Arnaud Kalimuendo – The Former PSG Prospect Spearheading Rennes’ Youthful Attack by Shay Hicks
Name – Arnaud Kalimuendo-Muinga
Nationality – French/Congolese
D.O.B – 20/02/2002 (20 years old)
Height – 175cm (5’9″)
Strong Foot – Right
Current Club – Stade Rennais
Position – Centre Forward
Value – £22.0m (via Transfermarkt)
Arnaud Kalimuendo is a young French striker who is currently carving out his spot in a very talented Stade Rennais squad. Arriving in the summer of 2022 from PSG for around £18m, Arnaud came to the city of Rennes with lofty expectations. Rennes are a team which is renowned for its development of numerous young players, either signed from other clubs at a young age or brought through their own academy, and Arnaud is primed and ready to break out and become the clubs next big success story.
Born in the Parisian commune of Suresnes to Congolese parents, Kalimuendo pursued football from a young age. He would start his journey with local youth football club FC Saint Cloud in 2008, and played there for 3 years until joining Paris Saint-Germain’s youth system at the age of 9. His performances for the youth team would impress many people at PSG, with the highlight of his tenure being his performances in the prestigious Alkass under-17 International Cup in January 2018, which PSG would go on to win with a 2-1 victory over Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol in the final. His international career also began to blossom in 2018, as he was handed his debut in a friendly against Portugal in May. He would make an appearance as a substitute and even managed to score the deciding goal in a 2-1 victory. Arnaud’s performances would eventually lead to PSG’s then-under 19’s coach Thiago Motta handing Arnaud a place in his squad at just 16 years old.
Thiago was clearly very impressed by Kalimuendo, as he was quickly made the first-choice striker and was even named as captain of the squad despite his age. He would, however, meet Motta’s high expectations, becoming the teams’ main talisman rather quickly. This would be highlighted by his performances in PSG’s brief appearances in the UEFA Youth League in the 2018/19 season, where Arnaud would net 5 goals along with an assist as they were knocked out by Hertha Berlin in the intermediate stage. Kalimuendo was rewarded for his hard work in July of 2019, when he was handed his first ever professional contract by PSG. His domestic performances also didn’t go unnoticed by his national team, and whilst he didn’t make the squad for the Under-17 European Championships, he was an important member of Jean-Claude Guintini’s squad for the Under-17 World Cup in November 2019. He would make an appearance in every game and score 5 goals, just one goal shy of equalling the tally of the tournament’s Golden Boot winner (Dutchman Sontje Hansen) as France finished third at the tournament. Arnaud saved his best performance for last, contributing an impressive perfect hat-trick as France beat The Netherlands 3-1 in the third-place playoff match.
The 2019/20 season would be an important one for Arnaud, as his consistent performances for the PSG and French youth teams would finally earn him recognition from then-first team coach Thomas Tuchel. He made his first senior matchday squads for PSG early in the season, being named an unused substitute in back-to-back Ligue 1 games against Lyon and Reims. He would also start working his way up the ranks of the French youth teams, scoring a goal in his debut appearance in a 5-1 win against Paraguay and going on to score 3 more goals in 4 matches. He would even make a cameo appearance for the under-21 squad, coming on as a substitute and playing just under half an hour in a 1-0 win against Slovakia in an under-21 European Championship qualifying match. Focusing back on his domestic football, he would continue to have success in the UEFA Youth League, with the highlight undoubtedly being a hat-trick against Real Madrid in a 6-3 loss. His exploits for the youth squad would earn him further appearances in matchday squads for the PSG first team, including appearing at the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League vs Atalanta and the Coupe De La Ligue Final against Lyon, although he failed to make an appearance in either match.
If the previous season was Arnaud’s coming out party in Youth tournaments, then the 2020/21 season was his grand unveiling to senior football and Ligue 1 as a whole. Initially, Kalimuendo would stay at PSG, making his full senior debut in a 1-0 loss to Lens in early September. He would go on to be an unused substitute in 3 more fixtures and miss the squad entirely in 2 others, before finalising a loan move to fellow Ligue 1 club RC Lens. Lens manager Franck Haise would show his faith in Arnaud from day one, immediately placing him in his matchday squads and handing him 2 substitute appearances against Lille and Reims. He would earn his first start for Lens the following matchday, appearing as a Left Winger as opposed to his natural position of Centre Foward. This would make little difference to Arnaud, however, as he would score his first ever senior goal in a 1-0 win over Dijon. He would frequently switch between the starting 11 and the bench for the remainder of the season, being used primarily as a Centre Forward. He would play a pivotal role for Lens, scoring 7 goals and providing 5 assists in just 14 starts as Lens finished 6th in Ligue 1, painfully missing out on European qualification by just a single point in their first season back in Ligue 1. Internationally, Kalimuendo’s goalscoring exploits earned him his first call-up to the French under-21 squad in October 2020. He was initially ruled out of contention to make the squad for the Under-21 European Championships in late March due to a knee injury, but he would return quickly and was an unused sub in a 2-1 loss to The Netherlands in the Quarter-Finals.
