Nowadays the influx of home-grown players on the very biggest stages in Europe has somewhat dipped when compared to the years gone by. This is the result of big clubs getting richer and therefore resorting to buying talent instead of necessarily grooming it. Similarly, it’s the reason why smaller clubs can’t really afford to keep their prodigies for a longer period of time since sooner rather than later, they will receive an offer they simply cannot refuse which will see their youngsters snatched away.
But so far, Birmingham City, a club playing in the second tier of English football or in the Championship, are grooming a very special player – Jude Bellingham. But as expected, his extraordinary talent has already attracted some of the big European fish and the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have reportedly even sent bids his way.
This tactical analysis will be a scout report that will aim to dissect Jude Bellingham’s best traits and abilities, giving you a comprehensive analysis of his player profile and the tactics he’s used in over at Birmingham.
Despite being just 16 years of age, Bellingham can already boast a plethora of different abilities and skills. He could probably be best described as a box-to-box midfielder that offers a similar output in both attack and defence, relying on his technical prowess, excellent first touch and tackling abilities to aid Birmingham and their tactics.
He’s also quite a good passer of the ball and possesses a dose of strength and aggressiveness that comes in handy both on and off the ball. With such a versatile skill set, Bellingham has already been used in various different positions across the middle of the park as well as out wide in the forward line.
With that being said, he is still far from a finished product and will have to improve his finishing and creative solutions in and around the opposition’s box. Naturally, at such a young age, he has not yet acquired that leadership mentality nor is his decision-making when on the ball completely ironed out.
But we have to keep in mind that at 16, it would really be too much to ask of a young man. So without further ado, this tactical analysis scout report will now turn to Bellingham’s tactics and will go into his most prominent traits in more detail.
Technical prowess and positioning
Even though we described Bellingham as a player who can contribute to both sides of the coin – assisting the attack and the defence respectively – a large portion of his player profile is dominated by his excellent technical prowess.
Bellingham has a great first touch and the skills to control the ball in tight areas and create space by eliminating the opposition markers either in a clear-cut 1v1 situations or even when he’s collapsed upon by multiple players.
Usually, in a more advanced state of play when Birmingham are on the attack and have the opposition either pinned down or they’re already progressing towards the final third, Bellingham will position himself in between the lines or out wide. But being a box to box type of midfielder, it doesn’t really come as a surprise to see him across all of the pitch.
We can see this trend in the heatmap above. He tends to either drop deeper to assist the build-up by providing his teammates with additional passing channels and recycling possession or surge forward and look to exploit the space in between the opposition’s lines to advance the play on a higher platform and ultimately closer to the goal.
Generally speaking, we won’t really see him surge into space and behind the defensive line, as he averages only 1.2 progressive runs in the ongoing campaign and across all competitions, but his movement can often disrupt the defensive shape of the opposing team and ultimately create space to exploit.
We can see an example of that below as Bellingham first drifts into his respective half-space, as we’ve mentioned he likes to do, immediately gets the attention of the opposition’s defender and once he is successfully pulled out of the defensive line, the youngster uses his pace to run straight into that pocket of space.
Still, even though this specific type of movement doesn’t really happen at all times, it clearly depicts that the 16-year-old is already thinking a lot when moving across the pitch and recognises what a certain situation demands of him.
This is definitely one of his strengths as his decision-making off the ball seems highly developed despite his young age. For instance, let’s take a look at the following example where Birmingham are in the middle of a transitional attack and Bellingham is already bursting forward along with his teammates.
But he quickly recognises that it will be difficult to progress the ball safely from the position it’s currently at and despite everyone else moving forward, he stops and drops deeper to open an additional outlet for his teammate and enables the ball to be moved into an unmarked area.
From there, after receiving the ball, he can continue running at the defence with pace and intent, fully utilising what’s probably the best attribute of his already vast arsenal – his dribbling abilities.
Bellingham is really dangerous when isolated with his opposition and will often, as we’ve mentioned earlier in this tactical analysis scout report, beat his marker in a straight-up duel. This is why, as part of his coach’s (Pep Clotet) tactics, he will often be sent out wide where he can create a dangerous opportunity.
He’s averaging 4.04 dribbles in the ongoing campaign with a fairly impressive success rate of 58.2%, meaning that he completes more than two dribbles per game. And taking into consideration that Wyscout only registers 1v1 duels and not when the player is beating multiple opponents, this figure hardly does him proper justice.
When starting out wide, Bellingham has the ability to avoid pressure from the opposition and set himself up for success when running into the final third or into the box. You can see a clear example below where the youngster beats two opponents at the same time and proceeds to run near the box before deploying a cross to his teammates.
And this is no isolated case either, as the stats have already shown. But even more impressively, he seems to be able to do it on both flanks with great success. We can see him do exactly the same thing on the opposite side of the pitch.
But it’s important to note that this move or rather tendency is slowly turning into a trademark move of sorts. He receives the ball either in the half-space or by the touchline and then proceeds to run at the opposition, dribbling his way through, beating the marker and then sending a (usually) low cross into the area.
Once his final ball improves enough to consistently impact the game and alter the result, Bellingham can truly become a genuine threat every time he’s in possession and charging the opposition. At the moment, he’s already successfully finishing 55.3% of his actions with an average of 72.32 but that figure is bound to go up with time.
