Anel Ahmedhodzic is a right-sided centre-back playing for Malmo in the Swedish Allsvenskan. At 21 years of age, he is one of the youngest centre-backs in the league and has started each of Malmö’s 16 games this season. Ahmedhodžić has one cap for Sweden, the country of his birth, but has since announced he wishes to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in the future.
Ahmedhodžić came through the youth ranks at Malmö before moving to Nottingham Forrest at the age of 16. At the time, he was considered one of the top young prospects at the EFL club and made his debut aged 17. This, however, was to be his only appearance in his three years at Forrest. In January 2019, he returned to his hometown club Malmö.
This scout report will present a tactical analysis of Ahmedhodžić and how he has contributed to his team’s success this season. The analysis will pay particular attention to his impressive use of the ball and reading of the game as well as what he may have to improve on to get to the next level.
As the above images show, Malmö head coach and former English Premier League and La Liga striker, Jon Dahl Tomasson, prefers a 4-4-1-1 formation. Ahmedhodžić (#15) is deployed at right centre-back in a back four. The majority of his touches, as you would expect for a defender, are in his team’s half of the pitch.
Malmö have had a flying start to the season which currently sees them top of the division. Whilst they score a lot of goals, their defensive record is the best in the league. They have kept a clean sheet in five of their league matches and have conceded the fewest goals overall with 15.
At 192cm, the centre back is one of the tallest players in the division. This gives him an obvious advantage over opponents when the ball is in the air. So far this season, Ahmedhodžić has won 72% of his aerial duels putting him amongst the best in the league.
However, as the image above shows, Ahmedhodžić is not quite as dominant in the air in his team’s penalty area. In this area, he wins 62.1% of his aerial duels.
Whilst being tall and dominant in the air, Ahmedhodžić can also play with his feet. He has an impressive pass accuracy of 91.34% and around half of the passes he attempts are forward passes.
His progressive pass accuracy is 79.9%. As the above image shows, the majority of Ahmedhodžić’s accurate passes are to his right-back or into a central or attacking midfielder.
Use of the ball
As the stats above suggest, Ahmedhodžić is competent at both keeping possession safe and playing forward into attacking areas. This section is going to analyse his forward passes and how he creates goalscoring opportunities from deep positions.
The above image shows the moments after Ahmedhodžić has received the ball from his left-back. As soon as he receives the ball, he attacks the space in front of him. Despite having easy, safe passing options available, he elects to take responsibility and look for a penetrating pass.
By dribbling into the space in front of him at speed, he causes disruption to the opposition. Travelling up the pitch also makes a through ball easier to complete due to the shorter distance the ball will have to travel.
Whilst being pressed, he has the awareness to pick out his striker’s clever run. He plays a perfectly weighted pass between the opposition left centre-back and left-back. This pass takes out the entire opposition team and puts his striker through on goal.
This play is typical of the young defender. He does not shun responsibility. His first thought, even when receiving the ball in his own half, is how to put the opposition on the back foot and create goal-scoring opportunities for his team. Not only does he possess an aggressive attacking mentality but also has the technical ability to pull it off.
Reading the game and counter-attacking
As covered in the data analysis section, Ahmedhodžić is good in the air which allows him to win a lot of aerial duals and interceptions. Whilst his height is an obvious advantage, it is his reading of the game which allows him to be so successful.
The above image shows off both his reading of the game and his aerial ability. The oppositions left-back has just played a long, high ball for his forward to run onto. Ahmedhodžić’s starting position near the centre of the pitch is perfect.
This starting position allows him to see both the ball and the attacking player in the wide area. It also forces the left-back to hit the open space to Ahmedhodžić’s right. Predicting this, the Bosnian is on the move before the ball is kicked.
The left-back hits the long ball and Ahmedhodžić intercepts it in the air. Not only does he prevent a dangerous opposition attack, but he also has the guile to find a teammate with his intercepting header. This allows his team to launch an attack of their own
The above image shows the moments before Ahmedhodžić intercepts an opposition pass and launches a counter-attack. This move is characteristic of Ahmedhodžić’s physical strength, ability to read the game and his willingness to attack.
