From the first moment that Almada debuted in Vélez, at that time with coach Gabriel Heinze ex-Real Madrid player, he witnessed a player with a huge future projection. Not only for his technical qualities but for his tactical understanding of the game and physical characteristics.
The free position of Almada
To understand the role that Almada takes on at Vélez we will start with his position on the pitch.
At first, Almada played like an offensive midfielder, but when he had his debut in the first division with Vélez in November of 2018 versus Newell’s at only 17-year-old, he was in the centre-forward position. In that 2018/19 season, Gabriel Heinze’s’ line-up was a 1-4-2-3-1 with Vélez and Almada usually played as a forward. That system was also changed to a 1-4-3-3 and in that case, Almada´s position was on the left side.
At the end of the 2018/19 season and start of this season, Vélez started using 1-4-2-3-1 and Thiago took a new position here as the offensive midfielder and his game was boosted.
Style of play
Almada is a player who stands out for his technique when making passes which lead to attacking progression, in addition to his strong game understanding.
As the field shows, we can see how Almada usually occupies the entire front of the attack to find the best position when it comes to offering himself as a passing option and being able to advance in the attack.
One of the movements that show his ability to understand the game is when in internal positions, he loses his marker on external lanes (see above).
Free spaces are created centrally by Vélez because of the width adopted by the wide defenders’ positioning which forces the wide players of the rival team to stay wide also.
So, when receiving the ball in these areas you will surely do it with positional superiority against your rivals.
But losing his marker was not only for personal benefit as on several occasions Almada could not receive in this free space because his rival marker was chasing him, so in the picture below he managed to generate a free space again in a more dangerous area of the field.
Also, losing his marker towards the left side of the attack means he would have his stronger more skilful foot to drive with towards the goal. This is one of his great technical abilities, to drive in with the ball and not only to attract and dribble past his opponents but also to face the goal to seek to assist his teammates in the box.
The high importance that Almada receives in outer lanes with positional superiority to later be able to drive towards the centre can be verified from a data analysis of the Superliga this season.
Almada has an average per match of 6.1 dribbles compared to the league leader that’s is Eduardo Salvio, ex Atlético de Madrid player, who has 10.8 per match but we have to make an exception as Salvio serves as a winger forward. With that in mind, if we compare the success rate of those dribbles the stats are equal and each player has a 44% success rate. Even if we compare him with one of the best players in his position, as is the case of Juan Fernando Quintero, ex-player of the Liga NOS, we can see that these numbers are similar and even better for the Vélez player as Quintero has 5.8 dribbles per game.
So, we can see that Almada is one of the best at dribbling in Superliga accompanied by progressive runs, where he is an extremely dangerous player when attacking opponents while driving with the ball. Within this statistic, Almada is in the top 5 and on average executes 3.13 progressive runs per game, while the one that performs the most is Sebastián Villa, Boca Juniors winger, with 3.76 per game.
Almada’s role as a facilitator
Within Vélez’s tactics, Almada is not a player who gets to finish on the rival goal nor to have contact with the ball in the rival area. But his role is to assist the team forwards.
We can see above how the zone with the most ball contact on the pitch is outside the rival box 58.3% of the time. Almada likes to receive the ball there between lines of the rival to generate more danger. From there he will seek to make key passes into the box for teammates to finish at goal. But before making the pass, he seeks to drive with the ball to attract rivals to leave their position and mark him which creates opportunities to make that key pass into the box.
The data analysis above compares the top 10 Super League players who make the most key passes on average per game.
In this scout report, we have seen the importance of Almada in the offensive phase of Vélez, who spend most of the game in possession. Velez is second with the most possession this season with 57.7% possession per game just behind Racing who has 58.7% possession of the ball.
But the defensive part in Vélez is of utmost importance in the moments that they do not have the ball and seek to recover it. To understand Vélez’s defensive system, we have to understand that they are the team with the fewest losses of possession in the last third of the pitch (40.85 per game). This is because their game is based on having the ball in their half. 55.9% of their ball possession is in their half until they find the space to advance.
Therefore, Vélez becomes one of the teams with the most ball recoveries in the first third of the pitch since this is the area where they have most possession, and their defensive structure is already armed in this zone. During transitions from attack to defence, the attacking players, as in the case of Almada, play an important role in the defensive phase, becoming the first defensive line in their half.
In the images above/below you can see the importance of Almada in the defensive transitions of the team. Being positioned in central lanes, his fast recoveries are essential to cut out the rival’s attempts to penetrate inside.
Taking the game against Independiente as an example below, we can see the importance of Almada when the opposition team seeks to advance through the centre. In this case, we observe how he has the task of marking the rival’s central midfielder to prevent this from happening.
The importance of Almada in Offensive Transitions
From the offensive side of the transitions, Almada takes a role where he will seek to be the outlet pass in attack.
In the analysis of this phase of the game, we observe how Almada usually positions himself outside the area of influence of the rival’s game but being close at the same time. By doing this, once Vélez recovers the ball he will find himself in a favourable position to be the first pass option to get out of the pressure zone.
Once he receives the ball outside the zone in which it has been recovered from he will begin the offensive transition. Here he will have several weapons available to decide either to drive and fix rivals and be able to give an assist, or look for a long pass into the free space that is taken advantage of by his teammate.
In this Scout report, we can interpret the importance of Almada in Vélez, despite his early age and inexperience, he is one of the pillars of the team.
In this season Almada has proven to be a player with very high growth potential. His qualities are not only based on his strengths like technique and speed, but he is also an important player when it comes to understanding the game and how to be useful to the team in his offensive and defensive roles.
That the great teams of the world follow him is not a novelty, Manchester City seems to be his possible destination, although Almada’s dream is to play with Lionel Messi who he may succeed either in Barcelona or in the Argentine National Team. In this tactical analysis, we detail why the interest of these great teams lies in the promise of Argentine soccer Thiago Almada.