Defensive style of play
It would be impossible to talk about Bellingham and not mention the defensive aspect of his player profile. While he is a great dribbler of the ball and can be an asset in attack, it’s his defensive contribution that makes him such a well-rounded player at the tender age of just 16.
Currently, he is averaging 9.56 defensive duels with 63.1% success rate, which is a decent figure and already makes him a formidable defender to face. However, his defensive style of play, that is also a big part of Birmingham’s overall tactics, can be best described as extremely aggressive.
Bellingham can often be seen charging the opposition in an attempt to quickly snatch the ball away, pressing relentlessly even deep into the enemy territory and trying to turn defence into attack as quickly as possible.
This brings us to an important part of his skill set – recoveries. Currently, he’s averaging 6.39 with 55.2% happening in the opposition’s half, which is just another indication of his aggressive player profile. Mostly, he won’t shy away from a high-risk, high-reward sliding tackle to muscle the other player off the ball and create a turnaround in play.
You can see a clear example of that in the image above. Bellingham breaks Birmingham’s defensive shape in order to engage the player on the ball, slides into the challenge and then proceeds to run forward once possession has been restored for his team.
On average, he makes 1.28 sliding tackles with 60% success rate, meaning that more often than not, he will succeed. But this is not only visible in his own half, as we’ve already mentioned, and his aggressive nature can be seen further up the pitch as well, as shown by the following example.
Bellingham goes into a risky slide from behind but still not only takes the ball away but gets up, shields it effectively and recycles possession to his teammate once the opposition player has been shaken off.
And this is actually what describes him best – bold, aggressive and a risk-taker in all aspects of his player profile. This tendency to engage is visible in all stages of play, regardless of whether Birmingham have just lost possession in the opposition’s half or are camped in their own.
The following example illustrates how he once again moves out of the organised defensive shape in order to aggressively press the ball-carrier. Even though this doesn’t always guarantee the ball is intercepted and can be risky, it’s clearly a part of his profile and the tactics of his coach.
On a similar note, the final example shows him chasing the ball and tackling two opposition players until he can finally snatch it away. His relentlessness to regain possession for his team is evident.
After engaging and forcing the first player off the ball, he continues his run to do the same to the second player, this time exiting the duel with possession and playing it in his teammate’s path to continue the attack.
The final part of this tactical analysis scout report will focus on Bellingham’s passing abilities which are probably the least exciting part of his impressive player profile. Generally speaking, his passing can be described as decent and still developing and for that reason, not nearly as impressive as the rest of his repertoire.
But still, even with that being said, he will often be involved in both the build-up and the progression of the ball, which we can see in the following passing graphs from games where he had a bigger role throughout the clash.
The first image shows us Bellingham at the very centre of everything that’s happening on the pitch and more importantly, we can see that some of his strongest passing links come with players on higher platforms as he sprays the ball wide and diagonally forward but mostly in an attempt to progress it further up the pitch.
On average, he sends out 10.07 forward passes with 58.9% accuracy and 5.26 backwards passes with 93.2% accuracy. The tendency to move the ball forward is already visible and the same can be confirmed by one of his passmaps from the ongoing season.
While he doesn’t complete an absurd number of passes nor is he the most accurate of passers out there – with 77% average accuracy – that could have something to do with that willingness to take risks and try and penetrate the lines when in deeper areas.
He also sends 4.6 passes into the final third with 60% accuracy and 1.99 into the box with 38.5% accuracy. And this is exactly where the problems start to arise. Bellingham seems to still lack the creativity and decision-making in the final third and in and around the opposition box.
This is emphasised even further by his 0.2 through balls with 50% accuracy and 2.91 long balls with 43.9% accuracy. When he’s presented with an option to send his teammate into space via an accurate threaded ball when he’s high up the pitch, he either opts against it or can’t execute it properly.
We can see an example of that below. Bellingham is in possession out wide and while he has the vision to identify his target and see the channel through which to send the ball, he still puts too much power on it and sends it into a goal-kick.
But in most situations, as the data proves to us, he won’t even attempt such passes but will rather recycle possession. However, it’s not that his passing is bad, but rather still in development and can be effectively used when combined with his other traits.
For example, the following image shows a great sequence of action from Bellingham and puts all his strengths on display. Firstly, he receives the ball out wide and in an advanced position on the pitch, just as we’ve already highlighted in this tactical analysis scout report, and then uses his dribbling to beat his marker and progress the ball.
Once that has been done, he can thread it behind the opposition’s backline and into the path of his teammate who’s surging into the newfound space since both markers are fixated on Bellingham.
Unfortunately, just like with most of his great passing actions, this doesn’t really happen nearly as often enough to be categorised as a standard part of his arsenal.
The main advantage Bellingham has over other wunderkids of the world is the fact that he’s already tallying a lot of first-team action over at Birmingham City. While game time would often come scarcely for almost any other 16-year-old youngster, he is already having the chance to play week in week out in a relatively competitive environment that is the English Championship.
His technicality on the ball and fantastic defensive skills make him a well-rounded player that could be appealing to most top-tier teams across Europe and the mounting interest at such an early stage of his career is not at all surprising.
Once he polishes his passing abilities; becomes more comfortable and decisive when in possession, he can finally utilise his skills to their fullest potential. Bellingham may very well transform into a superstar of the future.
And then it’s just a matter of who manages to snatch him up the quickest.