Gabigol is Flamengo’s historic idol for the stupendous seasons held from 2019 to 2021 and also for his super decisive participation last year. Many goals, race and unique style made him synonymous with Red and Black. However, 2023 brought him challenges with a technical fall and his worst numbers since arriving in Gávea.
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The year is one of reflection for the striker, who turned 27 on August 30th. On the positive side, only entry into the list of the 10 greatest scorers in Flamengo’s history – today he is sixth, with 153 goals.
Lost ownership and sequence on the bank
An absolute starter with all coaches since 2019, Gabigol started the current season forming the attacking duo that had been successful with Pedro in the second half of 2022. He did well in the Brazilian Super Cup final, with two goals in the 4-game defeat. 3 for Palmeiras, but subsequently lost performance.
He had a bad Club World Cup, he didn’t score in the Recopa Sul-Americana and Carioca decisions. He was banned on the eve of the first game of the final, but came on in the 21st minute of the second half of the 2-0 victory over Fluminense. In the very final, he started as a starter, but left at half-time in the 4-1 Tricolor rout.
He lost his title in the final stretch of Jorge Sampaoli’s work. The last match in which he started playing was the first match against São Paulo in the Copa do Brasil. Afterwards, he came off the bench on nine occasions, seven with Tite, one with Sampaoli and one with Mário Jorge.
Gabigol has never been on the bench so many times in a season. In 2023, 13 times, only one of them, against Nova Iguaçu, did a coach start the game with a mixed team. Of that number, he participated in 12 matches and was not used in the 2-1 victory over Botafogo.
It is worth remembering that in the second half of last year Dorival Júnior divided Flamengo into two teams. Gabigol was a regular in the cups, a priority for the coach, and a reserve in the Brazilian Championship. Even with the mix made by the coach, he was on the bench only eight times in 2022 (twice with Paulo Sousa).
In 2019 and 2020, he played off the bench just three times per season. In 2021, he started 45 games he played.
If a goal became Gabriel’s name while still at Santos’ base, in 2023 he also fell into the most important statistic in football. In the current season, there are 20 goals in 57 matches (0.35 per game). He did not finish as top scorer in any competition.
To give you an idea, Gabigol has nine goals scored by Brazilian clubs. Three from the Brazilian Cup and one from the Brazilian Championship with Santos. For Flamengo, there are two from Libertadores, two from state and one from Brasileiro.
Also noteworthy is the drop in the Brazilian Championship, a competition in which he had overwhelming performances in 2019 and 2020. In the magical year, that of the hepta, he scored an impressive 25 goals in 29 matches. In the octa, the number was lower, with 14 in 25, but Gabigol was absolutely decisive, with six goals and two assists in the last seven games. And detail: playing hanging.
In the current season, there are only five scored in 25 matches.
Even in the year that ended with just one Brazilian Super Cup and one state championship won, in 2021, Gabigol had an excellent average: 0.76 per game (34 goals in 45 matches).
This is also the year with the fewest assists. There are four, one less than in 2022 – 12 in 2019, 12 in 2020 and 10 in 2021.
Gabigol goals for Flamengo in the Brazilian Championship
Another statistic that shows how difficult it is for Gabigol to score goals has to do with shots. If in moments of joy the very few critics of the then number 9 complained about excessively wasted chances, the opportunities are now scarce.
Gabigol shot a lot because he created goal situations with movement, agility and correct positioning.
In the Brazilian Championship, in which Flamengo faces better-quality opponents more frequently compared to other competitions, Gabigol’s shooting average fell drastically.
The fact that he hasn’t shot towards goal since the 3-0 defeat to Athletico-PR, on September 13th, highlights how much Gabigol is below expectations. He has been playing far from the opponent’s goal and barely manages to finish.
Gabigol’s average number of shots in the Brazilian Championship
Card leader for the fourth year in a row
Disciplinary issues within games have never been Gabigol’s strong point. It is necessary to highlight the playing field, because the striker’s professionalism in training is constantly praised. But cards became a problem again in 2023.
In the last Fla-Flu, even though there were just under two minutes left, Gabigol received his 90th card for Flamengo – 81 yellow cards and nine red cards. Globo’s refereeing commentator, PC Oliveira, considered Wilton Pereira Sampaio’s decision exaggerated, but the player was involved in discussion once again.
In the current season, Gabigol has two reds and 16 yellows. No red-black, whether defender or midfielder, surpasses him.
He was also the card leader in 2022 (21 yellows and one red), in 2021 (12 yellows and one red – the same number as Diego) and 2019 (23 yellows and three reds) – in the magical year, however, two expulsions did not bring any losses – one in the victory over Grêmio in Porto Alegre and another in the historic comeback against River Plate, in which, as the greatest hero of the most important comeback in Flamengo’s 128 years, he responded to a provocation from the opposing bench.
For cards and provocations that are part of his DNA to be minimized again, Gabigol needs to recover the good football, the agility that brought him closer to the rival goal and stay away from controversies. Idolatry, despite the disappointing 2023, he will never lose.
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