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Moisés Caicedo: The perfect fit for Chelsea

Scouting report

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Are certain thoughts keeping you up at night? Who is Moisés Caicedo? How is Moisés Caicedo? Why did Chelsea pay so much for him? Why should you trust a dentist’s recommended toothpaste considering they make money from your teeth being damaged?

Well, we’re here to answer all those questions, except the last one.


Who is Moisés Caicedo?

Caicedo was born in Santo Domingo de los Colorados of Ecuador and he is the youngest child of ten siblings. He began his youth career playing for Mujer Trabajadora and played for their football school until 2014.

In 2015, he joined a local side named Colorados Jaipadida, an affiliate of CD ESPOLI, where he played for one season and due to his potential, was even invited to train with ESPOLI. Unfortunately, ESPOLI got relegated.

This saw Caicedo go to Independiente del Valle in 2016 and this is where his career became interesting.

But first, in 2017, he would a suffer a cruciate ligament rupture which caused him to sit out of action for 10 months. (Fofana and Nkunku PTSD intensifies) Despite that, once Caicedo came back into youth team, their manager, Yuri Solano mentioned that Caicedo’s athleticism “set him apart from the rest at that time.”

He continued to set himself apart, rising quickly through the ranks and was soon featuring for their first team playing as a defensive midfielder and later as a box-to-box midfielder to accommodate the form of Cristian Pellerano at that time. It was this shift to box-to-box where people started noticing Caicedo’s athleticism, technique and other gifts; earning him the move to Brighton and that brings us to now.

FBL-WC-2022-ECU-URU Photo by JOSE JACOME/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

What makes Moisés Caicedo special?

While looking for a defensive midfielder, certain attributes stand out. It’s very rare for someone to excel in all the relevant ones.

Quiz: What is Caicedo great at?
Please mark your option in the comments: A) Progressing the ball from deeper positions. B) Being a great tackler of the ball. C) Extremely high stamina and work rate.

Answer: All of the above.

Ball progression from deeper positions (low errors + progressive passes)

This often overlooked yet crucial strength of Caicedo is what makes him an ideal fit for Chelsea. While his athleticism, tackling and defensive attributes are often highlighted, and rightly so, his ability to play quick, error-free passes while building out from the back often gets underplayed. (Yes yes, he conceded the penalty against West Ham but we did throw him in the deep end directly and from the way he played, he looked unfit. Probably due to lack of a proper preseason.)

However, context matters and in Chelsea’s case, especially considering our terrible performance last season, ball progression from deeper positions is extremely important. Last season, Chelsea made the second highest number of errors that led to goal, just behind the wonderfully managed Everton.

With football’s evolving nature, errors won’t decrease. Merely hoofing the ball with goalkeepers won’t solve this issue either. Football teams are pressing more and more nowadays and that press causes the ball to go backwards as higher up the pitch the ball goes, the more of a numerical advantage your opposition has, leading to an even more intense press.

This causes the ball to eventually end up with your deeper players and if they’re not good with ball progression through pressing, errors will be made and lead to goals conceded. So how do you fix it?

Low number of errors made by Caicedo despite Brighton’s insistence to invite pressure and play out from the back, even against the best pressing teams

Well, what do we have here? Caicedo makes an extremely low number of errors, despite how aggressively Brighton build from the back, especially under De Zerbi, constantly inviting pressure.

In fact, the low numbers of clearances shows that Caicedo is not a player who wants to hoof the ball, instead wants to build from the back through quick short and medium passes. But, just because you don’t clear the ball and you don’t make errors, doesn’t make you good at ball progressions right? We have all seen those players who stat-pad themselves by making 1000s of backwards passes (you all know who I am talking about).

Caicedo’s passing as compared to Casemiro and Rice

Caicedo makes quite a high number of progressive passes. While his numbers are below Casemiro and Declan Rice, we can presume that Caicedo’s numbers would be higher if not for De Zerbi’s system, which doesn’t allow for too many long passes. Caicedo’s short passing numbers are miles ahead of Rice and Casemiro, medium range passing numbers are comparable to Rice and way better than Casemiro.

When you mix the 78th percentile for progressive passes with the low number of errors and Brighton’s risky system, you see a player who is very much an amazing progressive passer of the ball but also the cleanest out of the three. Additionally, Caicedo is in the top 81st percentile for passes into the final third.

So, is that it? Is Caicedo amazing at being press resistant? Well, then why the record transfer fee? Jorginho was also great at passing out from the back.

