With Flamengo currently perched atop of the Brasileiro Série A, Aaron Barton for Próxima Jornada looks at the impact Jorge Jesus is having in charge of the Rubro-Negro.
When the 65-year old Amadora native decided it was time to rejoin the managerial workforce, it was met with a raft of disconcertment, particularly from the Brazilian media. Questions were asked about whether it was the right appointment and criticism was directed towards Jesus almost instantaneously. The former Sporting and Benfica head coach, however, has more than adequately answered his critics so far during his time in Rio.
Since being appointed manager following Abel Braga’s resignation, Jorge Jesus’ side has played 13 times in all competitions, winning 9 drawing 2 and losing just twice. A huge contributing factor to the upturn in form and results is the increased defensive solidity. Flamengo failed to keep a clean sheet in the first 8 matches under Jesus but have now conceded just 1 goal in the last 5 games. It’s clear that Jesus had identified the defence as an issue and has proactively taken steps to rectify these defensive frailties.
So, how has Jesus managed to stop the defensive rot?
Jesus so far at Flamengo has demonstrated his side’s tactical flexibility, this simply means that Jesus has not been afraid to change the system, week by week, game by game. Rather than simply sticking with a trusted formation regardless of the opponent, Jesus has chosen to employ the best strategy to get a positive outcome from a particular game. This can be seen best in the Brasileiro matches.
In the first 6 matches of the league campaign before Jesus’ arrival, Abel Braga opted to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation in 5 of these games. Changing to another formation just once. During this period, Flamengo did not keep a single clean sheet and won just 3 out of 6 matches. Since taking over, Jesus has deployed a 4-1-3-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, 4-4-2 with a double 6 and a defensive 4-3-3. This number of tactical changes have been made by Jesus for a multitude of reasons, for example in matches where he believes his side could be outnumbered in midfield, he will opt to go with a formation that counters this by overloading his own midfield, in a match where his side are likely to dominate possession and will ‘take charge’ of the match, usually at home, Flamengo will operate more fluidly with the full-backs Filipe Luis and Rafinha pushed further upfield.
A New Era of Hope
Jorge Jesus’ time at Flamengo has so far begun to spread optimism and hope amongst the Mengão supporters and the upturn in form has attracted the attention of many journalists and fans alike from across Europe. Hope is often a paradox, the driving force behind a football supporters passion and optimism yet more often than not the catalyst for bitter disappointment. However, Jorge Jesus has given Flamengo fans more than adequate evidence to feel hopeful, particularly in regards to the Copa Libertadores. Something that tends to shock those not attuned to Brazilian football is that Flamengo has won South America’s highest honour (The Copa Libertadores is South America’s UEFA Champions League equivalent) just once in their history, (back in 1981) and have not been to another final since. Last season Flamengo reached the Round of 16, the season before they were eliminated in the group stages and the season before failed to qualify. This season, however, Flamengo are into the semi-finals of the prestigious tournament and that has given some supporters reason to believe that this season can be their season. Grêmio at present are the only thing standing in the way of their second-ever final appearance. A Grêmio side who Jorge Jesus’ men dismantled 3-1 recently in the Série A, but of course, as with any cup competition, form and previous meetings usually go right out of the proverbial window. As well as chasing potential Copa Libertadores glory, Jesus’ team are 1st in the Brasileiro. a competition Flamengo has not lifted since 2009. Flamengo’s recent form in the league under Jesus has been magnificent, in the last 5 games, Flamengo have scored 15 goals and have conceded just once. The welcome return to form for Inter loanee Gabriel Barbosa has been a huge factor in Flamengo’s recent revival, he currently sits atop the Golden Boot rankings with 15 goals already so far this season.
Whatever happens from now to the end of the season, I cannot predict. What I can say though, is that if Jesus delivers either the Série A title or the Copa Libertadores, he will be revered as a hero by the Rio de Janerio faithful.
Best of luck for the rest of the season JJ!
By Aaron Barton for Próxima Jornada