being unable to break down an opponent that played with 10 men for some 80 minutes. At Under-17 level, the story was far, far worse. The group phase eliminated just six of the 24 teams - Brazil were among them.

Cesc Fabregas and Gilberto Silva in their Arsenal daysCesc Fabregas and Gilberto Silva in happier days together in north London at Arsenal

Both teams were rich in individual talent. The Under-17s were widely seen as Brazil's most promising team at the level for some time. Both, though, filled central midfield with proto-Gilberto Silva figures - giant, dogged, limited, holding the fort to free the full-backs and unable to contribute anything imaginative to the build-up.

This, of course, is the principal criticism levelled at Gilberto Silva - his passes are usually slow and to the side. At 33, though, the defensive side of his game may have lost something.

It is fascinating that Wenger chose to get rid of him so early. Part of this, I would imagine, is that once Fabregas became the king of the midfield another partner was needed - and Silva lacks the pass and move game to accompany him. But also - and I would love a response on this from Arsenal fans - I wonder if the change of home ground had anything to do with it.

The Emirates pitch is much bigger than Highbury, and maybe Wenger came to the conclusion that the Brazilian was no longer mobile enough to cover it. If there have been times over the last few years when Arsenal have looked like a 'timeco', it would probably be when Gilberto was on the field in his final season with the club.

Of course, at that point the veteran was hampered by a lack of regular first-team action.

He is a better player than he looked in some of those final games for Arsenal. And Brazil don't have a Fabregas for him to accompany. Indeed, as they look to launch the counter-attack, they often sit so deep that there is little room between him and the centre backs, and consequently less space for him to cover.

With his experience, defensive awareness and personal qualities, Gilberto Silva remains an important part of Dunga's Brazil. Player and coach have picked up titles together, but the real test is coming in South Africa next year.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Why do you think Walter Samuel never gets selected to play for Argentina? He's a starting central defender for Inter Milan. If he's good enough for Mourinho, you'd think he'd be good enough for the Argentine national team.
Dan Anstey

A) Baffles me. I've been a big fan ever since I saw him as a teenager put Romario in his pocket in the Maracana. For ages, he was the lynchpin of Argentina's defence, but then came the injury problems. Even if the injuries have taken their toll, I'd still put him in front of De Michelis and Heinze. Perhaps Samuel's best bet for a recall is if the defence looks wobbly against Spain this Saturday.

Q) Brazil is widely seen as a successful example of a nation in which people of all races and origins live together without divisions, the epitome of a melting-pot society, and football as a classic example of this harmony. Is there racism in football in this part of the world?
Karl Chads

A) The 'racial paradise' thing is something of a myth - I've yet to come across a black Brazilian who goes along with it. The legacy of feudalism and slavery still persists, as can be seen from the debate going on about university quotas for afro-descendents.

Football is an excellent example. The onset of professionalism in the 1930s secured once and for all the place of the black player - but after all this time there are still very few black coaches. It's striking that Didi was not given a chance to coach Brazil, especially after the '74 World Cup. The 'Ethiopian Prince' was the midfield brains behind Brazil winning in '58 and '62, did an excellent job with Peru in '70, but the call never came.
I was thinking about this recently watching Colombia in the World Under-17 Cup. Their coach, Ramiro Viafara, is black - and whenever I go there I see black coaches - but not so much in Brazil.

There have also been cases of racist chanting, especially in the south, so I think it's fair to say that the battle to eradicate racism has not yet been won.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Arsenal, he said a few months back, have become a 'timeco' since they let Gilberto Silva go.

    It is not a word that lends itself to an easy translation, but it is not at all complementary - it means a small, insignificant, rubbish team - and hardly seems an appropriate term for the dash and fluency of Arsene Wenger's side.

    how sad, Brazil are playing long-ball/set-piece, and criticising teams trying to play beautiful football. Dunga has done a lot of harm to the World game in my eyes

  • Comment number 2.

    I definitely agree that Gilberto Silva has gotten much slower, but I think that his departure from Arsenal was probably to do with the fact that he wasn't playing well and the Arsene Wenger probably decided to not risk having an "off player" and instead bring in a promising youngster such as Denilson, Song or Diaby (although Diaby and Denilson are very attacking) as has been the Arsenal way for years. In the same way that Pires, Viera, Ljungberg and Campbell were let go because they were simply too old and not producing the same quality that they had done in previous years.

    As for the above comment by captainlazytim, I don't think that Dunga has harmed world football. Just because Brazil don't play with the same flair that they used to, it doesn't mean that the world game has been harmed. Look at Holland, Spain or Russia who are currently producing some absolutely quality football. It just means the balance of flair has shifted to Europe. It is true that Dunga is talking absolute rubbish calling Arsenal a 'timeco'.

  • Comment number 3.

    You can't blame Dunga and Brazil for ditching the flamboyant samba style in favour of a more 'European' style if they have got results with it.
    The greatest tragedy was the dour Italians beating the beautiful Brazilians in the '82 World Cup and it was all downhill from there.
    I'd say the harm was done long before Dunga came into management. The other factor is the constant poaching of young South American talent by the bigger European clubs and shaping them into 'Eurobots'.

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting, but for me, I much prefer a team that can hold out another team than one who likes to free-flow. Call me old fashioned, but when I play football I believe in playing it in the simplest of fashions: put the ball in the other team's net and don't let them put it in yours. Yes, I believe in "scoring more goals than them" to win a game, but this isn't 5a side matches where the goals are aplenty, this is serious footballing competition and I think it's wonderful to see Brazil adopting to the modern game and playing defensively when the time is right. They look like they're on the brink on finding a perfect balance between attacking flair and defensive power and I think that's more beautiful than anything.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with glbotu. Dunga hasnt harmed world football at all. He has only done what he thinks is best for his team. And who can argue with the stats since he has taken over.....?

    Bottom line is if Brazil win in South Africa no one will care that he doesnt have an all attacking midfield, you play to your strengh and Dunga has got results.

    I say well played to him for doing things his own way and not being made to play the "brazil way"

    p.s his comment on Arsenal is madness. Im a celtic fan and enjoy watching Arsenal more than any other team and beleive they can win the Premiership this season.

  • Comment number 6.

    "The physical development of the game, it is argued, mean that it is no longer possible to waltz through the middle of the field as the 1970 team did when becoming the best in the world - and the 1982 side did while losing it."

    I think Barcelona have shown the world this style of football IS still possible - you just have to be incredibly cute about it. Xavi, Iniesta (although he has been playing in a more advanced role in the last couple of seasons) and others like Pirlo of Milan have shown that deep lying midfield playmakers CAN contribute decisively to a teams attack.

    I can't think of a top class Brazilian to add to the list though, which I find surprising. If any nation on earth can provide clever, skilfull players in that role you'd think it should be Brazil.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm a gooner who was never a big Gilberto fan in the first place. He played his best football for us in the 06/07 season when we reverted to 4-5-1 more often than not due to long term injuries to RVP and Henry. This wasn't a surprise to me because I've always seen Gilberto as "just a holding player."

    In a 4-5-1, where his job is just to screen the two centre backs and give the ball simple, there are few better at the job. But at Arsenal we played 4-4-2 in his early years.

    The season before we signed him we had Vieira and Parlour as swashbuckling box to box midfield players who competed, passed got forward and scored goals. The next season with Gilberto our midfield lost an edge, became placcid and easier to play against.

    In 2004 when we won the league unbeaten - plenty of people forget that it was the more energetic Edu who partnered Vieira in many of the crunch contests that season, indeed Gilberto spent a fair bit of time "filling in" on the right of midfield to close out games when we were ahead.

    Look at the improvement in Arsenal between the last full season Gilberto partnered Cesc and the one full season that Flamini did so. We went from also rans to contenders. I don't believe in a Premiership 4-4-2 that you can afford a Gilberto Silva. If we had him now, in the new system he'd be perfect for the Song role although Song is doing very nicely indeed at this moment.

    He was also a bit cowardly for a defensive midfielder. I remember in 2002/03 dropping vital points from a 2-1 lead at Anfield and Gilberto had three chances to win the ball back in the move which led to their corner, which led to a goal. He tackled half heartedly every time.

    Gilberto is a rarity at Arsenal in recent years - a player whose medals will overstate his contribution.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think it's a little harsh to just blame brazil for this 'negative' approach to center midfield play....

    Liverpool-Mascherano (& lucas)
    Chelsea- was makelele now essien
    Barcelona- Toure
    Madrid- Diarra

    All the 'top' sides have these players- how can a side wish to compete without? the game has changed in terms of pace and physicality dramatically making it a necessity to adopt this approach- you could argue Man Utd don't have a particular 'holding' midfielder but then they don't have a real attacking midfielder either fletcher/carrick/scholes/anderson all just play as box to box midfielders

    The point about gilberto silva is slightly irrelevant as there are no alternatives! I mean if Lucas is in the squad I think I've got to check if my grandmother is part brazilian!!

  • Comment number 9.


    I think there could definitely be an argument that Silva was offloaded for two main reasons - one tactical, the other athletic. It wouldn't be unreasonable to think Wenger is the type of manager who considers many elements other coaches don't - so the change of ground (and size of pitch that went with it) would probably have been foremost in his mind.