The following season would follow the same trends, as Arnaud would initially remain with PSG. He started in the Trophée Des Champions, playing 81 minutes as a Left Winger in a 1-0 loss to Lille. Kalimuendo would make two more league appearances as a late sub before being loaned back out to RC Lens for the season. This time around, Arnaud would quickly nail down a place in the starting 11, almost exclusively as the Centre Forward. His form for the over-achieving Lens would finally earn him his France under-21 debut, appearing as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Macedonia in an under- 21 European Championship qualifying match. He would make his full debut 4 days later, although it was a day to forget for the young French squad as they drew 1-1 with the Faroe Islands. He would go on to score 3 goals in 10 total appearances for the French under-21s. Arnaud would improve in almost every way domestically for Lens, starting 27 games and almost doubling his tally from the previous season with 12 league goals. Sadly, the club would narrowly miss out on European qualification yet again, finishing the season in 7th place, just 4 points away from 5th-placed Nice.
Many clubs were linked with a move for Kalimuendo in the summer of 2022, with most people presuming he would be too expensive for Lens to make a permanent move for him (they would instead opt to sign young Belgian prospect Loïs Openda from Club Brugge and Polish striker Adam Buksa from MLS side New England Revolution for a combined £14m), yet not quite at the level to compete for regular playing time in the PSG squad. Premier League clubs Nottingham Forest and Leeds United were reportedly very close to acquiring the French talisman, but he would ultimately reject both clubs in favour of a move to Stade Rennais, a club which is well-known for their player development. In recent times, players such as Raphinha, Ismaïla Sarr and Edouard Mendy have signed for the club as lowkey prospects, only to be sold on for huge profits a few years later. Rennes were clearly eyeing Arnaud as a player who had a similar level of potential, as they were willing to splash out around £18m for the youngster, making him their 5th most expensive transfer of all time. The deal would coincidentally also make him PSG’s most expensive academy graduate ever. Arnaud would make his Rennes debut in August, appearing as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Monaco. The following matchday he would be handed his first start in a 2-1 victory against Ajaccio. Since then, he has racked up an impressive run of games, scoring 3 goals and providing 3 assists for a Rennes squad which is pushing for European qualification in back-to-back seasons. He even made his senior debut in European competition, appearing in 4 of Rennes’ 6 Europa League Group Stage matches. With Rennes recently losing Martin Terrier for the remainder of the season through injury, I would personally back Arnaud to step up and become the focal point of the attack in 2023.
Notable dates in Arnaud Kalimuendo’s career:
Summer 2012 – Joins the PSG youth system
31/01/2018 – Wins the Alkass International Cup with PSG under-17s
05/05/2018 – Makes his France under-16s debut and scores his first youth international goal
18/09/2018 – Makes his PSG under-19s debut and scores
08/07/2019 – Signs his first professional deal with PSG
20/08/2019 – Makes his France under-18s debut and scores
22/09/2019 – Named to his first senior matchday squad for PSG
07/10/2019 – Announced as a member of the France squad for the under-17 World Cup
17/11/2019 – Scores a hat-trick to help France achieve a third place finish at the under-17 World Cup
10/09/2020 – Makes his professional debut for PSG
05/10/2020 – Agrees a 4-year contract extension with PSG and joins RC Lens on loan
12/10/2020 – Makes his France under-21 debut
18/10/2020 – Makes his debut for RC Lens
22/11/2020 – Scores his first senior goal for RC Lens
01/08/2021 – Makes his first senior start for PSG
31/08/2021 – Joins RC Lens on loan for a second successive season
11/08/2022 – Signs for Stade Rennais on a permanent basis
01/10/2022 – Scores his first goal for Stade Rennais
Match Analysis – Rennes vs Nice, 02/01/2023:
– Comfortable carrying the ball forward into space
– Provided some accurate crosses and passes into the opposition’s box
– Had limited touches in the first half, but still displayed decent work-rate with his pressing at times
– Made some good short runs to find space in the box when teammates were in position to cross the ball
– Looked to drop slightly deeper at times to make himself available to his midfield
– In contrast, he also made the occasional run past his defender to create an opportunity for a through ball (although this tactic wasn’t used as often)
– Showed flashes of his natural flair when dribbling and in build-up play
– Good awareness in attack, almost always had his head up when on-ball
– Used a combination of his pace and tenacity when pressing to force mistakes
– Rarely made mistakes in attacking moves, was unselfish in possession and looked to pass to the open man if he didn’t have a clear shot at goal
Before I get to Arnaud’s performance, I feel I should address Martin Terrier’s horrible injury that somewhat overshadowed the result of the match. It is terrible timing for Martin, who had already gotten back to his goalscoring ways just 5 minutes into the match and was showing signs of continuing his stellar run of form for Rennes from before the World Cup. I wish him a speedy recovery, and I have no doubt he will be back and better than ever next season.
