Real Madrid has made its way to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League by going through a hard route. Los Blancos won the ties late in the second legs of their Round of 16 and Quarter-final clashes against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea respectively, and their substitutes played a huge role in winning the game for Real Madrid. One such player whose freshness and energy off the bench proved to be very useful for Real Madrid is Eduardo Camavinga.
The 19-year-old midfielder, who’s in his first season at Real Madrid following his 30 million euro transfer from Rennes, had a great start to this season, with a goal against Celta Vigo in his LaLIga debut and an assist against Inter Milan on his Champions League debut. He did struggle during some part of this season, but now he’s back into form and has proved to be a reliable option for Carlo Ancelotti.
Camavinga’s incredible performances against PSG and Chelsea prove that he deserves more minutes. Coincidentally, he had replaced Toni Kroos in both the games, a player who isn’t playing at his best level these days. Looking at the form of other players like Luka Modric and Fede Valverde, the only position where Camavinga can get chances is in that of Toni Kroos. By saying this I don’t mean any disrespect to Toni Kroos, who has been a great servant to Real Madrid, nor do I mean that Camavinga should become Real Madrid’s definite starter, ahead of Toni Kroos.
But I think Camavinga can get more opportunities in Toni Kroos’ position, either in the form of earlier substitutions or starting opportunities through rotations. There are many reasons to support this argument, and let us have a look at three such reasons which support the Frenchman’s case.
1. Camavinga can deliver what Carlo Ancelotti expects from his midfielders
Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics earlier this season focused on an ultra-attacking style of football, which slowly turned into a slower possession-based approach during the middle of the season. But during these last two to three months of the season, Real Madrid’s possession-based approach’s effectiveness has decreased, due to the exhaustion of the team’s main midfielders, Kroos, Modric, and Casemiro. They’re being outrun by the opponent midfield at times, and there has been an overall decrease in the press resistance of Real Madrid’s midfield.
Due to this, Carlo Ancelotti has changed his approach from a control-based one to a more intense and physical approach, expecting his players to press more and focus on winning the ball high up the field, be stronger in defence, and have a quicker approach to the game. But he didn’t change the personnel, and this only proved to be more detrimental to Toni Kroos, who has already been overused a lot this season. Even Modric struggled in some games, but he did eventually adjust to the tactics.
The change in tactics hasn’t been implemented well by Carlo Ancelotti, and his decision to stick to the same midfield trio while using these tactics saw Real Madrid being clueless in some of the games, and easily being outrun by the opponents. The El Clasico of March was a total disaster, as the team was completely clueless and players like Modric and Kroos were asked to press the centre-backs.
The second leg against PSG wasn’t any different, but Carlo Ancelotti’s in-game decision to bring on Camavinga for Kroos in the second half proved to be a game-changing one. The Frenchman’s main strengths are his ball-winning abilities, work rate, and ball-carrying abilities, which he put to great use against PSG. He played a deeper role and controlled the game from the deep, while also winning the ball quickly and launching it forward.
Ancelotti devised a temporary solution of using Fede Valverde as the fourth midfielder (though he was a right-winger on paper), to help Kroos and Modric in the midfield, and that helped Real outnumber Chelsea’s two-man midfield in the first leg with relative ease. But it didn’t work that well against Chelsea’s three-man midfield in the second leg, with Mason Mount often acting as the fourth midfielder.
Chelsea dominated the game for a lot of time, but once again, it was Camavinga’s introduction that changed the momentum. He put in an incredible display, that can be explained even better using the territory map below. The Frenchman played a hand in Real Madrid’s both goals as well, as his pressure forced N’Golo Kante into a giveaway for the first goal, and he latched onto Thiago SIlva’s loose pass before releasing Vinicius down the left, for the second goal.
One thing is clear from Camavinga’s recent performances, he has never failed Carlo Ancelotti. His performances are something that the world needs to notice. His defensive contribution, aerial dominance, high pressing, ball recoveries, decent distribution, and occasional goal threat are everything that Carlo Ancelotti expects from his central midfielders, and the teenager has delivered. This in itself is enough to talk about how Camavinga deserves more opportunities. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Ancelotti needs to rotate Kroos more, to give a chance to Real Madrid’s No. 25. Let us have a look at another reason why Kroos is the one who should be rested.