Moisés Caicedo’s Form at the Copa América is Good News for Chelsea

Moisés Caicedo has been Ecuador’s standout player at the Copa América. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Moisés Caicedo has been Ecuador’s standout player at the Copa América. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Moisés Caicedo’s Form at the Copa América is Good News for Chelsea

Moisés Caicedo has been Ecuador’s standout player at the Copa América. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Moisés Caicedo has been Ecuador’s standout player at the Copa América. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The pressure was on Moisés Caicedo to make an immediate impact following his big-money move last summer. Chelsea were hellbent on signing the midfielder and finally landed their man in August for a British record fee of £115m. Given the constant uncertainty at the club, though, a seamless transition from Brighton to the Blues was always going to be easier said than done.

To say Caicedo struggled in his opening months would be an understatement. As Christmas approached, Chelsea were in the bottom half of the table and it looked as if they had blown a fortune on Caicedo and his midfield partner Enzo Fernández, who was slow to adapt to the Premier League after his £106.8m move from Benfica. Liverpool had tried to sign Caicedo, offering Brighton £111m, and their fans were celebrating that he had turned them down. Jürgen Klopp also sounded relieved, saying: “Other central defensive midfielders didn’t want to join Liverpool. My god, we were lucky.”

Given Caicedo’s age and obvious quality, patience was required. And, as the season progressed, he began to improve and so did the team. After a humbling 4-2 defeat at home to Wolves in early February, Chelsea went on a brilliant run, losing just one of their last 15 games as they climbed from 11th to sixth in the table. Chelsea won their last five games of the campaign, enough to earn a place in Europe next season. And then they decided to sack Mauricio Pochettino. The dust had not even settled on the season before the Argentinian had been booted out and replaced by Enzo Maresca.

With two major international tournaments taking place this summer, the Italian will not have a close look at some of his core players until later this month. But he will be pleased to see that Caicedo is putting in the sort of performances at the Copa América that convinced Chelsea to sign him in the first place.

Ecuador held Mexico to a goalless draw on Monday to finish second in their group and book a place in the quarter-finals, where they will face Argentina. La Tri recovered well to secure their place in the knockout stages. They were beaten 2-1 by eventual group winners Venezuela in the first round of group games, Enner Valencia’s early red card hindering their chances. But Caicedo helped them pull through.

He provided the assist for Piero Hincapie’s opener in their 3-1 win over Jamaica last week and has been a rock in midfield throughout. The 22-year-old has made more tackles and interceptions combined (20) than any other player at the tournament, and only Sergio Pena (14) has won possession in the midfield third more times than the Ecuador international (13).

Moises Caicedo and William Pacho celebrate after Ecuador draw with Mexico and book their place in the quarter-finals.
His performances should excite Maresca. While Caicedo isn’t the same mould of holding midfielder that the Italian used for Leicester last season – Harry Winks was usually Leicester’s deepest lying midfielder and the former Tottenham man is more of an instigator than a destroyer – he is also tidy on the ball when he does win possession, as shown by a 90.8% pass success rate in the Premier League last season – the fourth best in the Chelsea squad.

His ball retention quality has been less of a feature at the Copa América given Ecuador’s low possession share of 39.5%. Even so, he has been their most efficient passer at the tournament, excellently combining the two key assets of a holding midfielder.

With Fernández expected to operate to the right of Caicedo and new signing Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to the left in Maresca’s favored 4-3-3 setup, Chelsea have the makings of a top-quality midfield trio. The £221m they spent on Caicedo and Fernández should start to look like a better investment this season. If they continue to improve, Chelsea will boast a dynamic, high-intensity midfield triumvirate that rivals any in the Premier League.

In the immediate future, Caicedo and Ecuador face a tough quarter-final against Argentina. The world champions and Copa América favosurites will enjoy a significant chunk of the ball at the NRG Stadium in Texas, having averaged more possession (66.5%) than any other team in the tournament. Lionel Scaloni’s men finished top of their group, winning all three games without conceding a goal. They even rested Lionel Messi, Julián Álvarez and Caicedo’s former Brighton teammate Alexis Mac Allister for their last group game, a 2-0 win against Peru, so Ecuador will be up against it.

With the youngster shielding the backline, Ecuador stand a better chance of upsetting the favourites but it will take a monumental effort to keep this Argentina attack at bay. They have not beaten Argentina in nearly a decade but, if Caicedo maintains his form, this quarter-final will not be a walk in the park for Scaloni’s side.

The Guardian Sport



Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A special kind of iron curtain came down across central Paris on Thursday, with the beginning of an Olympic anti-terrorism perimeter along the banks of the River Seine sealing off a kilometers-long area to Parisians and tourists who hadn’t applied in advance for a pass.
The words on many lips were “QR code,” the pass that grants access beyond snaking metal barriers that delineate the security zone set up to protect the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on July 26.
“I didn’t know it started today,” said Emmanuelle Witt, a 35-year-old communications freelancer who was stopped by police near the Alma bridge while biking across town. She desperately went on her phone to fill out the online form to get her QR code, unaware that the vetting process could take several days, The Associated Press reported.
Those with the precious code – either on their phones or printed out on pieces of paper – passed smoothly past police checkpoints at gaps in the barriers taller than most people.
Those without got mostly turned away – with no amount of grumbling and cajoling making officers budge.
“That’s too much, that’s over the top, that whole thing is a pain,” grumbled Nassim Bennamou, a delivery man who was denied access to the street leading to Notre Dame Cathedral on his scooter.
“Even the GPS is confused, I have no idea how I’m going to work today,” he added.
While authorities announced the code system last year and have been meeting with local residents for months to explain the restrictions, not everyone was aware. Officers patiently explained to visitors without the pass how to reach iconic Paris monuments without going through the restricted zone.
“We had no idea we needed a QR code,” said Takao Sakamoto, 55, who was denied access to the Eiffel Tower near the Bir Hakeim Metro station. Visiting from Japan with his wife, he took a photo of the tower from a distance, behind fences and police cars. “That will do,” Sakamoto remarked with despair.
On the other hand, visitors who were lucky enough to come across officers who leniently let them pass without QR codes and others who'd equipped themselves with them were treated to the sight of near-empty riverside boulevards that, in normal times, heave with traffic.
“There's no one around!” sang a happy cyclist on a street he had largely to himself. With police seemingly everywhere, another man walking past a riverside café with fewer than usual customers loudly quipped: “You can leave your money and cell phones on the tables, there's definitely no thieves!”
“It’s surreal, it really feels like we’re the only ones here,” said Sarah Bartnicka from Canada. Enjoying a morning jog with a friend, the 29-year-old took a selfie with a police officer on the deserted Iéna bridge to capture the moment.
Paris has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks, most notably in 2015. Up to 45,000 police and gendarmes as well as 10,000 soldiers are being deployed for Olympic security.
“I understand why they’re doing this,” said Carla Money, a 64-year-old American who managed to pass the barriers with her family.
Some business owners inside the security zone grumbled that sharply reduced foot-fall would hurt their bottom line.
“They’ve locked me up like a prisoner," said Raymond Pignol. His restaurant, L'Auberge Café, near the Pont Neuf that spans the Seine, is just inside the metal fencing.
The perimeter went into effect early Thursday morning and will last through the ceremony. As an exception, Paris has decided to hold the opening of its first Games in a century on the river rather than in a stadium, like previous host cities. Most of the river security measures will be lifted after the show.
Officers were under instructions to be polite and patient as employees on their way to work and others dealt with the perimeter and the passes for the first time. But Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said that after the initial 24 hours of being accommodating, officers would apply the rules much more firmly, with no more looking the other way for those without QR codes.