Arnaud uses his vision and flare to create a great chance for Rennes here. He senses the pressure from the Nice defender before he receives the ball, which allows him to anticipate a challenge if he doesn’t use the ball quickly. He takes a quick glance up to see where his teammates are, and once he recognises the attacking runs made by two attackers he plays a delightful back heel flick towards their paths. Not one to stand and admire his work, Arnaud continues his run and fills the lane on the right flank, providing an extra passing option. Unfortunately, Rennes eventual shot is blocked by the Nice defender and the attack comes to nothing.
This is a great example of Arnaud using his tenacity to create an attacking move. Before the ball has been played up field by the Rennes defender, Arnaud is already backing up into the Nice defender and giving him a hard time. This results in a physical battle between the two, which allows another Rennes attacker to collect the loose ball and make a run down the right wing. Arnaud turns and makes his own run into the opposition box and receives a short pass in a great position to shoot. However, Arnaud’s selfless style of play becomes a detriment to him at this point, as he elects to pass the ball across the face of the box again, instead of making an attempt at goal. The eventual shot taken by another Rennes attacker is in a worse position than Arnaud found himself in initially, and the shot is deflected behind for a corner.
Here, Arnaud finds himself in space in the opposition’s box, but the pass is intercepted by a Nice defender. However, he is unable to fully secure possession, which gives Arnaud an opportunity to challenge him and force a mistake. He uses his pace to latch onto the loose ball, but the experienced Nice goalkeeper does well to recognise the danger early and close the gap between himself and the ball, which means Arnaud has to take a first-time shot at goal from a very tight angle instead of having time to play the ball back across goal or at least compose himself for a better attempt at goal.
Arnaud played a small yet productive role for Rennes in an impressive victory against Nice, who were previously unbeaten in 7 league games prior to this match. Whilst he didn’t have many flashy highlight moments on the night, Arnaud rarely put a foot wrong and provided Rennes with quality build-up play in the final third of the pitch. The 5’9 striker did struggle aerially, only winning one single aerial duel all evening, but he made up for it with his consistent pressing and quality decision- making in attack. Arnaud was more than willing to progress the ball instead of keeping possession himself, which may have contributed to him only having two shots on goal despite being very involved in his team’s attacks. He could have used his pace to his advantage slightly more in my opinion, particularly when it comes to making runs past the defence, but this is most likely a tactical choice rather than a personal issue for Kalimuendo. Arnaud often dropped back and made himself a passing option when Rennes were in possession in Nice’s half, and he also wasn’t afraid to drift wide towards either wing to either recieve a pass or press a defender in possession. My biggest issue with Arnaud’s performance is highlighted above, as I feel he definitely should have made an attempt at goal. He isn’t short of confidence and he has displayed his finishing ability in the past, so I am unsure why he elected to pass instead of taking the shot. It may be on his weaker foot, but I would still back Arnaud to at least force a good save out of the goalkeeper in this situation. Despite this, I believe this was yet another solid performance in what has been a promising first season in Rennais for the young striker.
Truthfully, I am not sure where Arnaud could find himself in a few years’ time. He has only just arrived in Rennais for a large transfer fee, and whilst many teams could be potentially interested in a centre forward with his skillset, I believe his development would be best served by staying with Rennes for the foreseeable future. There are so many great young attacking players around Arnaud at the club, and I believe his playstyle would be perfect for bringing the best out of players such as Kamaldeen Sulemana and Jérémy Doku in the near future. Likewise, I believe that the players around Kalimuendo will help to bring out his best qualities and help him to take the next step that many people have thought he is capable of since his days at PSG. Rennes have a very clear business model of picking up diamonds in the rough, developing them and selling them on for huge profits and there is nothing wrong with that. I do, however, hope that they try their best to keep their current core together for at least a few seasons, as I would love to see just how far this current squad can go, especially with Arnaud Kalimuendo leading the lines up front.