    It seems strange that Brazil are sticking to this philosophy when trends appear to be shifting elsewhere. A cursory glance at Spain suggests a playmaking midfield reaps rewards, while the Premier League offers further evidence: Man Utd. have excelled without Hargreaves; Chelsea have competed strongly without needing to replace Makelele; Arsenal have developed tremendously since Silva left. In all these cases, the position hasn't died out completely - Man Utd. have Fletcher, Chelsea Mikel while Arsenal have Song and Denilson - but it could be argued that these players (perhaps with the exception of Song) are more expansive than their predecessors. It's interesting to note Ferguson's insistence on attempting to convert Anderson into a more defensive role than has previously been occupied.

    For me, the role has been damaged in perception because it shifted from box-to-box players such as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira to players less attacking and less mobile, simply positioned to clean up loose balls and make interceptions before passing to a more creative team-mate. Silva and Makelele would definitely be in this category, and perhaps Mascherano/Lucas too (note that Xabi Alonso was infinitely more creative) - their position in the team making it unbalanced in terms of creativity when Gerrard/Aquilani and/or Torres are out.

    So to go back to point, it seems odd that there are some important examples of increased fluidity yet Brazil stick to this model throughout their national setup. I kind of understand maintaining it in the full team as it's a system which has brought most success, but insisting upon it at all levels down to U-17 strikes me as a lack of anticipation and forethought. If Brazil made their two central midfielders more attacking (surely a country where this would be comparatively easy), against a team which did employ a defensive midfielder the numbers (six vs. five) would be stacked in Brazil's favour.

    Tim, who do you think will succeed at next year's World Cup? I see the tournament as key to shaping the next few years tactically and stylistically. Brazil as cautious, Spain as expressive and England somewhere inbetween (optimism as an Englishman perhaps).

  • Comment number 10.

    Lets not forget Gilberto was largely kept out of the team in his last year as Flamini and Cesc had struck up a formidable partnership in the middle.

    Had Flamini not had such good form then it would have been Gilberto holding in midfield instead. Wenger's decision to let him go was in my opinion based on the fact that like Kolo Toure last season he didn't get enough games and being one of the older and longer serving members of the squad allowed him to leave to get the games that he craved and save him rotting in the reserves.

    The Emirates is a FIFA 'standard' pitch now, no bigger or smaller than that to be used in South Africa next year so that can't really be an issue. He transferred for around £1m as I remember and ended up in Greece, with all due respect to the league there, if he could still cut it at the top level week in week out, for that money he cost, he wouldn't be there!

  • Comment number 11.

    Wenger, for me, realises that the game has moved on, and a midfield needs a player who can both pass and defend. The 'Makalele' role is no longer enough - just as the 'Lineker' type goalscorer is not enough or the 'Riquelme' type passer is not enough. If you want to win the premiership you would have to compete with Essien, who can be both destructive and constructive. alonso was the same at Liverpool last season. Carrick and Fletcher are both trying to be that way at United, Hargreaves, when fit, is that type of player. Flamini fulfilled the role for Arsenal before he left, but has not been adequately replaced ( still). Yaya Toure at Barca? I dont think Dunga has either realised that or has the talent to available to him.
    Having said that, he has been succesful so far, but the Confederations cup was second rate and they were fortunate in a number of games against teams who even England would beat comfortably. To be honest, I dont feel the SA world cup qualifying has been at its highest of standards either, not with such a weak Argentina.

  • Comment number 12.

    Don't think the author was trying to advocate the complete abolishment of ball winning midfielders, every team needs someone (or several) to harass and hurry the opposition. That midfielder should also be able to pick a forward pass as well however. France played great football with Makalele in midfield, though they also tended to play with only one pure striker and others coming deep or playing off him.

    I like Lucas, his distribution is good and he seems to have shaken off his terrible start at Liverpool from last season. For all this talk of Barcelona and the beautiful football they play, they look a lesser team in the absence of Yaya Toure. Admittedly his influence is marginal in comparison to Iniesta and Xavi, it's fantastic watching their footballing merry-go-round every week.

    On the Argentina front, I've seen Diego Perotti of Sevilla a few times recently, he looks quick and incisive, how is he received over there? Has to be said Renato was fantastic at the weekend as well, as was Pires in the same game.

  • Comment number 13.

    In fairness to Dunga, I don't think he is playing the way he is because he hasn't realised that you can play another way (Ghisared) but rather because he just doesn't have the creative players to do so. Expansive, passing play is of course still possible and both Spain and Barcelona showed last year that, done properly, remains the most effective way to play. Each team can only play based on the players they have though. While I'm sure Dunga would like to play the magical football of the 70's, as far as I can see, he doesn't have the players with the ability to do it. So, he has to remain as competitive as he can. It's not really something he should be criticised over though.

  • Comment number 14.


    Another good blog but one which I disagree with. I am not too concerned whether the criticism of Gilberto Silva is fair or not - he has been a good player for Arsenal and Brazil but can he justify a place in the current Brazil set up? I think so but am willing to be told why not.

    The point I disagree with is your disappointment of the Brazilian team playing with a destroyer in central midfield. Football tactics developed in such a way that the traditional number 10 dropped off the number 9. This allowed the more creative striker to have more time of the ball. The second centre back could not go and close down the ball as that would leave too much space in behind.

    The reason for employing a more defensive central midfielder was to stop that flow of service to that number 10. Sacrificing a defensive player to stop a goal threat is a trade-off which is well worth it in big games.

    This also takes the defensive responsibility away from the other central midfielder, if playing a 4-4-2, and allows them to be more expressive. Football has developed in that way but I for one enjoy the tactical battle and watching defensive responsibility as much as anything on a pitch.

  • Comment number 15.

    I was always a fan of Gilberto, and although certainly in his first few seasons I felt he was a bit too limited for my liking, I appreciated the job he did for us for the 6 years and have huge respect for him as a person especially. I felt the way we got rid of him was a bit shabby, but he never complained and only reflected positively on his experiences at Arsenal. Listening to his interviews and the way he conducts himself shows that he is a great individual and, I feel, a model professional.
    With regards to his contributions to Arsenal, I do think some fans don't give him the credit he deserved.

    Like I said, for the first two seasons, I was unconvinced by him, and thought he was too uncomfortable on the ball to be a success in the high velocity style of the premiership, and that he took too long to control and release the football. However, I remember him getting injured early in the 04-05 season, and it was only in late April when he returned did we notice the solidity he gave to the Arsenal midfield. Throughout the season we relied on Fabregas and Vieira/Edu, and that combination wasn't really working, and we seemed a bit light in midfield, and teams seemed to be going beyond our midfield with too much frequency, leading to us leaking a lot of goals (I'm not saying the defence had a role to play in that as well, just that without the defensive strength of Gilberto, we were a bit exposed in a two man central midfield).

    I think we saw the best of Gilberto in the UCL run to the final in 05-06, especially when he switched to a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation, and he played the defensive midfield role in front of the defence. He really was excellent in that role, and made a huge contribution to leading us to the final. In fact, in the following season he added goalscoring to his game as well, and ended with double figures in that season.

    There's no doubt Gilberto has his limitations, and you can make the argument that it is possible to get a defensive "shield" player who can also contribute effectively in terms of game making, instead of solely focusing on game breaking. I accept that, but I still think it's possible to have a player like Gilberto in your team and still be offensively effective. In the 03-04 season, Gilberto was a regular, and we played excellent football to win the league, as his defensive solidity was supplemented by the creative forces of Ljungberg, Pires, Bergkamp etc.

    Finally, you could argue we still have a "Gilbertsque" player r in our team this season in Alex Song, whose occupying the defensive midfield role in the 4-3-3 system we're using. His role is not dissimilar to what Gilberto used to do, and he's been a vital part of our excellent fluid start to the season. Having said that, however, I think Song is more technically gifted than Gilberto and has been able to offer more going forward as well.

    Anyway, I hope Gilberto is in the squad for the world cup and performs well. He'll always be remembered fondly as Arsenal, not just for his football, but also for he way he conducted himself. A true gent in my eyes.

  • Comment number 16.

    The rise of players like Gilberto are reactionary and things like this go full circle. I have seen enough in top level football to suggest teams will once again desire creativity in this possession but then somewhere along the line, one team will have success with a destroyer again.

    The reason why Wenger sold Gilberto had partly to do with mobility though by what percentage is open to question. Wenger certainly felt he had a couple of years in him but the level of competition and talent coming through may surpass him or indeed be hindered by the Brazilian. You can see with the system Arsenal have mobility needs to be combined with technical ability and reading of the game which Song has although one would still argue if Arsenal could better him in terms of passing ability.

    But Gilberto's criticism seems have been manufactured also because Brazil as a whole are not creative enough. You can go with one specialist to balance the team but three as they have now (Melo, Gilberto and Ramires). Brazil have been slow to act on again to changes and one could maybe see them fall behind later to the European's for short period of time; despite their relative individual talents at U17 level can it work in a harminious system in the future?

  • Comment number 17.

    Corrections above No. 16^^^^: Possession should be changed to position and there should be a not in the second sentence in the third paragraph.

  • Comment number 18.

    The centre of midfield is quite often becoming a dour place in the squads these days. Not losing has become more important than winning so teams increasingly put out centre midfield partnerships that defensive in nature: for Man Utd we see Fletcher/Carrick and Chelsea we see Mikel/Essien. Some how the 'deep lying playmaker' has turned into defensive midfielder.

  • Comment number 19.

