We were probably right about Eduardo Camavinga’s best role at Real Madrid
During the summer transfer window of 2021, the complete focus of the Real Madrid board and Madridistas was on the possible signing of Kylian Mbappe. Things speeded up in the last week of the window when Real Madrid officially placed a bid for the Frenchman.
Real Madrid couldn’t strike a deal with PSG for the generational forward, which was mainly due to the latter’s foolishness, and that disappointed Madridistas a lot. But that disappointment vanished in just six hours, as Florentino Perez shifted his focus towards another French prodigy in Eduardo Camavinga and struck a deal with Rennes literally overnight.
Camavinga was Real Madrid’s target for around two years, but there wasn’t a lot of hype regarding the midfielder’s signing throughout the summer. Real Madrid did need a midfielder to increase their depth, but Antonio Blanco’s emergence meant that there wasn’t a lot of need for another midfielder. But the club signed Camavinga out of nowhere, and it made sense because no top club would want to miss out on such a sensational talent.
Camavinga was only 18 when he arrived here, but he had played around 2 years of top-flight football for Rennes, including a year of Champions League football. So fans had an idea of what they can expect from Camavinga, but there was still some talk regarding how he would fit in at Real Madrid. There was also some discussion regarding Camavinga’s best role, as he had the ability to play both as a No. 6 and a No. 8.
Ancelotti saw Camavinga as a CM, before slowly trying him out as a pivot
He started off as a central midfielder in Carlo Ancelotti’s team, making his debut against RC Celta Vigo as a substitute in the second half, and scored a rebound off a Modric shot, just six minutes after coming on. He had a great impact as a substitute against Inter Milan, claiming an assist for Rodrygo’s late goal, with a beautiful lob pass in the box.
He impressed the fans in his early days, playing as a No. 8. He looked like an attack-minded player, and his movement resembled that of a box-to-box midfielder. Real do have another box-to-box midfielder in Federico Valverde, but Camavinga is quite different from Fede, which I will explain below.
He finally got to play as a DM against Valencia, forming a double pivot along with Isco in an emergency situation. Camavinga said that he loves to play ahead of the defence, as a pivot, in his first press conference as a Madridista. And he did get to start in his favourite position soon, as he got a play as a DM alongside Valverde and Asensio in his first Real Madrid start against RCD Mallorca. His happiness was definitely reflected in his good display in the Bernabeu, in a game that Real Madrid won 6-1.
Eduardo Camavinga vs Mallorca | La Liga 21-22
Camavinga made his first start for Madrid against Mallorca, playing as the lone pivot. He showcased his abilities on the ball & frequently roamed forwards as well. His crisp passing helped Madrid move the ball quickly.
— Yash (@Odriozolite) September 23, 2021
Since then he started to play a lot for Real Madrid, both as a substitute and as an occasional starter and accumulated 809 minutes so far this season. He played both as a pivot, in games where Casemiro was unavailable and played the majority of the games as a central midfielder. And he has played his most recent game against Elche as the DM and was one of the best players on the pitch. He started off on a strong note, and with each game, we have been getting a greater idea of him, as the sample space is becoming bigger.
And after watching him for 5 months, I feel that he has been better as a No.8, compared to his performances as a No. 6. Camavinga feels the opposite and he has said that he likes to play as a defensive midfielder, but this time we have been right and Camavinga the CM is more suited to Real Madrid’s style of play.
Camavinga is more suited to Real Madrid’s system as a central midfielder
4-3-3 has been Real Madrid’s system this season, and it was used by Carlo Ancelotti in 2013/14 as well. The players who have played as the pivot under Carlo Ancelotti are Xabi Alonso and Casemiro. Both of them are quite different players, with Xabi Alonso being a player who controls the flow of the game and distributes the ball from the deep, while Casemiro is more of a defensive midfielder who relies more on his defensive attributes and doesn’t have a highly important on the ball role.
Casemiro is a decent long passer and he does get involved in distribution, but his role isn’t that evident as Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso. On a whole, they have been the No. 6 who fits into Carlo Ancelotti’s scheme of things well.
But when you look at Camavinga’s skill-set, the No. 6 role doesn’t look like a position that can bring the best out of him. He is a good passer and a decent tackler of the ball, but those aren’t his major strengths.
The passing numbers look fine, but when you watch him play, it can be clearly inferred that his passing range is limited. He mostly focuses on spreading play with short passes towards the wings (as you can observe on the pass map above), but he is kinda erratic with his passing at times. His pass success of 89% is a decent figure, but you just want a sense of security when your No. 6 has the ball at his feet. His tendency to showboat when there is no need is also another concern with his on-the-ball game. He is still young and is a bit raw, but he will learn with time and experience.
Coming to his defending, he has a habit of winning the ball by attempting a lot of slide tackles. But he is indisciplined when it comes to the timing and technique of the tackle. This has been one of the reasons why he has picked up 5 yellow cards already this season, as his miscalculated and somewhat reckless slide tackles have to lead to dangerous fouls. It has also led to Carlo Ancelotti subbing him off early in some games, to avoid the danger of being reduced to 10 men.
According to FBRef, he is in the 98th percentile for tackles won per 90, and in the 99th percentile for pressures per 90. He is a good ball-winner, but his discipline and positioning are the causes of concern. Real Madrid’s DM will always be exposed to counterattacks due to the team’s attacking football, and you just want your player to be in the right place at the right time to thwart the danger. At this age, where you want your player to learn more and grow, using him in such an important position for which he’s not completely prepared is not good for both the team and the individual.
It is always important to use young players to their strengths, and Camavinga’s main strength is his ability to act as a ball carrier. He is an excellent ball carrier, who is very pleasing to the eye and even the stats suggest the same. It looks as if he simply glides past players with the ball at his feet, and some work on his touch will make him even more effective.
He has also got an attacking edge to his game, and his off-the-ball movement in the final third looks very promising as he tends to make runs into spaces and positions himself well. When you combine his attacking instincts, great work rate, ball-winning abilities, and ball-carrying abilities, it would make complete sense to use him as a box-to-box midfielder or as a No. 8.
Perhaps his performance against Elche was his best game of the season, and his position on paper was that of a 6. But he played more as a box-to-box midfielder, and always looked to go high up the pitch and attack the opponents’ box, threatening the Elche goalkeeper with multiple testing shots. He did help the team a lot in attack, but sometimes his advanced positioning exposed the defence and made them susceptible to counterattacks. Even this proves the point that Camavinga is more suited to the No. 8 role, and using him there would give him greater freedom to express himself on the pitch.
Even Fede is a box-to-box player, but he is more of an explosive midfielder who can excel in transitions, and when facing a stationary defence he is pushed towards the right wing and it appears as if he’s playing as a right-midfielder or a right-winger. Camavinga isn’t as explosive, but he can play well in both transitions and possession plays. He has greater press resistance, which enables him to stay central and operate in half-spaces.
One shortcoming of Camavinga’s game at present is his decision-making because it will be important to produce an end product in the final third, as a box-to-box player. Camavinga was involved in a lot of counter-attacks in the last 10 mins of the Supercopa semifinal against Barcelona, but he let the team down with his erratic decision-making. After looking at Vinicius all these years, we can say that decision-making is something that will improve only with experience. So we just have to be patient and watch Camavinga grow as a player at Real Madrid.
At the moment, looking at his current gameplay, we can say for sure that he is better as a No. 8 when compared to his ability to play as a No. 6. It’s not like Camavinga can’t play in his favourite position, but it’s just that he can be much more useful when given freedom in a No. 8 position. The rough diamond needs some polishing and maturity before he is given the huge responsibility of playing as a pivot.