Eduardo Camavinga: One for the future, but also for the present
By Jahid Islam
A few weeks ago, my article on Albert Sambi-Lokonga waxed lyrical about the Belgian's potential to develop into a brilliantly versatile central midfielder. While Lokonga is impressive, French wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga is on a completely different level. At only 18 years old, he's earned himself 82 appearances for Stade Rennes, showing shocking consistency and maturity, despite his tender age. Combining his youthful energy with his immense defensive play and fantastic ball-carrying ability, Camavinga’s caught the eyes of Europe’s biggest clubs…. And us, Arsenal.
Since his introduction into the Rennes team in 2018/19, having just turned 17, Camavinga has become a prominent fixture in a squad that took a very respectable sixth in the most recent Ligue 1 Season. Were he not a footballer, he'd be finishing his A-levels in the UK, but his rapid rise to the top has vaulted him into the upper echelons of transfer talk. With a valuation of £49.5 million, per TransferMarkt, we can only assume his PE grade would be quite good.
According to FBREF.com, Camavinga’s shooting stats are mediocre. It’s reads as a blend of neutral greys, mild burgundies, and gentle greens. Like the walls of a retirement home. Not so eye-catching. However, his passing stats stand in welcome contrast.
He completes 89.3% of his passes, a stat which ranks him in the 90th percentile among midfielders in Europe. Moreover, despite not attempting many long passes per 90, he completes a stunning 85.4% of them, ranking in the 98th percentile. Camavinga also impresses with passes into the final third; 5.84 per 90 is rather unique, especially for a deep lying midfielder. Above all, he presents as a talented passer at all ranges, but who one specializes in maintaining possession and bypassing opponents with ease through all stages of play.
Fortunately, the good times keep on rolling for Camavinga. His passing numbers may look impressive, but they pale in comparison to his defensive output. His tackling profile per game, according to FBREF, shines as green as the pitch at the Emirates, or as Camavinga may say in French, “Vraiment Vert”. For those of you who don't speak French, that means very green. An impressive 2.62 tackles per game almost doubles Granit Xhaka’s total of 1.32—the Swiss was Arsenal's leading tackler in the midfield this season—and ranks Camavinga in the 92nd percentile for central midfielders.
And as if that weren't enough, he's an excellent asset in transition as well. Please, stop me if you're getting overwhelmed. On average, he carries the ball 171.19 yards up the pitch every game, demonstrating a lethal instinct for breaking the press with the ball at his feet. He is an adept dribbler, completing 1.98 dribbles per 90, and attempting 2.8 dribbles per 90, two statistics that both weigh in at 95th percentile. An asset in a possession-based system like that employed by his national team, France, or the counter-attacking setup favored by Stade Rennes, he's an all-around star.
And while it’s all well and good to look at the stats, and cross reference them with footage of his play, I must remind you of the disparity in quality between Ligue 1 and the Premier League. I mean it’s got ‘Premier’ in its name for a reason. We’ve seen players struggle to adapt to the physicality of the league, but Camavinga’s technical ability, experience, and physicality makes it ever more likely that he could be one of the few players to bridge that gulf in class.
One rare issue with Camavinga is his one-footedness. This past season, he attempted an average of 53.69 passes per 90 minutes with his left foot. That’s a lot. In comparison, he attempted just 3.48 with his Right. Not a lot at all. Our fans jumped on Granit Xhaka and former Ligue 1 star Nicolas Pépé for over-relying on their respective left feet, and Camavinga’s a similar story. Maybe the slower pace of Ligue 1 allows for this weakness to be overlooked somewhat. But under the intense, unrelenting, and brutal press of many Premier League sides, could this be a liability? I'm not sure.
What I can say for certain is that Eduardo Camavinga is already a very exciting box-to-box midfielder. He’s a lot like Paul Pogba in that regard, assuming you're watching Pogba play for France. Defensively astute, technically brilliant despite his size, and smooth as silk on the ball, he's a joy to watch. He commands that Rennes midfield as if he’s been there for decades, when he’s actually the same age as me! With at least another 10 years of development yet to come, Camavinga will be one of the top prospects for clubs looking for a central midfielder across Europe this summer, due to his phenomenal capacity for growth, not to mention the ability he’s already shown. He truly is the type of player around which you build your future.
With Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and a myriad of other clubs keenly interested in the 18-year-old, it seems unlikely that we’ll be able to bring him to the Emirates. That £49.5m valuation doesn’t help either—and let's be real, he'll go for double that—nor does the distinct lack of European football next season at Arsenal. However, we may have one slight advantage. Along with Rennes, Arsenal seems to be the other club that holds a special place in his heart. Will that attachment be enough to bring him to the table, as it has for so many other Ligue 1 stars? Per reports, the club already reached out to Camavinga's representatives in January, and understands that in order for talks to progress, an offer must be made. So that leaves Arsenal in the same old spot they so often are: asking for the money to put where their mouth is. So what's the answer?
Only time will tell.
I’ve been Jahid for We Love You Arsenal. Cheers for reading! See you next week for some more bad puns and interesting takes!