    A pretty pointless argument as everyone agrees that a team has to have a mixture of offensive and defensive players to achieve anything. Gilberto Silva for all his supposed limitations as a player has actually won quite a bit in the game, and his defensive style hasn't been built on bullying opponents and an aggressive nature but more his reading of the game which in itself is a massive strength to have. I really think he deserves more credit.

    Surely a better debate on this matter, given Gilberto Silva's age, is which players in and around the squad are likely to challenge his position in the future?

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the reason Gilberto was let go was due to a combination of things; specifically the loss of pace as Tim mentioned, but also the falling value of older players- Wenger probably wanted to cash in as much as possible. Both of these are related to the Emirates move...

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't see this as a pointless argument at all - as the excllent quality of the responses would seem to indicate.

    There's a line that Brazil have taken - especially influenced bylosing to Holland in 74 - where they've set a goal to atch the Europeans in physical terms. A few years ago when Branco was in charge of Brazil's youth sides he told me that right from the start of the process he was telling all of his people to look for big, strong players - this chain of thought, over time, has lead to a central midfield of Gilberto Silva and felipe Melo.

    I was at a conference of coaches in Rio last year when they were debating the essence of Brazilian football - there is a growing feeling that something has been lost, especially in the central midfield area. The name of Clodoaldo was mentioned a few times as an example of someone who could break up the opponent's moves and also be creative himself.

  • Comment number 22.

    Gilberto was a good player for Arsenal but was always over shadowed by presence of Vieira. The season after Vieira departed to Juve, the key midfield role was given to Gilberto (the then senior player in team) with full trust in his abilities and he lived up to expectations by taking good penalties and holding up play. We did reach to the Finals of C'League, but that wasnt sufficient enough. Arsenal are always known for their brand of passing, flowing football at fast pace. And this could be achieved with only fresh n youth legs developing at Arsenal Academy. Hence Wenger got rid of Gilberto.

    In case of Brazil, Dunga has again put a lot of faith in Gilberto and perhaps setting up the Brazil team that way instead of the traditional flair and attacking players in the team. Dunga is trying to adopt the European set up because thats where the powerhouse of football lies today.

  • Comment number 23.

    The game is changing, it always has and it always will.

    The holding midfielder is dying out, because you dont need size and strength any more. The rules are tightening and teams cannot muscle their way to success any more. A smaller, faster, more creative player can be far better going forward than Silva and can do just as well defensively.

    Wenger has been smart enough to follow the lead of Barcelona. Real Madrid, Man Utd and Liverpool have not been and are suffering, and Chelsea are very lucky that in Essien they have probably the most creative and athletic of the old holding midfielders.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dunga and Wenger both are intelligent men loyal to their beliefs, the way they approach the game is as differnt as it can get. It just so happened that gilberto was essential to Dunga's idea of how he wanted to put his team out but was misfit in Wenger's side.
    You can like one style and dislike the other but both have thier merits, Brazil has already tasted success with this team and Wenger's team will do so to sooner rather then later.

  • Comment number 25.

    The demise of Gilberto in the Arsenal side is explained by one word. Denilson.
    Denilson offers more to a team that wishes to play like Rinus Michel's Ajax than Gilberto. Dunga it seems thinks he has a team more suited to playing like Arsene Wenger's 04 vintage Arsenal and results would tend to support him.

  • Comment number 26.

    "A pretty pointless argument as everyone agrees that a team has to have a mixture of offensive and defensive players to achieve anything....

    Surely a better debate on this matter, given Gilberto Silva's age, is which players in and around the squad are likely to challenge his position in the future?"


    yellowgreenred: Don't be so ignorant, or at least try not to show your character in public. This is not a pointless debate and commenting that all and sundry know a team requires attack and defense to win adds nothing to the debate.

    Also, a debate about who is likey to replace Gilberto is nothing more than speculative banter and is, in fact, pointless.

    Tim I would say Gilberto leaving Arsenal was, like most things, a combination of factors. First of all, I don't think there was any ill feeling in his departure; I see Gilberto as a man of good character who would have understood his lack of first team action towards the end. I think he still felt he could do well for another club and thats why he went to Panathinaikos. Wenger would probably have liked to keep him as a squad player but you cannot hold people back and he had young up and coming prospects to cater for. Flamini was also coming into his own at that stage and Wengers loyalty to his youth system certainly paved the way for a move.

    I think you're onto something about the change of stadium. Wenger did make an input into the Emirates design (obviously high level input like pitch size etc). And I think the scale of the pitch reflects the fact that even then, Wenger had a long term plan. Fast passing and fluid movement is far more effective on a bigger pitch. I don't think Gilberto would have suited this system at all. But I don't think Gilberto would have been around for long anyhow.

    People mention Song quite a bit in the DF role. I'm very interested to see what becomes of Denilson as he certainly has the ability to be creative in the deep lying midfielder role. He certainly isn't the destroyer that Song is turning out to be, and his passing game isn't developed yet (they are both very young). So maybe Arsenal will have two types of midfielder for this position; Giving us two different options for the variety of games we will be playing.

  • Comment number 27.

    Maybe I am in the minority, but I have never been impressed with dribblers and tricksters, George Best, Ryan Giggs were never in my book in the same class as Bobby Charlton and David Beckham. Also as I play with Brazilians in an amateur US league, I find their selfish dribbling habits the cause for losing more games. Nothing worse than busting a gut to make a run, and having to deal with some show off trying to beat one more player, when the smartest thing to do was pass.
    Quick interpassing, a sense of play strategy and great shooting skills are for me the mark of a world class player. It is why Ronaldino, Maradona etc, are for interesting players, fun to watch thats about it. If Gilberto can pass, has good strategic skills and shoot he's worth his place.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm not a huge, huge fan of South American football, and I'll admit I know little about it, but I always enjoy reading your blog. You clearly know an awful a lot about the game over there and have huge respect and admiration for it. I think the way you write is refreshing and I appreciate your views and opinions.
    This is by far the best blog on the website and it's always worth reading. I had no idea about the way Brazil is playing football and the relevance of Gilberto da Silva either. I'm going to Brazil for 3 months next year and I hope I can enjoy my time over there as much you clearly do! And hopefully enjoy some football. Can you suggest any decent team to watch? All I know is that Sao Paulo, Flamengo, Corinthians and Vasco da Gama.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think that Wenger might have made a mistake in letting Gilberto go. There is always a necessity for a player like this, depending on the tactics you choose for a certain match. Surely his age was a factor, but as we have seen during these past two years playing for Brazil, he is still an important player and a good resource to have. I'm not implying to be anti-football but one player is not going to completely change a team's mentality.

  • Comment number 30.

    Far be it from me to be sycophantic - but I've never read a Tim Vickery blog that is pointless. Now as for a few of his colleagues.......

  • Comment number 31.

    Great blog Tim, as usual.
    What a player, Gilberto Silva! An Invincible Wall, as Arsene Wenger used to call him. Pity that Arsenal decided to offload him only to give way to mediocre players.
    Football is funny game sometimes.

  • Comment number 32.

    In reply to post 26:

    "Don't be so ignorant, or at least try not to show your character in public. This is not a pointless debate and commenting that all and sundry know a team requires attack and defense to win adds nothing to the debate.

    Also, a debate about who is likey to replace Gilberto is nothing more than speculative banter and is, in fact, pointless."


    How am I being ignorant? I could say the same about you! I think too much is made of people's love of attacking players, I actually enjoy to see good defending, for me that is just as much of an art as a player doing step overs near the corner flag for example. Sometimes an edgey defensive display can be just as exciting as some of this Hollywood football that the Premier League produces.

    And what is wrong with asking who could replace Gilberto Silva in the long run? A fair enough question to which I'm sure you are knowledgable to answer with some decent answers when you are ready, if we're going to dismiss certain players lets see some worthwhile alternatives please. But of course you know much more than the world cup winning Dunga

  • Comment number 33.

    27 - the point about gilberto silva is that he can't really pass well - i was fascinated reading lee dixon's analysis of darren fletcher and his ability to play the ball forward quickly - this, in such a strategic position, is what gilberto lacks - and, as the blog was trying to argue, this is something in contemporary brazilian football that goes well beyond him or dunga.
    ok, results under dunga have been good - but 4 times in world cup qualifictaion they were held 0-0 at home. against argentina - normal, perhaps. not so against bolivia, colombia and venezuela. to be fair to gilberto, he was suspended for the worst of them, the bolivia game (only time bolivia avoided defeat in all their 9 away matches)
    as these games have shown - also highlighted recently in the world u-20 and u-17 cups - brazil can be stifled, and if their superb individual talent is nullified, the central midfielders don't seem able to add enough to the side's attacking play.

  • Comment number 34.

    tottenham target sandro has been brought into the squad with an eye on gilberto silva's position. he's another giant - more mobile, can rumble forward though i'm not sure his passing range is the greatest - he's currently, and not suprisingly, well behind gilberto in terms of defensive awareness

  • Comment number 35.

    yellowgreenred: You were being ignorant by calling what most people would say is a good article "pointless" and generally being dismissive without just cause.

    Fair enough you enjoy seeing good defending but could you start with that instead instead of your non constructive passing statement?

    Also, there is nothing wrong with asking who could replace Gilberto. But you should possibly go to the 606 forums for this type of speculation and low level discussion with like minded people. In this case the article was based on real life events and the author asked genuine questions of his readers and their views on the events that are actually happening, not what they think is going to happen in the future.