As the opposition player on the ball (circled) runs with the ball, the opposition striker is trying to pin Ahmedhodžić. Ahmedhodžić, who has kept his eye on the ball and the man he is marking throughout the move, is able to muscle the striker out the way. As the ball is passed, he sneaks in front of the player about to receive the ball.
Ahmedhodžić intercepts the pass and without breaking stride, dribbles forward. At this point, most centre-backs would play the easiest pass available and then watch the attack from their own half. Ahmedhodžić plays a forward pass and continues his run to join the attack. He ends up calling for a pass inside the oppositions penalty box.
Slide tackles are both one of Ahmedhodžić’s mains strengths and at the same time one of his biggest liabilities. There are moments, usually when covering for a teammate, that he is able to use a slide tackle to recover the ball in a desperate situation. These challenges are perfectly timed and have often prevented clear goalscoring opportunities for the opposition.
However, too often when the situation requires patience, Ahmedhodžić is too eager to regain possession and dives in. This has cost his team by conceding freekicks in dangerous areas and him several yellow cards.
This image shows Malmö (red) defending a counter-attack. Malmö’s backline was high and the opposition have played a through ball for their attacker (circled) to run onto. Ahmedhodžić (circled) is the Malmö player closest to the ball and has already made up ground on the attacking player.
Is this situation, Ahmedhodžić’s priority has to be to slow the attack down and allow his three recovering defenders and midfield players (circled) time to get into a good defensive position. Ahmedhodžić, who is faster than the attacker, can do this by running in a straight line (as the red arrow shows).
This would place him between the attacking player with the ball and the Malmö goal. Even if the player is then able to get past him, Ahmedhodžić would have back up. With no other opposition players supporting the attack, there is no reason for Ahmedhodžić to speed up the play and force a one on one situation.
Instead of being patient, Ahmedhodžić runs diagonally towards the ball. This allows the attacker to cut across him. Ahmedhodžić then attempts to slide tackle the attacker. The attacker pushes the ball past him but is brought down by the defender’s slide tackle.
Ahmedhodžić gives up a freekick in a dangerous area and is yellow carded. Whilst his team did not concede from this counter-attack, he could have dealt with the situation more calmly which would not have resulted in a freekick against his team.
His slide tackles are a good attribute to have but too often they are used as his first choice rather than a last resort. Should he go on to play at a higher level, going to ground so readily will have him found out quickly.
Movements to receive
Overall, Ahmedhodžić’s movements off the ball are good. When keeping possession, he is aware of where the ball is and where he wants it to go next. He adopts a good position and body shape to achieve this. As covered in the previous section, when progressing the ball, he is aggressive with his runs and creates and joins in counter-attacks.
However, there are times when his aggressive forward runs are not the correct decision. In these situations, he finds himself trapped, usually in wide areas. This ultimately leads to his team losing possession and being vulnerable at the back.
The above image shows the moments after Ahmedhodžić has received the ball from his goalkeeper. He is about to pass the ball to his central midfielder and then sprint into the wide area.
Whilst a centre-back may be expected to move to a slightly wider position to angle for a return pass, it is unusual to make such a wide run.
This image shows the situation Ahmedhodžić is in when he receives the return pass. Two opposition players are putting him under immediate pressure and forcing him to play down the line. This has reduced his passing options significantly.
Had he held off his run and showed for the ball in the half-space, he would be a lot harder to press and have more passing options available. As it is, he is trapped and plays a predictable straight pass which is intercepted.
Having shown so wide for the ball he not only increased his chances of losing the ball but has left a huge gap in front of his own box. This area could be easily exploited by the opposition in a counter-attack. These wide movements by Ahmedhodžić may be a part of his team’s tactics. Therefore, it is not necessarily him making a poor decision so it may be harsh to judge him on it.
The attributes that earned Ahmedhodžić move to the English Championship are clear to see. He is a physically dominant player who reads the game well and makes good use of possession. He not only defends well but creates goalscoring opportunities for his team. His desire to get forward and his energy are admirable from a centre-back.
What is also clear though, is the parts of his game where he needs to improve. He needs to have more patience in certain situations, both when his team has the ball and when he is defending. These, though, can be put down to the exuberance of youth. With a little more experience of first-team football, he will surely have all the attributes that will seal him a move and allow him to thrive at the next level.