Ask any Chicago Fire fan how the last decade has been for the club and you’ll probably receive a similar response: “miserable.” They wouldn’t be wrong in saying that – in ten years, the team has only made the post-season playoffs two times. For a club based in a metropolitan area that supposedly is a lure for players and a city of great economic power, their run of playoff-less seasons is nothing short of pathetic. In addition to their on-field shortcomings, the Fire have had their problems in the back office as well. From ownership issues to lack of attendance, the club has been in a downward spiral for a while now.
Fortunately, new ownership and a complete rebrand of the club should give everyone involved with the Fire a sense of hope that the future is brighter nowadays. Today we will be doing a tactical analysis on a player who will do his best to inspire a complete turnaround for the club, Ignacio Aliseda. The nineteen-year-old Argentine, signed from Superliga Argentina side Defensa y Justicia as a young designated player for $3.30 million, is a spark that many Fire fans hope will elevate the squad to play-off contenders.
A non-traditional 10
Igancio Aliseda may not stand out for his size (5’7”, 154 lbs) but he certainly makes up for that with his blistering pace and strong ability on the ball. Initially, it would appear that Aliseda is at his best playing down the wing and taking players on in one v one scenarios. He ranked among the best dribblers in the Argentinean 1st division and he is extremely progressive on the ball.
This is shown in the graph below where he ranks in the upper 75th percentile for both attempted dribbles per 90 minutes and successful dribbles per 90.
In that regard, he is very much a typical winger who is happy to run at the defence. But when we look deeper into Aliseda’s role as a winger, it becomes apparent that he is not a big fan of crossing the ball.
While statistically speaking his crossing numbers are very good, Aliseda has shown much more comfort in either taking his defender on and creating for himself or just making a quick move into the middle of the park to get a shot off or combine with teammates.
What pops out about Aliseda is that despite being built like a winger and having many similar traits to successful wingers of the past who were considered undersized, the Argentine is at his best in the centre of the midfield. In his 11 matches for Defensa y Justicia this past season, Aliseda started four times at attacking midfield and a further four appearances at that same position or slightly higher where he could feed off a bigger target man directly. In both roles, this has become a trend in Aliseda’s game.
Aliseda is a very smart player and he knows how to utilise space within tactics as seen below. He occupies a recessed position until Defensa y Justicia counterattack and find their centre-forward. Aliseda recognises this movement and starts to check in for his teammate. What happens after differs but Aliseda has the ability to take a man on, combine with the target-man, or find a teammate making a run down the wing. This unpredictability is what sets Aliseda apart from other 10s who are creative in their own right, but lack the pure speed and dribbling ability that Aliseda has.
Aliseda’s linkup with winter signee and fellow designated player Robert Beric is one that must excite Fire fans. The Slovakian forward, who boasts Ligue 1 and Bundesliga experience, is a beefy figure (6’2”, 185 lbs) who is well capable of holding up balls that Aliseda can then latch onto. This combination is one to watch and could develop into a very dangerous one-two punch for Chicago.
Off the ball
As we mentioned before, Aliseda is a very smart player and this is further exemplified in his movement when he does not have the ball as he tends to find pockets of space. When and if defenders bite, he takes advantage of that gap in the defensive line with a well thought out run behind the line. In this first image, Aliseda was tasked with sitting behind his striking counterpart and causing havoc for the opposition backline. He starts his run from the midfield which gets the right-back to jump out of position, and Aliseda easily outpaces the opponent to get in behind and set up a goalscoring chance.
Aliseda averages a little under 2.30 progressive runs per 90, which is an indication of his strong instincts and ability to utilise his speed. While unconventional, having a 10 who is capable of making such runs could be very valuable if it’s used correctly. In short, the Fire need to find a balance between simply kicking the ball up the pitch for Aliseda to run onto and being patient with their buildup.
Due to his versatility, Aliseda often finds himself in an array of positions on the pitch. While often this can disrupt Defensa y Justicia’s link-up play, it also provides a new source of attack if Aliseda can recognise where he should be in these passages of play. In this image, Aliseda is a bit too deep in the midfield for the left-back (who is out of frame) to find him. Thus, Aliseda continues his run from that initial position and is able to latch onto a second ball that was played to him by the centre-forward.
What ensues is what Aliseda does best: he dribbles through the entire heart of the defence to eventually set up another chance at goal. As noted before, his dribbling ability opens up many opportunities for him in the final third. So often do we see players with extreme pace but no end product, and Aliseda has proved different.
Although his goalscoring return is nothing remarkable, netting just two goals in 27 matches, he has shown the composure and technique in front of goal that promises improved numbers in the near future. In this instance, he used his pace to once again get in behind the defence and then expertly round the keeper to score an easy tap-in. For many players, they would simply try to force a shot past the keeper, but Aliseda remains calm and is rewarded with a goal.
Gaps in the game
Like nearly every player in the world, Aliseda has his flaws that must be pointed out. We previously mentioned his reluctance to cross the ball and this might be underlying a larger problem: he is not a natural playmaker.
There is obviously no correct way to play as a number 10. But in modern times this position requires an individual to be both creative in making chances for himself as well as others. As we’ve seen, Aliseda is capable of the former, but he is yet to show his ability at doing the latter in his current position.
While his actual assist numbers are fairly average when compared to other players in the 2019/20 Superliga Argentina season, the overall frequency of these goal-scoring opportunity passes is way too low for a player who is supposed to be the heartbeat of the entire team. While a typical number 10 would certainly be in the higher percentiles for through passes per 90 and progressive passes per 90, Aliseda is actually in the bottom 25th percentile for both categories.
We’ve already established that Aliseda is not a typical 10 because of his frequency to dribble and off-the-ball tendencies, but his ability to create for teammates is something that needs to improve if he is to make a jump in his young career.
Ignacio Aliseda adds to the ever-growing list of South American talents coming to the United States to play in the MLS. This transformation has been beneficial for both players and teams alike, which adds further expectations for Aliseda. Fortunately, Aliseda has proven throughout this analysis that even at his young age, he is ready to make an impact immediately.
If the Argentine can show a little more playmaking ability for his teammates in the middle, we could be looking at one of the next great number 10s to play in Major League Soccer. Aliseda is well-equipped to be a difference-maker, now it rests in his hands as to how he develops in these exciting times of his career.