    If you think an article is pointless then it must also be pointless to comment on it.

  • Comment number 36.

    Very well written article Tim, some good points and the arguments has its benefits on both sides.. What is true is that Brazil are playing their most boring football in what seems like forever..They are how ever are scoring a record amount of goals from set pieces.(The Brazillian team was seen in South Africa training on set-pieces with out the use of a ball, an old teqnique used by the classic greats of the past, which most teams would not benefit from because they would struggle to produce the correct cross)

    Wenger took Petit and Gilberto from the centre back position to mid-field because they were technically good enough for that role in the premier league..

    I disagree though with the point that Brazil don't have a Cesc type talisman.. They do in the form of Diego who this year is nominated world player of the year.. It is Dunga's fault though that brazil is playing such a stagnant game, not because of Gilberto Silva but because he uses both Gilberto and Melo instead of one or the other to maintain structure with the attacking options he has..

    He can be forgiven for this though, as long as the team is winning and grinding out victories, much like most premier league teams with out much fluidity. Their defense and structure has benefited from this practice at the expense of the their world renowned attacking game..

    International coaches are forced to play a safer hand as they have less control and spend less time with their players. There are very very few teams with the attacking qualities of Brazil and Dunga's defensive scheme is well compensated by this..

    The other team with similar attacking options of a super high quality is Argentina..If you've seen them play recently you will know they lack structure and Marscherano is struggling to cope with the defensive duties of the attacking players. Although Maradona is a big ego he struggles to handle them, which is seen in how long it took before he called for Gonzalo Higuin (who is not in friendly terms with some of the team). Maradona decided Marscherano is the only player guaranteed a place and has neglected the original Argentinian enforcer Cambiasso.. The obvious thing would be for Cambiasso and Marscherano to share the defensive duties similar to how Melo and Gilberto do and unlike Brazil this would not sacrifice fluidity, as at the moment Argentina have none.

    I would like to know when Dunga called Arsenal a "timeco"?

    its clear Dunga prefers defencive minded players in how he chooses Ramelriers (forgive my spelling) ahead of the like of diego and how the most expensive full back in the world Alves (£26 million) can't find a starting place in important games.

    All in all he's playing the safest cards dealt to him and banking on his world class players of the high calibre of Kaka and Robinho to pull a rabbit out the hat in the tightest of games.

  • Comment number 37.


    Gilberto is a player I have admired in his time in England, so I'm trying to give a constructive argument for him.

    I'm not interested in speculation, I was simply asking an expert, not you but Tim Vickery, on who would be a worthy replacement and he was decent enough to give his verdict on Sandro, a player I've heard of but can't say I know too much about, but will look out for with interest... please excuse my ignorance

  • Comment number 38.

    Gilberto Silva I can understand but Lcuas of Liverpool? What does he bring to the brazil team. better go with denilson of Arsenal who can tackle, pass well and create better.

    Tim what would Brazil be like if they had won the 82 world cup?

  • Comment number 39.

    How could Brazil hope to emulate Spain for instance? Argentina look to be having a crack at it and not exactly setting the world on fire. Where is the next Marcos Senna going to come from? Along with Eduardo and Deco he is probably one of the best Brazilian footballers to be denied to the Selecao.

  • Comment number 40.

    I rememeber in the WC 1990, Brazil also went out in the 2nd round because critics felt they employed a too "European way" of playing due to many of their players playing in Europe for so long. The Brazilian FA realised this was a mistake and so in 1994 they had selected players who had originally been selected from the more flamboyant Brazilian sides - and they won the WC. They won it with players like Leonardo, Romario, Ronaldo (was 17 then), Cafu, Bebeto etc Although Dunga i believe was 1 of the few non - attack minded player they had in 1994.

  • Comment number 41.

    A solid point Tim – hardly surprising though with Dunga as coach. I think he (Dunga) has largely overstated the success that Brazil has enjoyed over the past couple of years. They were pushed very hard by both USA & South Africa and did not look like the best side in the world to be quite honest. Having said that, I can see them making the semis in SA, but only through the genius of Kaka…
    One question: where does Denilson fit in this argument…?

  • Comment number 42.

    An interesting and well argued article. In answer to your question the simple reason that Gilberto was allowed to leave Arsenal was that Wenger could not guarantee him regular first team football. The reason for that was because he planned to use Denilson in his role.
    The key question to ask, and which Dunga seems to have missed completely is "How is/did Denilson do in this role?" Did he vindicate Wenger's faith in him?
    The answer to that I would humbly say is a resounding yes.
    Denilson played more than any other Arsenal player last season.
    He led the EPL in passing and pass accuracy
    More pertinently he led the EPL by a very wide margin in pass interceptions and was 6th (first among the big 4) in tackling.
    He was no less impressive across Europe in the Champions league. Only being 2nd to Xavi of Barcelona in passing and 2nd in tackling behind Mascherano.
    When you add in a fair number of goals/assists and always a full 90 minute effort (covering more metres than anyone else in the team) you have the quintessential modern defensive midfielder (volante) but with excellent technical passing skills. Ideal to break up play with a tackle or interception then get the counter attack moving quickly.
    Unfortunately he has missed the past 2 mths with a back injury (due back at the end of Nov).
    The question we need to ask now is for how long can Brazil ignore this very talented but understated player?

  • Comment number 43.


    Good blog as always.

    I have often been critical of one or two things you've said in your blogs in the past ( 1)I'm sure you remember, and 2) I'm sure it bothers you! lol), but I was rather shocked to read this week that there are racial problems in Brasil! Like the reader said, it's always held up as being a country where everyone lives together in harmony.

    I'm pleased i've started my day by learning something new about the world, but quite sad to hear that really!

  • Comment number 44.

    To Chavelier: Petit was actually a full back primarily at Monaco. He had played centre half on occasion but was their regular left back before Wenger got hold of him.

  • Comment number 45.

    I am a massive Arsenal fan and thought Wenger was completely right to let Gilberto leave. The pace and movement that Arsenal now play at is beyond Gilberto.
    Denilson would be Gilberto's natural successor for Brazil but he also offers pace, it just depends if Dunga will pick him for the World Cup squad and if he does if he will get to play.

  • Comment number 46.

    would you say that Denilson represents a selection problem for the Selecao, as Fabregas does for Spain? Not in the same way, as Fabregas is too good not to select but Xavi and Iniesta come as a unit, but in that he could do a very good job if the system were altered to suit a more balanced side.

  • Comment number 47.



    you have not detracted from the fact that players from europe and other countries often have the quality to flourish in more attacking positions in the premier league.. The latest bieng Heitinger in Everton..

  • Comment number 48.

    Tim, what has happened to Hernanes?

    For years I've heard how he's the best player playing outside Europe, an all-around midfield player. But I understand he's still at Sao Paulo and has only ever made one appearance for the national team.

    Also, what is your verdict on Gilberto's midfield partner Felipe Melo?

  • Comment number 49.

    3 questions/points

    Ramires (Benfica) is a good box to box midfielder who could probably fill in Gilberto shoes with loads more attacking quality? I've seen him in a few games and he seems to be the real deal, at times looks like he's still trying to find is actual position, he seems to have the physical presence.

    I remember Anderson (ManU) being a very promising attacking player shouldn't he be playing in more forward position, instead of having lots of defensive duties? I think his development has been stiffled a bit....

    And lastly

    What happened to Lulinha?

  • Comment number 50.


    I gotta agree with you on Ramires. He did play a few games for Brazil in the Confed cup and did well on the right side, that's where he usually plays for Benfica, although I think he's a centre midfielder by trade?

  • Comment number 51.

    @6 Ferry_Arab

    "Xavi, Iniesta (although he has been playing in a more advanced role in the last couple of seasons) and others like Pirlo of Milan have shown that deep lying midfield playmakers CAN contribute decisively to a teams attack."

    You're right. However there is a big difference between a deep lying midfield playmaker (Pirlo) and a deep lying defensive play-breaker (Gilberto Silva).

    One is there to sit deep and hold up the ball while the flair players get forward before playing a killer ball. The other is there to be the first line of defence and stop opposition attacks before they start.

  • Comment number 52.

    One of the best debates I've seen in a little while.

    As an Arsenal fan, I would like to comment on Gilberto. A gentleman on and off the pitch, he was a great servant for the club. He could act as a shield for the back four, and was always a threat at set pieces with his headers (funny no one has mentioned this!). He could deputise at CB sometimes.

    However, he couldn't strike a great partnership with Fabregas, his passing and mobility wasn't the best, and when Flamini was presented with the chance, he took it with both hands. And with the rise of Denilson, AW so that the future was bright. After all, Wenger was slowly getting rid of the Invincibles, Pires, Ljungberg, Henry, Edu, Lehmann, Lauren, A. Cole were all phased out, so I don't think there was anything personal there.

    As for moving to the Emirates, no, just think it was a coincidence. When they moved there they brought Julio Baptista, who's not that fast!

    As for his role at Brazil, frankly there are numerous youngsters in Brasil; Hernanes, Melo, Ramires, Anderson, Lucas, Denilson, but we gotta admit none has *quite* produce some some scintillating performances to woo Dunga, like the way Luis Fabiano has forced his way in the side. So if Gilberto keeps getting the nod, it's fine with one can claim that spot as for now.

