In paying £115m for Moises Caicedo, Chelsea made the Ecuadorian the most expensive player in Premier League history. The Blues chased Caicedo for close to a year with their first interest in the midfielder registered before he starred at the 2022 World Cup. They had a long time to figure out how he would fit into their team.
Caicedo has endured a challenging start to life at Stamford Bridge. His cameo off the bench against West Ham on his Chelsea debut was something of a disaster-class with the midfielder at fault for giving away a penalty. Caicedo was more comfortable against Luton Town, but he was hardly outstanding.
To date, Caicedo has been used in a deep role by Mauricio Pochettino with the 21-year-old partnering Conor Gallagher as one half of a double pivot. Enzo Fernandez has been deployed higher up the pitch, although the Argentine has dropped in to create a central midfield trio during matches this season.
“I never worked with [N’Golo] Kante but he [Caicedo] is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League,” Pochettino said about Caicedo after the 3-0 win over Luton. “He has some similar characteristics to Kante but Moises is still young and needs to work really hard to improve in different areas. But he has the potential to be one of the best.”
It’s certainly true that Caicedo can play to a high level as a number six. He could be Chelsea’s Kante successor. However, this role limits what the Ecuadorian can offer. Pochettino is restricting what his team can get out of Caicedo who is a more rounded player than the Chelsea manager seems to realise.
At Brighton, Caicedo was a two-way operator. He provided a barrier in front of the defensive line and broke up opposite attacks, but he was also given the freedom to drive forward in his own right. It was this ability to go both ways that made Caicedo such a special talent for Roberto De Zerbi’s team.
This was surely one of the things that attracted Chelsea to Caicedo in the first place. The Blues have frequently used a double pivot in the centre of the pitch over the last season or so, so it was reasonable to assume the Brighton man would be a good fit for their style of play. That could still prove to be the case.
Christopher Nkunku’s injury could be a factor in why Caicedo is currently being used as a midfield anchor. With Nkunku unavailable, Fernandez has been used as a member of the Chelsea front three whereas the Argentine international would be more comfortable in an orthodox central midfield position.
Once Nkunku is back, he might slot into the attacking line which would subsequently push Fernandez back into central midfield, potentially alongside Caicedo as a double pivot. That could see the £115m star truly flourish as the player Chelsea need him to be. That might push his game to an even higher level.
Chelsea under Pochettino remain a work-in-progress. There has been so much squad turnover at Stamford Bridge that it will take some time for all the moving pieces to settle over the course of the season. Caicedo, however, has been signed to be a central pillar of Pochettino’s team. The £115m paid for him represents a long-term investment.
Caicedo’s Chelsea career won’t be defined by his first two performances against West Ham and Luton Town, but Pochettino must learn from the way the Ecuadorian has struggled at times. For £115m, Chelsea have indeed secured themselves one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. They must, however, allow him to play to his full potential.