The end of the 19/20 Argentine Superliga was incredibly tight at the top. Three teams finished tied at 39 points, while four teams finished just behind them with 36. One of the teams that finished with 36 points was San Lorenzo. Los Azulgrana finished in 8th place which qualified them for the Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent to the Europa League.
One of the players that helped them get to this position is Adolfo Gaich. Known in Argentina as El Tanque (the tank), Gaich also was a key player for the Argentinian Olympic squad that qualified for the games in Tokyo. His performances have also earned him his first cap with the senior Argentinian squad coached by Lionel Scaloni.
El Tanque’s career is beginning to gain momentum with club and country. This tactical analysis will look at why Gaich such a force for San Lorenzo and the U20 and U23 Argentine national teams.
The reason Gaich’s nickname is the tank is due to his physical stature. Measuring at 190 cm (6’2 ft) and weighing 82 kgs (200 lbs) he is hard to handle for most defenders. The young Argentine is usually deployed as a forward for San Lorenzo and the national teams. With his club team, he typically has a strike partner and with Argentina, he plays as the central striker. Gaich is easily able to adjust his play to what is asked of him regardless of the tactics.
Analyzing his heat map, we see that Gaich covers a lot of ground in the final third. While he is a centre forward, he is incredibly mobile and tends to make himself available as a target. Having to play centrally Gaich is technically sound with both feet but prefers to use his right. Since he is given license to move his preference is to take the ball to the right flank as we can see above.
When he does drift wide to receive the ball, he leaves behind space for the midfielders to run into. In this example from the pre-Olympic tournament, Gaich has received the ball on the left flank. Ecuador’s defence has stayed in a position which allows two midfielders to run between the defenders. Even if the ball is not immediately played in behind the defence, this tactic pushes the opposition back considerably.
In the next section of the scout report, we will take see how Gaich uses his frame to his advantage.
Both San Lorenzo and the Argentinian teams use Gaich as a target forward. Tactically this means that the target forward will hold the ball up with his back to the opposition goal. This action draws defenders to him, creating space for his teammates who are joining the attack.
As he drops into the area where the ball will land, and a midfielder will run past him. This puts Gaich’s teams in a position where they can get in behind the defence quickly.
Using another instance from the match against Ecuador, we see El Tanque holding off a defender. His teammate having already beaten his marker is sprinting towards space behind Gaich. The Argentine forward easily plays the ball behind while continuing to keep his marker at bay.
The next section of the analysis will cover El Tanque’s offensive contributions to Argentina and San Lorenzo.
The Tank’s Arsenal
At the young age of 20, Gaich already has a natural instinct in front of goal. His prowess in the penalty area was on full display in 2019 for both club and country. In the 19/20 Superliga season, he scored 5 goals only playing in 12 games for San Lorenzo. In his time with the U20 national team in 2019, he scored 7 goals in 15 appearances.
Fox in the box
One of Gaich’s strengths lies in his movement on and off the ball in the penalty area. Being able to find the space at the right time boosts his ability to find the back of the net. This is clearly shown by the shot graph below.
This analysis of his shot pattern clearly shows that he thrives inside the penalty area. Of the 47 shots he took, 35 were from inside the area. Gaich had a 71% accuracy rate while scoring all 12 of his goals in the box.
What makes his movement so dangerous is when and how he does it. Gaich is actively looking to get between defenders and moves into their blind spots regularly. We will take a look at two different types of goals where this is shown.
Early in the second half against Aldosivi, El Tanque is already placing himself in the centre backs blind spot. As the play moves back towards the right, Gaich is already in prime position to get in behind the defence. The midfielder spots his run and plays him a through ball, which Gaich puts away with one touch.
The next goal is a fantastic example of his positioning and movement in the penalty area. Receiving the ball on the right flank, he passes the ball back to his teammate and immediately moves into space behind the defenders.
We can see during his run that he is asking for his teammate to pass him the ball into space. When this does not happen Gaich continues to move along the edge of the penalty area clearing space behind him.
Gaich positions himself between the centre backs and once again is in one of their blind spots. As the ball goes wide, he begins his run into the penalty area essentially unmarked. The Argentine easily gets to the ball first and gives San Lorenzo an early lead.
Not a one-trick pony
While he is a goalscorer, El Tanque is also adept at setting up his teammates to score. Only doing so once for San Lorenzo in the recently, he has been a provider for the national teams. During the CONMEBOL pre-Olympic tournament with the U23 side, he had 3 assists in 5 games. He also had 1 assist to go along with his 3 goals during the U20 World Cup last summer.
The above example from the pre-Olympic tournament is a great example of his unselfishness for his country. After winning the foul, Gaich is then able to help his team extend their lead over Chile. Rising up to meet the ball, he heads it across to an unmarked Nehuén Pérez. The defender is then able to tap it in for an easy finish.
Decision Making and Crossing
As with most young players that are thrust into the first-team environment, Gaich’s youth betrays him. Using this graph that analyses losses, we see that he lost 97 duels in the middle third. This type of loss of possession comes when he tries to dribble or loses an aerial duel.
Taking another look at the losses graph, in the final third he registered 107 losses. Most of these were failed passes in the final third. Below we see a graph of Gaich’s 12 attempted crosses where he only successful 3 times. While he is adept at dishing out assists from central areas, Gaich is still learning when it comes to crossing the ball.
Adolfo Gaich’s physical strength and predatory instincts in the box will be a threat to any defence he comes across. A modern spin on the classic target forward, Gaich could bolster any European club that wants a strong presence leading the line. Competing in the Olympics will be a valuable experience and will help him get more call ups to the Albiceleste. Learning from the likes of Juventus‘ Paulo Dybala, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and Sergio Agüero will push him to be even more lethal upfront.