Algeria set to ditch their three-man defence
Algeria were one of the more tactically-interesting sides at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, switching between three separate formations, including a three- and four-man defence throughout the competition.
Their first-choice system was a 3-4-1-2 against Malawi, which saw them suffer a shock 3-0 defeat and was notable mostly for the lack of pressure upon the opposition wide players (and awful goalkeeping). Unsurprisingly, it was ditched straight away, and is unlikely to be revived for this tournament.
They spent the rest of the tournament playing either a 3-4-2-1 or 4-2-3-1. The 3-4-2-1 helped retain possession in the midfield but allowed the opposition full-backs too much time on the ball. It eventually crumbled in a 4-0 defeat against Egpyt, but the system was not particularly at fault – it was rather the three red cards that was the primary reason for that. When 11 v 11, it remained 0-0.
The 3-4-2-1 means more players playing in a role that suits them best, but the loss of Mourad Meghni through injury deprives Algeria of probably their best player, and they lack others who have the technical qualities to be a trequartista. They now look like moving to a fairly standard 4-4-2.
The first XI
Firstly, it must be mentioned that goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi looks very, very dodgy. You have to perform quite atrociously to stand out as being a bad goalkeeper at the Africa Cup of Nations, but Chaouchi gave away awful goals and got a crazy red card against Egypt, whilst looking shaky on crosses and nervous when the ball was passed back to him. He was the hero in the playoff with some excellent saves, but putting him under pressure early on is surely a clear way to trouble Algeria.
The back four are fairly easy to predict – two physical centre-backs in Madjid Bougherra and Rafik Halliche, and two full-backs who like to get forward, particularly Nadir Belhadj on the left (he’d probably prefer a wing-back role).
Two from Hassan Yebda, Mehdi Lacen and Yazid Mansouri will be the midfield duo, all fairly simple defensive-minded midfielders. Ahead of those two, the situation is unclear.
Karim Matmour is a decent player and will start on the right. Ziani could play as a central playmaker but now looks like returning to the left in a 4-4-2. In the final pre-tournament friendly, Rabah Saadane selected Rafik Dejabbour (nominally a striker) in addition to the usual lone forward, Abdelkader Ghezzal. He has occasionally troubled Serie A defenders this season but is basically a goalscorer, albeit one who doesn’t score a great number of goals.
An alternative upfront is 35-year-old Rafik Saifi, a rarity in the squad both for being born in Algeria, and for being a very good technical player. He would play slightly behind the front man in a 4-4-1-1, but his fitness levels have been questioned, and so a starting place seems unlikely.
If the 4-4-2 is used, with Ziani on the left, then allowing him to drift into the centre is key to making Algeria creative, and this will also allow Belhadj forward on the overlap.
Algeria are a reasonably attractive side – they look to counter-attack with numbers and the midfield is filled with decent ball-players, but it’s hard to make a case for why they will spring an upset; they don’t have a particular strength in any area of the field, they are tactically interesting rather than tactically brilliant, they don’t look like scoring many and their goalkeeper always looks like conceding.
Like many of the weaker sides in the competition, they probably won’t be as incompetent as some are suggesting, but progression to the second round would be a big surprise.Algeria set to ditch their three-man defence