    People are saying that Brasil don't have a Pirlo or Keita or Carrick, so Denilson can fill the void...Again I'm suprised no one has mentioned that Zè Roberto did tha job for Brasil in the '06 WC...but we gotta ask ourselves if that would help the team in anyway, while you have Kàkà, Robinho etc doing that job, and two full-backs overlapping as usual.

  • Comment number 53.

    Fernando Redondo was the best in that position and the type of player this Brazil needs.

  • Comment number 54.


    Very interesting blog. Funnily enough it mostly reminded me of watching Jack Charlton's Irish team in the eighties.

    For all the quality midfielders we had at our disposal at the time, Brady & Whelan to name but two, he insisted in playing a centre-half in midfield, staring with Mark Lawrenson and moving on to Paul McGrath.

    You don't suppose Dunga is secretly a fan of Big Jack?

  • Comment number 55.

    I am often struck by the myths that are perpetuated about "Brazilian" football. Many people have a vision of happy-go-lucky, 'samba" football where Brazil's success came from their use of superior skills to score more goals than their somewhat porous defense conceded. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, historically, Brazil's goals against per game average is ranked second in world football (bettered only by Spain). When you add attacking skills to that outstanding defence, then you have Brazilian football. The result is a historical average goal difference that is, again, second in world football (in this case, bettered only by England).

  • Comment number 56.

    While I am not (and never was) a fan of Silva's game, I don't think a National team can realistically play in any other way. The pragmatic dull style practiced by Dunga's side is exactly what it takes to win a World Cup which is, first of all, a cup.

    In single-elimination games, if you allow a goal it gets twice as hard to qualify and if the goal is allowed in the final moments of the match, you are pretty much going home.

    In other words, you ask of Brazil a style that doesn't quite work for competitions such as the world cup, especially in the modern game. Can you remember the last World Cup winner that practiced fluent beautiful football? If you answer '02 with Brazil, that was all Ronaldo. The team (and the coach) were as pragmatic as it gets (including Gilberto Silva bossing in the midfield).

    As a Brazilian I'd rather have Spain playing the beautifully with lots of style and possession, and then Brazil playing as ugly as it gets, as long as we win it.


  • Comment number 57.

    53 - Fernando Redondo was indeed the best in that position and I agree with you that this is the type of player we need. We just don't have one.

    No country in the world has a player of Fernando Redondo caliber at this moment in that position, the ultimate holding midfielder, good tackler, good passer, good at anything you throw him into.

    We play Gilberto and Felipe Melo merely because it's the best "Volante" duo we have.

    One may argue that Gilberto is a decadent player but Felipe Melo is getting better every day. Offensively including.

    Remember that before Felipe Melo we used to play Josue alongside Gilberto and that was terrible. The draws against Bolivia and Colombia(I guess it was Colombia) came before Felipe Melo getting into the squad.

    Having a defensive-minded midfielder(or two) today is a necessity not only to every team that has been succeeding lately(as pointed out by squeaky) but to every team that wants to have their full-backs bursting into attack.

    It is true that Brazil today can only play in counter-attacks, and having Ramires doesn't help changing that, the quality of his passes ain't necessarily as good as Diego or Elano for example. He's pacey and moviments well, though. I don't watch many Benfica games but if he plays like he did for Cruzeiro I don't think he would be the solution for that.

    Instead, I'd look for Diego to make what Pirlo did in the old AC Milan formation, to stand in front(or behind, but we have to see where he would adapt better) of the two combative midfielders(Melo and Gilberto) and be himself a bridge to Kaka, Robinho(or Nilmar) and Luis Fabiano. That's 3 players to make what Redondo used to do all by himself in Real Madrid!

    But then again, we're not losing. Why should we make a change?

  • Comment number 58.

    @48 Hernanes is still playing for Sao Paulo FC, and should SPFC win the last four matches (i hope!) they'll win the Brazilian league 4 years in a roll. And again Hernanes is our best player, in my biased opinion he's a much better player than Gilberto (he's more creative, his passing is great, and got a decent scoring record), and should be in the squad for the WC. Hopefully he'll stay at SPFC for another year.

  • Comment number 59.

    I dont think the change in home ground had as much to do with Gilberto's dip in performance as injuries and other players stepping up into the role did. For instance the first season at the emirates, when Henry missed a good part of the season, Gilberto captained the side with pretty good effect. The following season though Flamini really took his place and for me was the better partner for cesc. Although we lost Flamini I dont think Wenger wanted to keep an 31 year old with more chances of getting injured, so we sold him. If I were Dunga I would be looking to Denilson. Before his current back injury he was playing in front of the defensive pair but also setting up play and making great passes.

  • Comment number 60.

    i cant believe anyone would think wenger let gilberto go because he wasnt playing well...the man came off his best season for arsenal..with 11 or so goals...and for the one year he was captain i think he showed that wenger was wrong to make Henry captain when there was a silva around..although we finished fourth you could see and feel his impact in his lone year as captain(not the same feeling with Henry)..nothing against henry but i think we would have been a much better and stronger team had Gilberto been captain during Henry's days as captain

  • Comment number 61.

    I’ve been trying to think of any great creative midfielders currently in action in Brazil and to be honest I couldn’t come up with that many. Diego Souza and Cleiton Xavier at Palmeiras have both been called up by Brazil. The former did appear once and was absolutely dreadful. Tcheco and Souza at Grêmio are decent enough – though Tcheco is cracking on a bit now. São Paulo still have Hernanes (and he’s getting back to his best) although he switches between defensive and slightly more attacking roles and I think that even he doesn’t know his best position. Another São Paulo man, Richarlyson (hugely underrated), comes to mind. But here again he sometimes operates as a leftback, wing back or is asked to push further up field. Gilberto (ex Tottenham) is doing well at Cruzeiro. but there simply aren’t that many first-rate attacking midfielders around in Brazil (certainly not that many that perform well regularly) and maybe this is the underlying problem that Dunga has?

  • Comment number 62.

    I think peeps are not giving Gilberto enogh credit, afterall he had won the WC with Brazil before joining us, and also what has Arsenal won since Gilberto left?
    The fact is Brazil won nowt for 24 years trying to play the beautiful/Wenger way, (which is the reason i think Wenger too will probably win zilch this year until he sorts out his CB/CM position and gets someone Vidic/Essienlike.)

    pjp500........... you said
    "George Best, Ryan Giggs were never in my book in the same class as Bobby Charlton and David Beckham".
    David Beckham??, the one trick pony David Beckham???
    Also for you dislike Brazilian's play because "nothing worse than busting a gut to make a run, and having to deal with some show off trying to beat one more player, when the smartest thing to do was pass"
    But in the same breath you praise Ronaldino, Maradona etc, are far interesting players, fun to watch ???...are you for real or you've had too many?!

    djconnell :
    Arsenal have developed tremendously since Silva left, really?? winning what in the process??

  • Comment number 63.

    #61, Diego Souza played against Bolivia in the altitude and nobody plays well there. I think He could become a regular for the NT in Ramires position. I am a Gremio supporter and can tell you Tcheco is not just a decent player (has lost all pace he had left -- he's 33 after all) and souza should never go nowhere near the NT. :)

    I've been watching Anderson at United and despite some progress here and there, his off-the-ball movement and work rate are still very poor. So, in the end, despite the incredible absence of Pato (what does he have to do to get called up?), the WC squad won't be much different.

  • Comment number 64.

    i think dubga is way off base regardig arsenal at the moment and that must be down to the loyalty factor you mentioned. in fact, arsenal have a great chance to win the league this year if two things happen. first chelsea drop points during ACN as expected. and second, if hargreaves DOESN'T return. the kind of quality he has shown in the few, but important games he 's played for united in the past he could end up their savior as manu desperately need that kind of quality now. but if those two events happen arsenal will prob win the league narrowly holding off chelsea...

  • Comment number 65.

    Great article Tim, love your work and thoughts on the game.

    The general thought seems to point toward Gilberto been a great player at what he does, efficient, simple and to the point. However, with the increased speed of the modern game and the development of the transition game he may be a weak link when faced with a more precise, quicker passing midfield.

    I am an Arsenal fan and agree with 99% of my fellow gooners. Wenger could see the pros and cons of having Gilberto at the heart of the team. Yes he could silently keep the team ticking, Carling Cup vs Doncaster a prime example. But he was and still is unable to keep up with a one touch, mobile game. As you mentioned he can pass it sideways to good effect, but if Gilberto is passing it sideways, Cesc would have to be moved from a more central role inorder to recieve the ball.

    The current Arsenal midfield has Song in the combative role, but when Diaby drops back to help Fabregas is free to pick his postion instead of having to accomdate another players faults.

    I honestly hope for a Brazil v Spain game in 2010, Mobile vs semi rigid.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim, long comment, but I felt compelled to write something about this. Please bear with me...

    I feel that, despite Brazil's tremendous success in the qualifying campaign and the Confederation's Cup they will come up short when the big prize is on offer next year. The reason is based on the observations I have made in the current footballing climate.

    Despite 'midfield destroyers' still being popular in the European continent, the common perception that they are a vital ingredient for any team to achieve any sort of sustained success has waned. I believe it was Fabio Capello that 'invented' or shall I say popularised this position in football when the Milan team of 1994 decided to field Desailly to accommodate the central midfield pairing of Boban and Albertini to add pure steel and depth in the middle of the park. They beat favourites Barcelona 4-0! Capello was revered around the globe for this tactical masterstroke.

