Moisés Caicedo is so important to Independiente del Valle that earlier this year he flew repeatedly between Paraguay and Ecuador, ensuring he could play regularly for Independiente’s first team, while also competing for their youth side in the Under-20 Libertadores. Will Savage has the low-down on the twice-capped Ecuadorian.
MOISÉS CAICEDO WAS PLAYER BORN IN THE 21st CENTURY TO SCORE IN CONMEBOL WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
MOISÉS CAICEDO IS ALREADY AN ESTABLISHED SENIOR PLAYER
For a midfielder, who is still only 18, to be so important for one of Ecuador’s most prominent and best run teams, while also picking up his first international cap and goal, goes some way to show how exciting his emergence has been.
Caicedo is an interesting player to describe; for a footballer still as relatively inexperienced as he is, it is remarkable how well rounded and complete he is.
If this profile was being written in the first half of 2020, I would be writing about his potential as a traditional South American defensive midfielder, waxing lyrical about how his positional sense makes him the ideal player to anchor a midfielder. After all that’s the role that he most frequently played in youth football.
Now, however, it would be easy to watch Caicedo play and assume he has been playing as an aggressive box-to-box midfielder since he was a child, given how naturally the position comes to him.
HOW DOES MOISÉS CAICEDO FIT IN TACTICALLY AT SENIOR LEVEL?
To give some context to how his traits as a player manifest on the pitch, Independiente nominally set up in a 4-1-4-1, although the positional demands on the players mean it rarely looks that simple.
As the deepest midfielder, Caicedo is largely tasked in possession with dropping in between the centre backs, often the deepest player outfield player in the build up.
His mature passing in this role varies from short passes to recycle possession in the first line of the build up, and more ambitious passes to progress the ball.
His impressive reading of the game and ability to regularly find angles to receive the ball and play through the first line of the press makes him an ideal player for this role.
When he plays further forward however, the demands placed upon him are quite different. The more advanced midfielders almost vacate the midfield, moving in between the opposition midfielders, and often beyond the midfield line, almost playing in the hole.
This gives the full backs the freedom to stay wide or come inside as they see fit. It’s a role that requires impressive positional discipline, which he has in spades.
He tends to take up spaces in the right half space or the centre of the pitch, depending on the position of the ball.
He rarely drifts out to the wing unless there’s a need to provide width; the movements he does make tend to be more focused on providing depth, dropping deeper to help progress the ball, or making forward runs.
With a little coaching, his third man runs could be a regular source of joy for a side looking to break down a deep defence.
What’s even more interesting is what he does in the other phases of play. When Independiente win the ball back, his actions naturally vary depending on the situation.
He makes runs into the area if there is space, but in his head he retains a map of the pitch, and it is not uncommon for him to maintain his position, or even move deeper, if there are numbers flooding forwards from other positions during attacking transitions.
When Independiente are defending, their midfield often has a loose man marking system.
Their midfielders are tasked with keeping an eye on opposition midfielders, but not necessarily sticking tight to them; it’s a fluid enough system that allows players to leave their man if the situation requires it.
Although Caicedo does a passable job in such situations, at times it feels like he is uncertain as to whether he should stick with the opponent or move towards the ball.
This possible lack of focus in certain defensive situations is a weakness in his game that shows up even more when defending set pieces.
Caicedo is often tasked with man-marking opponents, but it’s a task that he struggles with, often more focused on making sure his opponent doesn not get the better of him than he is at attacking the ball.
That being said, when Independiente have an attacking set piece, Caicedo is often the player tasked with acting as the deepest outfield player; that is a lot of responsibility, but again goes to show the level of trust that he has earned already.
MOISÉS CAICEDO'S STYLE OF PLAY
Caicedo’s physical profile the easiest part of his game to describe. He’s an absolute dynamo; if they wired him up to the grid they could probably power half of Ecuador.
He has a good turn of pace and never stops running. He looks a little lightly built, and this can show from time to time when situations call for a little more physicality; that being said, he turns 19 in November, so it’s to be expected that he’ll fill out over time. That physicality is an important part of his game too.
Technically speaking, Caicedo is solid, if not spectacular. I don’t mean that turn of phrase to do him a disservice. He has a good range of passing and he often mixes it up well.
While players his age sometimes feel the need to force the issue when on the ball; he usually moves the ball on quickly and makes a run into another position to receive it, but from time to time he tries something a little more expansive, playing a longer pass to progress the ball or find a teammate in a dangerous area.
When space opens up for him, he needs no invitation to drive forward with the ball, and he offers the ability to either win fouls in midfield, or progress the ball past a defensive line and open up space, both valuable tools for a midfielder to have.
Caicedo also offers a goal threat from range, on the occasions where he does get further forward.
All that being said, he still seems raw at times. His close control can be inconsistent and aesthetically he can look clumsy at times, although that may be inevitable with a player who is the very embodiment of all action.
This clumsiness is most easily spotted when opponents dribble towards Caicedo’s weak side, an observer doesn’t have to watch him for a long time to see stretch with his right leg to an opponent on the opposite side of his body.
Given the regularity with which that kind of defensive action can give away fouls, there’s no doubt that any prospective coach will look to correct that from his game quickly.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR MOISÉS CAICEDO?
Even considering the sins of youth he needs to do away with, Luvumbo is an exciting young player, with great potential and a very strong attitude.
“He’s a quiet guy, who works hard every single day,” remarked Angolan journalist Avelino Kiala in a recent interview.
“Despite his age, he has complete control over his emotions and just loves a challenge.”
It is also because of these personality traits that so many big clubs showed interest in him.
The list is long, ranging from Manchester City to West Ham, Boavista, Anderlecht and even Flamengo, among others.
The young winger went as far as to have a trial with Manchester United in 2019 but, in the end, it was Serie A outfit Cagliari that had him pen down a five-year deal in September 2020.
As far as the national team is concerned, he can be quite confident about his spot in the squad.
Last year, Pedro Gonçalves was appointed head coach and the Portuguese knows Luvumbo very well, having coached him in Angola’s under-17 team; nor is he afraid to bet on young players, as proved by Pablo Cambuta, Maestro, Domingos Andrade and the rest of the group of 15-year-olds he debuted at under-17 level.
Moreover, Gonçalves heavily relies on a 4-2-3-1 scheme with wide wingers, perfect for the Serie A newboy.
In Italy, his aggressive and very vertical idea of football could prove either a blessing or a curse for the young winger.
Eusebio Di Francesco often deploys a 4-3-3 formation, but has proven multiple times to be not an absolute integralist and to be able to adjust his system in order for it to suit the men at his disposal.
In any case, his tactics heavily rely on the wingers, who have the freedom to cut back and carry the ball forward in attacking transitions, as well as to converge towards the box as soon as the centre-forward is tasked with playmaking responsibilities.
Luvumbo might fit very well into such a system, and his dynamism is absolutely suitable for a coach that asks for swiftness in attack and requires players on the same flank to continuously interchange positions.
However, out of possession is where we can imagine Di Francesco losing his cool more often, with the Angolan always willing to rush forward no matter what, whereas the coach demands a quick switch to a 4-5-1 setup, with the wingers instrumental to close ranks.
In a nutshell, there are very few doubts that Luvumbo’s technical and physical qualities can be useful to the former Roma manager.
If anything, some worries loom over his ability to channel this incredible explosiveness and desire to dribble past the whole world into tactical awareness that require a level of concentration much higher than what he was used to in his native land.
“He has a lot of quality, and he’s very skilful, but he’s more used to playing by himself rather than with the others,” Di Francesco himself recently declared.
Zito is working hard to get rid of this shortcoming and make Angola proud of him.