Since making his debut for Velez Sarsfield during the 2018/19 Superliga, Thiago Almada has carved out a reputation for himself as the next big thing in Argentine football and this scout report seeks to take a deep dive into the youngster’s potential.
While former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze would be getting plaudits from guiding a team on the brink of relegation to getting them closer to top honours, Almada’s ability on the ball and creative influence makes him arguably the biggest thing that has happened to his club in a long while.
To begin with, Almada is a great passer of the ball, averaging 29.4 passes per game and boasting an average pass success percentage of 82.2 which isn’t bad for a player who doesn’t even have 50 appearances in top-level football. Almada is a very versatile player and can fill in a wide variety of roles. While you might have seen him thrive a lot as a wonderkid playing the number 10 role in football manager, Thiago Almada is equally capable of playing in wider roles where his ability to cut inside to deliver threatening balls makes him an asset for Heinze. The former defender has also used him as something of a false nine at times.
Setting up counter attacks
Due to his low centre of gravity and a great turn of pace, Thiago Almada is the perfect player to setup devastating moves on the break. Throw in his excellent vision to find a teammate either through a diagonal pass or sleek through ball and you have a player who can instigate goalscoring moves at a moment’s notice.
For instance, in this clip, Almada receives a pass from the back while under pressure from an opposing midfielder. The youngster doesn’t have a lot of options around him with his back to the goal. Now usually, a player in such a predicament would decide to opt for a safer back pass.
Rather than going for that safer option, Almada decides to take a few small touches before turning and going for an outrageous pass that actually ends up finding a teammate in an advance position.
According to Wyscout data, Almada averages 34.5 passes received and 45.5 passes complete per 90 minutes and that also reflects on his eagerness to get on the ball.
A moment in the game against Lanus clearly showcases Almada’s willingness to move into different advanced roles in order to get in on the action. During the 26th minute of the game, the youngster was playing out wide but suddenly moved away from his position to a more central position in order to be in a better position to receive a pass.
The defender passed the ball to the full-back who proceeded to pass the ball in Almada’s pass. Now this is where it gets interesting. The youngster’s excellent first touch allows him to create a fraction of space between himself and the central defender. With enough time on his hands, Almada goes for an accurate low finish to give his side the lead.
As the tactical analysis shows, Almada decides to go for option B – allows the defender to make his move before opening up his body and sliding the ball beyond the keeper’s reach.
Eagerness to play in a more central role
While he has a lot of pace and has great crossing ability, perhaps in the coming years, Thiago Almada might end up playing in a more central role. The youngster likes moving in a central role especially when his team is launching an attack.
In this scenario, Almada has two very simple options:
And that is where Almada’s vision helps him!
Cutting inside like he normally does, Almada is now in a position where he has three options; spread the ball to the other wing, pass to his teammate in the middle of the park or carry the ball a little further up the pitch and unlock more options.
His range of passing means that Almada can even be a successful deep-lying playmaker, finding pockets of space in the middle of the park and picking out his teammates further up the pitch.
However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, the youngster also has a great ability to shoot from various positions. Based on Wyscout data, Almada likes to shoot with his preferred right foot and most of his shots are around the opponent’s penalty area.
The goal scored against Colon is a great example of the youngster putting himself in good shooting positions. While he hasn’t scored tons of goals, this stat is expected to improve as he matures and eventually settles in a number ten role.
Areas to improve on
At the age of 19, Thiago Almada has already established himself as an important member of the Velez starting XI. In time, the youngster is going to become a more consistent performer and would even start improving on his assists count. This tactical analysis has indeed brought to light a few areas that the youngster needs to work on.
At times, Thiago Almada does get carried away. Rather than play a more effective pass to a teammate in a better position, the youngster does tend to go for glory. While this hunger to score is a good thing, it isn’t something that managers in Europe would appreciate a lot.
Furthermore, Almada isn’t the most physically imposing player. At present, rumours are linking him with a move to the Premier League where even the most talented players can struggle due to the physicality involved. In order to ensure that he can cut it in the top five leagues in Europe, the young midfielder needs to gain more muscle. This will help him cope with different tactics and systems as well, as it is likely that he will come up against sides where a more physical approach may be needed.
Positional discipline is another thing that might play a negative role in Almada’s development. The youngster’s eagerness to stay involved all the time means that he tends to leave spaces open for opponents to benefit from. In the coming years, the player’s management will have to work on his positional awareness, especially when it comes to playing against teams that can wreak havoc on the break.
Thiago Almada is definitely a unique talent. Blessed with great speed, vision, pace and long range shooting, the youngster’s career trajectory looks upwards for sure. His ability to play in multiple roles means that Almada is a dream player for managers who like to make minor tweaks to their playing philosophy throughout a campaign.
The youngster is indeed one of the most gifted players produced by Argentina in recent years and sky is the limit for him.
At present, the youngster has proven to be a capable attacking midfielder but with the way his game continues to evolve, Almada will settle in either as a number ten or as a deep-lying playmaker as he becomes more mature and improves his decision making on the pitch. Having been linked to the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Leeds United, to name but a few clubs, it will be interesting to see if Almada can raise his game to be able to secure a move to a European giant in the near future.