    Since then there has been this obsession (at least in Europe) of the midfield destroyer concept and by the late 90's, the Redondo's of this world were becoming a rare breed. Makalele being another integral member of Real Madrid's first 11 when they won two CL and two Primera titles in four years as Vicente Del Bosque was in charge adds further weight to this claim.

    Ironically, however, last year Barcelona have proved they can win titles without them when Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets bossed the central midfied none of whom can be considered 'ball winners' in the CF final. Also, in another twist of irony Capello himself hasn't included once, not even once, a defensive midfielder in the team selection for England.

    My opinion is that the defender's, defensive midfielder will always be a practical addition to any side, and if you have a good one representing club or country always include him in your squad. Always consider having a player like that around, especially against a team that employs a technical short passing game.

    In Brazil's case, however, they seem to insist on having one in the first eleven (or even two in case Sandro partners Silva in the middle). Its a type of football thats a throwback to some cheap imitation of European football of the 90's. No creativity in the middle of the park, stifle your opponents and hit them on the counter with pacy tricky wingers, cross it in, and let that big lumping striker Fabiano get there first. Or score from a set piece. The problem with that, even if it may be effective, is that its predictable.

    Marcos Senna (a destroyer) who was always on the team sheet for Spain, had players like Iniesta, Xavi around who could pass the ball from the middle of the park with some "pfiff", extra spice, if you wanna call it. So from that point of view its fine having one to compliment the more technically adept players and would justify his inclusion. Brazil, however, and more to the point, do not have these kind of players in their possession and that will be their downfall. Dunga will be fed to the lions, I am convinced by it!

    I find it sad to hear that Brazil in the U20's and U17's are producing exclusively these prototypes, but its not surprising. They will have to reinvent themselves, and while its good these players are around, they are not the keyholders. Its the playmakers and the passers that will create something during a game of football and not the destroyer.

    For me the favourites are Spain (overwhelming), England and Italy. I would have said Argentina but Maradona is making a right mess out of his job, and unless there will be some sort of continuity in the future they will suffer.

  • Comment number 67.

    Dunga has some qualities as a manager, but tactical expertize isn't one of them. Gilberto Silva continues on the team because Dunga simply doesn't have the capacity of creating a team that doesn't have a player like him, a physically strong midfielder that focus on defense only.

    The team would be better off organized with 3 midfielders that know to defend and attack, such as Sandro, Felipe Melo and Ramires + Kaka, or even with Thiago Silva in a role of a faux sweeper, like Edmilson in the 2002 World Cup.

    #49- About Lulinha: he's loaned out to a minor Portugal club. He was promoted in the worst possible conditions- too hyped and in a desperate attempt to save his club, Corinthians, from relegation (they ended up relegated anyway) and he clearly couldn't handle the pressure.

    #61- The best midfielder playing in Brazil is Petkovic, the kind of playmaker Brazil needs to be Kaka's replacement if something happens. And the best holding midfielder to do Gilberto Silva's job is Guiñazu. The problem of course is that they are both gringos!

  • Comment number 68.

    #63 - on Anderson ; "his off-the-ball movement and work rate are still very poor". Well he looked to be getting in plenty of good attacking positions yesterday, without his team mates picking him out. As for "no work rate", I'd say that's the one thing he's got in abundance.

  • Comment number 69.

    I wholeheartedly agree, Tim. It's something that I've been also been depressed about in recent years.

    Even if understandable, it's a crying shame that modern football doesn't have a place for traditional Brazil.

    I suppose Dunga is just completing the cycle that he was part of in '94.

    Sadly, this Brazil team will have to consistently fail at scoring and fail at the world stage before we can see a major shift towards a gifted passer in the DM role for Brazil.

    Have you spotted any such youngsters that fit the bill, Tim?

  • Comment number 70.

    Excellent article Tim, I think this gets at the fascinating story of the evolution of formations in the face of the evolution of players throughout the European game. (I specify the European game because I've got to be man enough to admit my knowledge of domestic football outside Europe is shakey now, never mind when put in the context of generational differences!)

    It is, I have always felt, one of the greatest folly's anyone can embark upon to attempt a comparison of era's in footballers, and especially specific players but there are marked differences between the kinds of players you have in the game nowadays and those back in the 70's and before. Formations and styles of play have emerged as a result of questions that are raised as to how you deal with specfic players?

    Whilst it would be wrong to say modern players have invented new roles, they have certainly proflegated them and made them commonplace wheras before players had to adapt their game to fit their teams style. For example, Claude Makelele was not the first anchorman (Nobby Stiles must somewhat resent the position now being names after the Frenchman) but his immense ability in the role prepegated the belief in English football certainly that a solid defensive campaign was essentially reliant on a ball winning midfielder who can break up attacks and then offload to a more creative player. When you look at all Premiership teams now, there are very few who don't regularly employ a player in that position. Like I said, Makelele didn't invent the role, but I can see why commentators who reported on English footbal pre and post Makelele sometimes speak as if he did.

    Equally C.Ronaldo at United was very much a player in the mould of George Best, but whereas Best was a maverick in his day, Ronaldo is now one of many immensely skilled midfielders who are not content, and too skilled to simply play down the wing and provide quality assists or such like. You have Ronaldo, Messi, Ribery, Modric, Ronaldinho... None of them are strikers like Ronaldo(Bra), nor are they wingers like Comoranesi or central attacking midfielders like Scholes. They can all play in those roles but they do so much more in each game.

    As a result you could argue that in all of the above cases their teams have been forced to alter their formations to make allowances for these creative players. Barca's formation is sometimes uninteligible to the viewer, it works of course because the players train with each other and know how to work as a unit, but their line up is an existential layout that changes with each pass of the ball. It's certinly something Andy Gray would struggle with with his pre-match formation graphic.

    To bring this back to the issue of Gilberto Silva and Brazil. Perhaps I'm a million miles off here, I am somwhat straying outside my comfort zone but I suspect that Brazil's style of play is significantly influenced by Argentina's (and vice versa of course.) Just as English football fans are always comparing their league and style to Spain and Italy's (the never ending and of course futile 'Which League is The Best' argument being a pub argument classic) I imagine Brazil always have one eye on their great rivals to make sure they never feel they're falling behind. I emphasise this because when I look at the Brazil team today it seems a team very much suited (on paper I should stress) to coping with the current Argentina team. Marcelo/Zanetti, Maicon/Sorin, Kaka/Mascherano, Messi/Gilberto, there is a striking similarity between the two teams and perhaps I'm being cynical but I wonder if any Brazil or Argentine coach always thinks that a key aspect to maintaining their job security is to make sure that whatever happens on the pitch against other teams, job number two after trying to win the WC is make sure the team doesn't fall behind the old enemy.

    I wonder if Dunga would play Gilberto against Argenitna if Messi wasn't playing?

  • Comment number 71.

    OlaKay wrote:

    djconnell :
    Arsenal have developed tremendously since Silva left, really?? winning what in the process??


    So the only criteria for measuring development is silverware? Never minding the myopic nature of that statement, it's quite clear to anyone that follows football that the days of 20 year domination such as Liverpool in the 70s and 80s is no longer possible. Man Utd. dominated in a similar way for the first five years of the Premier League - of course they've won lots since then, but they haven't dominated; Arsenal have won cups and leagues, Chelsea too, and Liverpool have won cups.

    My point?

    The nature of Wenger's structure necessitates a period of transition, which in itself requires a period without silverware (barring good luck). He's changed the very structure of the team - up front and in midfield is a very different proposition from 3-4 years ago. Hence my phrasing - Arsenal have developed tremendously, not 'done' tremendously (which would imply success in terms of silverware). Never mind the fact that I made a point (echoed by others) that Arsenal have a similar player in Song, while having different options in Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey and Wilshere - surely that's a great development, to have five distinct playing style options, rather than just one?

    What this means is that I'll sit here thoroughly enjoying my team's football, patiently waiting for the success to come (have you seen the league recently?). You can go:

    count trophies/live in the past/ignore change (delete as applicable)

  • Comment number 72.

    It certainly isn't the best time to be trying to argue Arsenal's shortcomings at the moment, as they're not exactly struggling. But I think when you look at Arsenal's 1st choice XI there does seem to be one obvious gap, an out 'n' out defensive midfielder.

    Results speak for themselves and therefore no-one can currently argue Arsenal desperately need anything. But Wenger has tried playing Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby and even Nasri in the defensive midfield role in the past two years. There are two interpretations of this, one, that he was interested in seeing if these players could fulfil the role out of curiosity regarding the player, or two that he felt the team didn't have a defensive midfielder and was tying to create one. I think most would admit the latter is the more likely.

    It would be grossly simplistic to imply that Arsenal's lack of silverware recently is a direct result of letting Viera and then Gilberto go and not effectively replacing them, I think the PL is simply too strong for one man to make a team. But equally it would be surely naive to suggest that Arsenal have stopped winning silverware because nowadays English football is all swings and roundabouts and Arsenal had their time and must now wait for their next turn at the top?

    I don't think Arsenal would have carried on winning things as they did had they kept hold of Gilberto, but equally I think they'd have won a trophy or two in the past four years if they've replaced him with one of Gattuso, Y.Toure, Barry, De Rossi etc... or held on to Diarra perhaps.

