Is Arsenal Target Eduardo Camavinga Worth The Hype?
Eduardo Camavinga has not had an easy journey into top level football.
Born in a refugee camp in Angola to parents who had fled the second Congo war, he grew up in Fougères in Northwestern France. He began to play football in 2009 for local side Drapeau-Fougères, before being picked up by the Stade Rennais (often known as Rennes) academy in 2013. That same year, Camavinga’s family home burned down, destroying almost all of his, his parents and his five sibling’s possessions – a tragedy, which made Eduardo even more determined to succeed as a professional football player.
It worked. Camavinga would became the youngest player to ever make their professional debut for Rennes at 16 years and 4 months old at the end of the 2018/19 season. At the beginning of 2019/20, he put in a Man of the Match performance against Paris Saint-Germain, dominating the likes of Marco Verratti and Marquinhos in a Ligue 1 match up. Camavinga is also the youngest player to win a full international cap for France in over 100 years. Quite the story.
However, the Rennes academy is no stranger to a teenage prodigy, with the likes of Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé coming through the ranks at Les Rouge et Noir in recent years. Further back there are names Arsenal fans will certainly be familiar with too; Mikaël Silvestre, Sylvain Wiltord and even perennial ‘transfer target’ Yann M’Vila. They have a particularly impressive young group at the moment as well, with the likes of Jeremy Doku, Adrien Truffert and Brandon Soppy all making first team appearances last season; but Camavinga is the jewel in the crown.
Ex-Rennes academy director Landry Chauvin says Eduardo is “already more serious, disciplined and professional than [Ousmane] Dembélé has ever been”. Hatem Ben Arfa is full of praise for the young Frenchman too, saying of his time playing with Eduardo:
“He was incredible. Technically and physically, he is a monster. Everything he does is perfect. For me, he is the modern midfielder by definition. There is nothing he can’t do. He can defend, tackle, head the ball, create, score, assist. He is powerful but gifted technically with his left foot. He is intelligent, elegant.”
A player of such ability at such a tender age will clearly be of interest to all the top European clubs, and Camavinga is no different. But now, according to Alexis Bernard of Le10 Sport, Arsenal are making Camavinga one of their priorities in this transfer window, working hard behind the scenes. Arsenal are in desperate need of midfield reinforcement – so, despite the hype, on the pitch… is Camavinga the right choice?
Camavinga, despite his shirt number (#10) is probably best described as a deep lying playmaker. Almost exclusively left footed (92%), he generally lines up on the right side of a three man Stade Rennais midfield, although he often becomes the deeper midfielder in build up, and has also been used on the left.
Camavinga is particularly impressive defensively, especially in terms of his tackling stats. As seen below, he can win the ball all over the pitch and consistently looks forward, using his excellent range of passing to pick out team mates and progress the ball. This also makes Camavinga extremely press-resistant as he so rarely loses a challenge, and has the ability to win the ball back quickly and securely if he does lose it. Standing at six foot tall, Camavinga boasts some excellent physical qualities to ride challenges and is both robust and mobile. He is able to break the lines as well as sit between the lines, and has the capacity to change the tempo of the game in a matter of seconds.
(FBref.com, vs Other Midfielders in Top 5 Leagues, last 365 days)
On the ball, he is one of the top midfielders in Europe at progressing the ball up the pitch and into the final third. In 2020/21, he went forward with the ball (note – not ‘total’ carrying distance) an incredible 165.43 yards per 90. He is elegant and precise, and Rennes look a much less cohesive unit without him, both going forward and defensively. He has an excellent pass completion rate and despite only turning 19 in November looks smooth and comfortable, developing into one of, if not the key asset in Rennes’ team. Camavinga has an unbelievably diverse skill set – he is a superb all-round midfielder.
In this situation, in a game in Ligue 1 against Nîmes Olympique, Camavinga positions himself between the lines and calls for the pass, with his three forwards ahead of him, narrowly, aware Camavinga may be the supply line here.
Camavinga receives the ball on the back foot, allowing him to turn quickly (something very few midfielders at Arsenal are adept at), and immediately slides Guirassy through. Guirassy misses, but this quick transition, spotting and making the most of space in behind, is something Camavinga is excellent at. He scans and reads the game well – crucially, at a high tempo – so important in modern football. Camavinga is aware of the space as a runner himself, too. In this situation, against Dijon FCO, Camavinga sees the ball go out wide from the Centre Back and immediately spots a situation where can be 1 on 1 against the defender, so starts his movement.
He gets beyond and provides the assist by being a few steps ahead of his opponent – excellent game intelligence.
Of course, there are some negatives to Camavinga’s game. He only registered 1 goal and 3 assists in all competitions last season – something to improve on. He sometimes miscontrols the ball and can be easily dispossessed – he is extremely dominant on his left foot, so pressuring him on his wrong side can work. He can also, at times, be petulant on the field and tends to collect some unnecessary yellow cards – but these are all things that can be ironed out of his game with time and maturity.
He did have a slight dip in form towards the end of last season, but with Champions League experience and having been called up to the Olympics this summer for France, it’s clear that Camavinga has the capacity to play at the highest level. With some adjustment, especially with his capability physically, there are only a few question marks over any potential move to the Premier League.
(From Scott Willis on Twitter)
You can see how Camavinga might fit into a prospective Arsenal side – his left foot can replace Xhaka’s to replicate the passing channels that have worked so well when Kieran Tierney has been fit this season. Pairing him with Thomas Partey may allow us to see more of Partey’s strengths moving forward, and his agility, manipulation of space and excellent defensive work combine the best parts of Dani Ceballos’ game with a more mobile and highly motivated option. With Camavinga’s game intelligence, high potential for improvement, all-round capacity and ability all over the pitch, there is definitely space for him in Arsenal’s midfield.
But with such a high level of talent at such a young age, there are sure to be other suitors.