Djamel Belmadi may be an unknown name to some football fans. However, the Algerian coach does a great job with the Algerian national team and is ranked fourth in the ranking of the best coaches in the world for the year 2019.
Belmadi turned into a superhero in Algeria, after winning the African Nations Cup with his country last year. In this tactical analysis, we will have an analysis of the tactics that Belmadi uses with the Algerian national team. We also look at the philosophy that made him win the trophy.
Djamel Belmadi is a coach who prefers stability, always keeping the same formation and names. It also does not change tactics.
Djamel Belmadi’s favourite formation is 4-3-3, which turns into 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. In addition to this, you keep the same players in each game.
This means that the Algerian coach, Djamel Belmadi, has already come up with the tools that make him able to apply his philosophy.
Many coaches have passed on for the Algerian national team, but most of them have failed in the AFCON.
The reason for their failure was their lack of adaptation to African football. The game in Africa is very different from Europe. In Africa, there will be high temperatures; the humidity will be unsuitable for playing football, even the pitches are of low quality, meaning you will not be able to play attractive football even though you have distinguished players.
Belmadi succeeded with the Algerian national team because he made the team adapt to the problems of African football. He developed a style of play that made his team able to overcome the problems of African football, and at the same time, this system is suitable for the type of players that the team owns.
The beginning was in the build-up phase, with the passes making the building phase faster, to take advantage of the technical capabilities of the midfielders and the front line.
This is a map of the passes of the Algerian national team players in building phase, as you can see, most of his passes were long, from their half to that of the opponent.
In order for these long balls to be useful and more dangerous to the opponent’s goal, Belmadi placed some tactics to help players play long balls and receive them in the opponent’s half.
Most of the African teams are defending the man-to-man marking because the “bad” formation in Africa made their tactical awareness weak. This makes coaches unable to play with zonal marking.
However, even with a marked man-to-man system, they will make mistakes if you force them to be positioned the wrong way.
This is what Belmadi did; he always tried to take advantage of the man to man marking applied by the opponents, to drag the opponent’s players to the wrong areas. In this way, the Algerian national team will be able to create spaces and transfer the ball to the opponent’s half.
For example, in this picture, Sofiane Feghouli backed down, and Dennis Odhiambo moved to mark him. In this way, the Algerian national team created a large space in the deep.
After that, Adlène Guedioura was positioned in the space that Feghouli created. In this way, the Algerian national team can transfer the ball to the opponent half.
Wing moves are also critical, as they contribute significantly to confusing opponent midfielders and freeing their teammates from the mark.
For example, in this picture, Feghouli and Riyad Mahrez fixed the opponent’s midfielders, and thus Milan‘s Ismaël Bennacer got space behind them, and he could use it to receive the long ball.
The front trio, Youcef Belaïli, Riyad Mahrez and Baghdad Bounedjah, are excellent in air duels and are very fast, this makes them able to take advantage of the long balls preferred by Djamel Belmadi in the phase of building.
For example, in this picture, Feghouli, Guedioura and Bennacer are fixing two midfielders in half of Algeria. In this way, the front line acquired a large space in the final third that it could use to receive the long ball without pressure.
The exchange of positions is critical to take advantage of the long balls, for example, in this picture, Bennacer is moving towards the left side, and Rami Bensebaini is moving forward. In this way, the Algerian national team created numerical superiority on the side.
If the opponent decides to press the centre-backs, the midfielders will have space in-depth to receive the ball.
The Magic Trio
The role of Baghdad Bounedjah
If I were forced to choose the most important player in Djamel Belmadi’s playing style, I would choose Baghdad Bounedjah.
As I mentioned above, the Algerian national team relies a lot on long balls and uses them to penetrate the opponent’s box.
At this phase, Bounedjah is very important, because he is excellent in aerial duels, fast, physically strong, and is very well positioned. These features make Bounedjah able to create a large number of opportunities.
In the last African Cup, Bounedjah made 8.29 aerial duels per match with a success rate of 28%. This is interesting. The success rate indeed seems weak, but we must not forget that he is involved in a lot of aerial duels and most of these aerial was against defenders.
Baghdad Bounedjah’s strength in aerial duels made him an element essential for the Algerian national team to reach half the opponent, as well as an important tool in creating opportunities.
For example, in this picture, Bounedjah discovered that Mahrez dragged the full back of the opponent; for this reason, he requested the ball on the side in the empty space. Then he used his strength in aerial duels to turn the ball into Feghouli in the empty space.
In this example, the Algerian national team can create a numerical advantage 4V3, thanks to the strength of Baghdad Bounedjah in the aerial duels.
His positioning is critical. Also, Baghdad Bounedjah is very smart in positioning, always scan the final third, then choosing the appropriate space to order the long ball.
For example, in this picture, Baghdad Bounedjah discovered an empty area in the half-space and moved quickly to receive the long ball.
His physical strength is beneficial to the Algerian national team as well, as he uses it to help his teammates break through the box or play between the lines. He helped his team score two goals with this feature.
For example, in this picture, Belaïli passes to Bounedjah, Baghdad uses his physical strength to cover the ball; that way, Belaïli can get the ball again.
Algeria against zonal marking
We have talked a lot about the tactics that Belmadi uses against the team that is defending a man-to-man, but not all teams will implement this system.
Frankly, the Algerian national team did not face teams defending with zonal marking. Only the Ivory Coast team used this system. It changed it after 30 minutes due to the goal of the Algerian national team. He tried to move forward and apply high pressure.
But during these minutes, Belmadi showed some exciting ideas which we will explain in this section.
This is one of the ideas that Belmadi implemented, passing the ball to the side; this would make the opponent’s midfielders quickly retreat to protect the deep.
At the same time, one of the midfielders of the Algerian national team will be free, and he can then switching play
The average PPDA for Algeria in the last African Cup was 6.02. However, the Algerian national team does not recover many balls in its opponent’s half.
As you can see in this picture, the balls that the Algerian national team retrieve in the opponent’s half are very few.
The Algerian national team always tries to advance to the opponent’s half and blocking all passing channels close to the ball holder. This way, he will be forced to play a long ball.
Thanks to its philosophy, the Algerian national team has achieved many successes after years of failure.
However, will his successes and victories continue? These remains to be seen depending on how he can adapt his syle in the future.