That’s where the next attribute comes in.

Defence

Caicedo loves to defend, he loves to intercept. He may not be the best but he is certainly better than most.

Defence comparison by Casemiro and Rice

Caicedo is a way better tackler than Declan Rice but obviously, not as amazing as Casemiro. Honestly, when it comes to just the tackling side of things, Casemiro is probably the best in the last few years (especially since N’Golo Kanté has become constantly injured).

However, what’s important to notice is that Caicedo is better at interceptions than Casemiro. He has that innate sense of picking the ball off opposition mid-pass rather than always tackling the guy on the ball.

So, not only is Caicedo good at defending, but he is very much a player you can rely on when building from the back, and that is the most crucial aspect for the way that Chelsea are trying to play and the vision of the club. That combination is what makes him rare: being press resistant & defensively sound.


Where can Caicedo improve?

There are two areas where he is currently lacking, one of them I believe will improve over time and one of them, I do not believe he will:

  1. Goals and assists (doubtful this improves)
  2. Take-ons & carries (he has shown glimpses of talent here and this can improve with training)

Goals and assists

Simply put, Caicedo is not a player who will directly create or score the goals for your team. His volume of shots is too low and while his passes into the final third are good, his touches in the final third are only in the 59th percentile.

Additionally, his shot-creating actions from live ball passes are just in the 65th percentile. It’s not that he is simply unlucky with his assists and players are not finishing their chances; he simply doesn’t make enough shot-creating passes for his teammates. His key passes are in the 66th percentile and his goal-creating actions are even worse, languishing between the 35th and 40th percentiles.

Considering how we have Enzo Fernández, Carney Chukwuemeka, Christopher Nkunku, Mykhailo Mudryk, etc. in the squad, this is not an attribute which we need from Caicedo. He is not like Casemiro, who will get a lot of blocks and tackles at your end, and he is not a player who will dominate the opposition’s end through chances and goals, but Caicedo will ensure that everything between the centre backs and the final third is under control.

Take-ons & carries

Caicedo is no Mateo Kovačić, it’s fair to say right now. Caicedo’s progressive carries are on the lower side and his take-ons (attempted and completed) are also on the lower side).

Currently lacking in carries but his technique and athleticism can see this aspect improve

However, this is the aspect that I can see improving. His first touch is often good and he has the sleight feints and turns on lock, but right now he does not utilize those attributes to their maximum potential.

If I were Pochettino, this is what I would put down as a “must-improve”. And Caicedo definitely has the potential to improve this and make this a strength of his game.


What makes Caicedo such a great fit and why did we pay (almost) a record fee?

Caicedo is press-resistant, a great interceptor, and good tackler but still, why such a large fee? Why were there months of negotiation and why did Chelsea refuse to move on to other targets?

Big part of the answer is our other £100m midfielder, Enzo Fernández. As good as he was last season, what we saw was not where we want to see him play. Since we were struggling to play out from the back against a high press last season, Enzo got pushed into a deeper role since he is the only press-resistant midfielder we had with good passing (especially after the sale of Jorginho). Effectively, Enzo was being sacrificed so we did not get ripped apart but that’s not his best position. Enzo is a No.8, not a No.6.

Enzo’s drop in shot and goal creating actions last season after arrival at Chelsea

Enzo’s shot- and goal-creating actions were both down. Of course, this is also down to the bad finishing of others, but it’s also down to Enzo being played way deeper than at Benfica.

His touches in our own penalty box have more than doubled and his touches in the attacking third have reduced significantly. Carries into the penalty box are also down as compared to the first half at Benfica. So are his crosses.

Enzo operating deeper last season at Chelsea than his time at Benfica

Pochettino should know that Enzo is way more effective higher up the pitch, and we have indeed seen that in the first two games (with Conor Gallagher — also not a No.6 — and then Caicedo playing deepest agianst West Ham).

Enzo’s heatmap against Liverpool under Pochettino

Final thoughts

So how do we ensure that Chelsea are able to push Enzo higher up the pitch without increasing the errors in build up but at the same time ensuring we are solid in defence?

Well, Moisés Caicedo!

Being the stereotypical athletic defensive midfielder capable of interceptions and tackles would have made him a good signing already. His error-free ball progression through accurate short- and mid-range passing is what him a great option our midfield, and a perfect partner to Enzo.

Chelsea Unveil New Signing Moises Caicedo Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
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