With the impending departure of Phil Bardsley, Sunderland may soon be in a situation where they have no senior, recognised right-backs in the squad. A predicament that shouldn't last too long due to the rumoured arrival of Luis Pedro Cavanda from SS Lazio.
22-year-old Cavanda was first linked with a move to Wearside in January but a move for the player seemed unlikely then due to the player being a first team regular and Lazio rumoured to be offering the player a contract until 2017. However with the contract situation rumbling on, the player was relegated to the youth side as punishment and, with his contract expiring in 2014, a move away from the Stadio Olimpico became a certainty.
Earlier this month, Sky Italia claimed we were close to finalising a deal for the right-back, then came reports that we'd agreed terms with Cavanda and were just haggling over a fee and then a report yesterday that said Lazio were close to signing a replacement, which would then free Cavanda to complete his move once he returns from holiday.
Luis Pedro Cavanda is an Angolan born Belgium under-21 international. He and his family moved to Belgium when he was very young and he played for various Belgian youth sides before he was snapped up by Standard Liege. He was only at Standard Liege for a little over a season before he was on the radar of Lazio, however the move to Rome was anything but smooth with Cavanda angrily seeking his exit during the 2007-08 season after he was left out of a pre-season training camp, things dragged on until the following transfer window when the transfer was finally concluded.
He quickly rose through the ranks at Lazio and made a name for himself as one to watch, so much so that he made his debut as an 18-year-old in the Europa League, when he started against Levski Sofia during the 09/10 season. The following season saw him in and amongst the Lazio first team, including a notable performance against AC Milan when he completely nullified the threat of Ronaldinho, to such an extent he was given a standing ovation when he was substituted a couple of minutes before the end.
He then had a couple of long loan spells, at Torino and Bari, but was scarcely used by both clubs and his career at Lazio looked to have stalled. Then in the summer of 2012, the Lazio coach, Vladimir Petkovic, was sufficiently impressed with the defender that he became an important member of the Lazio squad for the 12/13 season, was playing regularly and looked to have cemented his Lazio future before the contract stand-off meant both parties agreed a transfer was in both their interests.
Now that's out of the way, what kind of player is he?
Standing 6'3", Cavanda is noted for his exceptional pace and power, coupled with a good engine, Cavanda is able to get up and down the flank for the entire game. Although able to play left-back, Cavanda is primarily a right-back and after suffering the likes of Gardner and Bardsley at right-back in recent years, Cavanda should be a breath of fresh air by providing width from the full-back position.
One player who should particularly benefit from Cavanda's arrival is Adam Johnson, often doubled up on last season with our right-backs stationed on the half-way line, Johnson will have no such problem this season with Cavanda overlapping on regular occasions, which should allow him to cut inside without being double-teamed.
Surprisingly mobile for such a big player, Cavanda also provides real aerial presence in both boxes. As well as being relatively comfortable on the ball, he will usually attempt to pass to his team-mates on the floor (Yes, that is actually allowed in the laws of the game) and will occasionally play a quick one-two in an attempt to get an attack going.
Unfortunately, just when he sounds like the perfect full-back, we come to his weaknesses.
Despite being a physical presence, he doesn't always make best use of that strength, with him being eased off the ball a little easily at times. He can also be positionally suspect, although he can often recover any errors caused by being out of position due to his pace. He has improved tactically since he broke through, keeping Bale quiet in the Europa League last season as an example, but that is an area of his game that can be improved.
He can also be a little temperamental, he left Standard Liege under something of a cloud due to a dispute and the same has happened at Lazio, although that was more because he didn't sign a new contract rather than down to his temperament. It should still be a bit of a worry that he's left both of his clubs on less than amicable terms but hopefully he will finally find a club in Sunderland where he can settle down and realise his potential.
He also caused a bit of a storm earlier in his career when he threw his Lazio shirt to the floor and stormed off in disgust after being substituted.
To sum up;
- Fast, athletic and powerful
- Will provide width from full-back
- Should be the perfect foil for Adam Johnson
- Good in the air
- Suspect positionally and tactically
- Has been temperamental in the past
- Not a lot of experience
On paper, Cavanda is everything Sunderland have been missing from the right-back position and will hopefully provide a similar boost down our right flank that Danny Rose provided down the left last season. Recently linked to Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City, should Sunderland complete his signing it should be seen as something of a coup and he has the potential and is so suited to the Premier League that he could be one of the big revelations of the season.