  • Comment number 73.

    You're definitely on point about Gilberto not being fast enough anymore during the move to the Emirates. The nature and philosophy of Arsenal's game doesn't allow for someone as Gilberto Silva to be the defensive midfielder. The defensive midfielder needs to be fast and contribute to attacks with decisive passes, which Gilberto just wasn't able to provide. That's why I did not mind us selling him. When I heard Wenger was trying to buy Felipe Melo, I was very happy. I saw him as the natural successor to Gilberto Silva at Arsenal, but alas it did not happen.

    About Brazil, I think every team needs a defensive midfielder who destroys the attacks of the opponent, even if you only want attacking players beyond your defence. Brazil can't be an exception to this, if they want to keep winning prizes.

    What's weird to me is that Brazil plays essentially two defensive midfielders in Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva. That goes against everything Brazilian football means to me. At this point Gilberto is a good guy for the dressing room, but that's all. Having him on the pitch only makes Brazil an unattractive team to watch. Dunga's sacrificing great offensive quality by insisting on this. Why isn't Diego playing for instance?

    I'm not sure about Brazi's lack of success in the U17 World Cup is down to a wrong selection/system. However, I think playing defensively in the U17s is cowardly and ridiculous. But maybe the lack of success also has to do with a general lack of quality, although that's hard to imagine with Brazil.

  • Comment number 74.

    there was no lack of quality about the brazil u-17 side - neymar is a gem, phillipe coutinho a huge promise and zezinho an interesting prospect - all have coniderable senior experience.
    the problem - especially in the defeat against mexico - was that the central midfielders seem to be saying to them up front - you win the game with a moment of individual brillance, because we're not going to elaborate anything.'
    they were better losing to the swiss, but as tostao wrote, "switzerland, beeive it or not, showed more ability and exchanged more pases, while the brazilians ran and crossed the bal into the area." he's worried that the country's style has changed - no midfield interpassing, concentration on quick breaks down the flanks and crosses. i'm with him all the way.

  • Comment number 75.

    so you agree that Juventus' world player of the year nominee is the passing genius CM ingredient which Brazil have but Dunga ignores, in favor of a robust approach?

  • Comment number 76.


    what luxuries Brazil have which would stroll into most sides.. who ever doubts their potential in next years world cup is rather short sighted..

  • Comment number 77.

    Although a strong and capable player Gilberto didn't fit in with Arsenes style and he aged and had to go.

    I agree that it is discouraging to see him still playing for Brazil in that destroyer role but you must remember that Brazil have always 'destroyed' their opponents first so that they could play their so called beautiful football. make no mistake if they were being outplayed skill never mattered they would play physical. Particularly memorable was vs US in the World cup USA. THey broke peoples faces to win that one and went on to win all the accolades and the final - by playing tough first and skillful second. yes they have players of great technical ability but it is the Gilbertos of the team that win them the trophies.

    Also in that vein the Arsenal have not won a trophy because they play skill before physicality and it could be said that letting Gilberto go was a mistake. I am of the opinion that Arsenal are one player ( that elusive tough but creative DM) short of being the best team for years....

  • Comment number 78.

    There is definitely no lack of quality in Brazil, and no one will ever be sane enough to claim this, especially in the forward department.

    However, having 2 defensive midfielders operating with Ramires as a box to box midfielder, and relying on Kaka to do the rest is asking for trouble. It all works well when the game is at 0-0 or when you are 1-0 up, but when they are a goal behind early doors these 2 defensive midfielder won't be worth their salt when they need to take the game by the scruff of the neck. If that were to happen against a team like England it would seem that they would be vulnerable to the counterattack themselves, especially when Dunga makes a tactical substitution and brings off one of the defensive midfielders to bring on another forward to chase a goal.

    Whilst this approach is safe, and brings you certain guarantees, its also conservative and can prove to be counterproductive at certain points in the game.

  • Comment number 79.

    Quite interesting article and as always serious insights into the Brazilian Football..
    Dunga will and is right to play Gilberto and Melo in Midfield especially Gilberto as the French call the position of "recuperateur de balle". With the attacking flair and the speed with the ball of KAKA and the creativity of Robinho and the brute striking force of Luis Fabiano, Brazil needs a player like Gilberto Silva.. Remember that Maicon and to some extent Victor are frequently attacking on the wings in support of the attack.. Brazil needs Gilberto to protect the back.. it is is winning games..and a Country the football size of Brazil has the individual creative talents however Dunga believes that his system is working. He said many times that he likes players who work hard for the team..the example of Brazil in 2006 where too many stars where vying for glory but unwilling to sacrifice for the team is a recipe for disaster..
    Now, Barcelona is winning games because of Yaya Toure..who does exactely what Gilberto Silva did for Arsenal and is doing for Brazil.. Iniesta and Xavi are great midfield players but as the US showed at the Confed Cup in South Africa a few months ago..all teams have to do is deny Xavi the ball and Spain runs out of ideas very quickly..Rubi Kazan Coach employed the same tactics against Barcelona.. Xavi was denied any space and Barcelona similar to Spain lacks that creative and individual brilliance in the middle..( Messi tried but the same tactics were applied to him). Brazil has the individual pure talent in Robinho and Kaka to change the course of games so what they require the most is defensive coverage and Gilberto Silva is the very best at par with Yaya Toure of Cote D'Ivoire/Barcelona fame..
    Spain on the other hand is extremelly predictable and against the size and speed of Brazil players..Spain will not amount to much..

    This is Tom's second article on Gilberto Silva..
    In my view, Melo and Silva are the combatting players whose job is to ensure that Brazil can can go full speed on the counter attack and that wingers can join the offense without exposing the back..

  • Comment number 80.

    The problem with U-17 is that promise at that age is eons from actual real terms promise.

    I was in The Gambia recently and being a football fan chatted to locals about the Gambian game. The entire nation's domestic league shares one stadium and their best national team players are playing at French 3rd/4th tier, Swedish 2nd/3rd tier and Belgian 2nd/3rd tier level. That's pretty low, I think it's fair to say their national side would struggle against a solid League Two side in England.

    But their U-17 team have just won the African Championship... I somehow doubt that in five to seven years The Gambia will be challenging for The African Nations cup or World Cup qualification.

    If the Brazil side is changing because they're struggling to produce new, quality players in certain positions or failing to bring on promising talent then it seems they've just got the same problems that all countries have to deal with and it's not that dramatic.

    When you think about it, it's proposterous that England hasn't produced a top class left footed winger in nearly 20 years, but we haven't (excluding Steve Guppy of course!) so we've had to adapt. How many "the next Maradonna's" were there before Messi? When you think about it, with a well established infastructure, good training facilities etc, how has Scotland not produced a single World Class player since the 80's?

    A Brazil that plays unimpressive, static football may seem an oddity, but it doesn't seem any less odd than how it would come accross if you could go back in time to the 80's and say to the Spanish FA "you won't manage to get within a country mile of a trophy until well into the 21st century". They'd laugh at you and say that's not possible.

  • Comment number 81.

    I am an Arsenal supporter and I wasn't sad to see him go. He did some good things for the team over the years but he was rubbish the year we let him go. That season we had Flamini and Diarra. The sad thing was that Gilberto limited Diarra's match time which meant that he ended up leaving and then Flamini left on a free transfer in the summer. Losing all these players really hurt us. However, it looks like we've finally found/developed a player in Alex Song who can really fill the void.

  • Comment number 82.

    Defenders do three things...FIRST: play defense (space, man, and both if higher intelligence allows it - like the Italians). SECOND: they win the ball back, THIRD: have the ability to pass the ball in a tactical fashion where your team is out of danger and is moving forward again - in time. Now I have been watching Gilberto Silva and I think he did his job well enough keeping Arsenal in those 55 games with Titty (Thiery Henry). Yes the Spaniard as mentioned is the new breed, and we get the fact of the new breed being the franchise player. CORRECT? Further more G Silva is playing currently for PAO (Panathinaikos, an Athens club in GREECE). He plays well and plays the same style as he did in Highbury. Greeks, as I hear them talk, don't understand his role. He has completed two years in a row the lowest of goals against. And sometimes in an un-orthodoxed style playing league, he seems awkward, a man among boys - in terms of technique...blah blah blah... He is the bulldog and that's his job. The theory that Dunga might have been appointed so that Braziiiioooouuuu (Brasil) time to start losing, well then I can say this... MARADONA? I love him but maybe just maybe he does not have the managerial means to EXPRESS his needs and maybe his tolerance is getting lower as do some high expecation player/ turning coaches. Hence U-20 and U-17 for Brasil... I coach and my team plays Barca style but have this problem of SHOOTING outside the 18. THEY DON"T.... just like Barca they dont shoot outside the 18... aek 21 thank you

  • Comment number 83.

    Gilberto is currently part of the greatest and most historic Greek sports club, PANATHINAIKOS.
    We are all very proud to have such a player in our team, especially in a low level championship like the Greek one, which is only known outside Greece only through PANATHINAIKOS (and some very laughable games of Olympiakos, against which many unknown teams have made their first and only victories in Champions League, e.g. Standar Liege, Maccabi Haifa, Molde etc).

  • Comment number 84.

    Hello, i am a Panathinaikos fan and i am very proud that Zilberto is playing for us. While he has been critisized some by lowly journalists, i believe hes the best player ever to honour our team. And mind you we 've had some pretty good players play for us like Asanovics,Katsouranis,Karagkounis,Biscan, Cisse and more.

    His professionalism is unmatched, he gives everything, and in every game he's missing we have a big hole in the center despite the fact that our other defensive midfielder (6) is very competent.

    Zilberto i hope we take the league+cup this year, make good progress in EUROPA league and you take the Mundial with your national team!

  • Comment number 85.

    i think you mean
    compl I mentary

  • Comment number 86.

    In an ideal world, every team would be run in central midfield by a xabi alonso, but he's almost unique in world football today...

    Its sad for the premiership to lose such a player, same with ronaldo

  • Comment number 87.

    Arsenal made a massive mistake in letting Gilberto go. However, I see the dilemma - Arsene knew he couldn't give Gilberto a starting role every week, he maybe class, but his pace was starting to drop off (for the premier league) - and a player of Gilberto's class and statue deserve the chance to go to a team where he can play every week. Gilberto didn't want to only play a bit part, and be on the bench - shame, because he could still be doing a fantastic job at Arsenal (think back to Bergkamp type of player).

  • Comment number 88.

    Again, you're correct. I saw the final against Ghana and I was surprised by the lack of fluidity in Brazil's play. There were no brilliant passing moves set up from the midfield. I only saw fast runs forward, where players hoped to do a trick or a one-two to get in front of goal. That's more or less the same thing I saw at the Confederations Cup.
    The main reason for Gilberto's departure lies herein, that he was not someone who could contribute to attack, thus being a centre-back in front of the centre-backs, as you put it. With his lack of speed Gilberto is only a liability (as evident in the match against Egypt). That makes it astonishing that Dunga is sticking by him.
    I feel that the defensive midfielder Felipe Melo alongside the box-to-box midfielder Ramires is enough. The other two in midfield can then be Kaka and maybe Diego. Letting Ramires, who ain't quite the most creative Brazilian I've ever seen, sit a little farther back and defend more should give Brazil enough defensive quality, without sacrificing too much in offense.
    What I would love the most though is to see Anderson playing for Brazil. For me he is the player who fits perfectly in that role in central midfield, sitting back and sending out good passes. I saw him doing it for Manchester United, so I wonder why Dunga hasn't tried him out. He also has the physical strength to do it. I think he'd make a great parter for Felipe Melo in midfield. Both are good players, who can contribute plenty to attack without sacrificing strength and defensive capability. What do you think of this idea, mr. Vickery?

  • Comment number 89.

    brilliant article once again mr. vickery and very good points about gilberto's problems at arsenal. the increased pitch size week in week out mixed with his aging legs and the pace of the league was probably too much in the end. AW saw this coming a year before he left as shown by his otherwise inexplicable decision to give gallas the captaincy over gilb as well as the signing of diarra. diarra and flammini were both young energetic players who could get up and down the pitch, defend and most importantly pass, something which gilb always did lack. it is just a shame that we lost those two terrific players aswell as gilberto within six months of eachother!

  • Comment number 90.

    One of the greatest tactical decisions was for Ancelotti to convert Andrea Pirlo from an attacking midfielder into a holding midfielder. Showed how a 'lightweight', passing, forward-thinking midfielder could thrive in a deep lying position if he had the protection of someone like Gattuso or Ambrosini. Problem for Brazil is who to play there ow as the pool of players leans towards the physical and strong types.

  • Comment number 91.

    Another great article Tim!
    I think the "Gilberto" role is very important in the modern game. I love the notion of having a deep lying ball playing playmaker in midfield but its not always possible.

    Of course, the most recent example of his is Pirlo but he always had Gattuso or Ambrosini alongside him and so has the platform to perform such a role. (Although at the world cup he was given the freedom to roam a little.)

    Also, how many of these type of players are there in world football? Pirlo, Alonso, Xavi... I'm sure theres more but are there many who have the ability and personality to perform such a difficult role.

    On Gilberto, I think he's key to the future success of Brazil as it simply allows others to do what they do best with the confidence that he'll be there to cover, and Dunga ofcourse was a similar type of player, and he wasn't bad was he!

    P.S. On the racism issue, i didnt realise it was that much of an issue in Brazil. I suppose they have similar issues to other multi cultural countries when it comes the race of their football coaches.

  • Comment number 92.

    I think others have raised similar points, but the deep lying playmaker still exists but now nearly always alongside a defensive player as well, modern examples include Pirlo and Gattuso, Carrick and Fletcher, Alonso and Mascherano.

  • Comment number 93.

    What about Thiago Motta the guy from Inter? doesn't he play as a holding midfielder? He's he good enough for the national squad?

    So many solutions for the same problem

    Gilberto, Ramires,Anderson, Lucas, Fabio Simplicio, Felipe Melo, Denilson, Sandro, Phillipe Coutinho, etc...

  • Comment number 94.

    As an Arsenal fan, I thought Gilberto Silva did a good job for us and was perplexed when Wenger let both him and Flamini go without signing a replacement. I'd suggest that most Arsenal fans would love to see a world class holding midfielder alongside Fabregas rather than playing with two attacking midfielders.

    Indeed, Arsenal are a great example of how you can have a defensive midfielder (either Gilberto or before him Petit) and still play breathtaking football. The problem often comes if you have two defensive midfielders and/or too rigid a team shape.

    As to why Wenger let Gilberto go, I feel that Wenger believes the modern game is a young man's game, and those over 30 tend to get culled, ideally having been sold on to raise money. I don't think we'll see a return to the days when we had the likes of Keown, Adams, Dixon, and Winterburn all playing into their mid thirties.

  • Comment number 95.

    Great post Tim, I’ve been a long-term reader but a first time writer.

    Brazil have been employing ‘ugly footballers’ since 1974 when they were simply outclassed by a magnificent Dutch side. With a population so big they can just select the tallest and strongest side possible knowing that every so often their population is going to produce something special (Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka). Although Silva is not an expansive footballer like the classic no.5 Redondo he is integral to the team’s success and stability. I was sad to see him leave the Premiership as Everton were linked with him before his eventual move to Panathinaikos, being a blue myself I would have loved to see him play week-in-week-out as he seemed to be a true professional both on and off the pitch.

    In terms of a replacement what has happened to Hernanes of Sao Paulo? After being tipped for great thing by The Times and seemingly everyone else he seems to have gone of the radar.

  • Comment number 96.

    i remember when a midfielder was a midfielder. not a holding mid, not an attacking one, or a ball playing one. They were a centre midfielder and could do all of these things. Some more successfully than others. Was gascoigne an attacking midfielder? Yes because he could create and score goals, but he could also work very hard tracking back, tackling, heading and controlling the midfield with his passing. The same with Platt, Gerrard is the same now. They are good all round. They would usually have a partner who they worked well with for whatever reason. They did not need to put in an extra player to compensate for them. A player who was limited to defensive duties only. it is almost like saying, right here at man utd we'll play with 3 strikers, rooney likes to drop deep so he will take care of that side, owen likes to play on the shoulder, so he will only do that, and berbatov will play somehwre in between linking these together.

    You may then get michael owen scoring a hell of a lot of goals...but does this make the team better? probably not.

    the best example of this is at chelsea, Ancelotti has decided that in fact we'll put lampard in with ballack or essien and go 4-4-2. all round midfielders in their own right.

    the difference being, Mikel now struggles to get in as he offers little to no attacking threat, so why change your formation just to accomodate him and make him look a better player than he is. lampard may not score 20 goals, but he'll certainly still get his fair share, and this is the way the game should be played. Like in the 1990's when strikers were regularly hitting 20 goals.

  • Comment number 97.

    #68, don't get me wrong, as a Gremio supporter I've been following Anderson's career very closely and believe he can become one of the top mid-fielders in the world very soon (that's how much potential I think he's got). However, if you look closely, you will notice that sometimes he passes the football and does not immediately move into the empty space to receive the ball back. It's a bit of lack of confidence and attitude that needs to be addressed and will be once he matures. I agree he did a good job against Chelsea, but if you look at what Ramires does for Brazil you will understand that Dunga won't call up Anderson unless he does something similar (e.g. constant movement on and off the ball).

    On the U20/U17 issue, I think people are blowing it out of proportion. Brazil has struggled at that level before. There are so many variables to be taken into account, such as maturity of the players, or more importantly physical development. Why do Africans usually do a lot better at youth competitions than they do at senior level? Would it be because their youngsters are bigger and stronger at that age? How about the Brazilian youth managers who are usually unknowns appointed by CBF for being friends with someone?

    Personally I see a lot of talent coming through for Brazil, but not sure Neymar is one of them; he looks (and plays) a lot like Robinho to me. He is certainly the typical Brazilian player who is loved by the fans but is largely ineffectual.

  • Comment number 98.

    Interesting that people talk about Redondo - a player criminally underused for Argentina. Only Basile ever really understood his role, which was rapidly becoming a diminishing entity in football at the time.

  • Comment number 99.

    Replacing Silva was definitely a visionary step by Wenger. He was a great servant to Arsenal but did not fit in with the dynamic game that AW wants them to play.

    The midfielder, more suited to Fabregas was undoubtedly Flamini. equally combative and Guarding as Silva but much more creative in his passing and forwards play.

  • Comment number 100.

    i wanted to get in and be no 100 to thank everyone for an excellent debate - different shades of opinion, taught me a lot - great stuff from lots of you!


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