Cameron Archer – The Championship marksman on the brink of Premier League stardom by Shay Hicks
Name – Cameron Desmond Archer
Nationality – English/Jamaican
D.O.B – 09/12/2001 (21 years old)
Height – 175cm (5’9″)
Current Club – Middlesbrough (on loan from Aston Villa)
Position – Centre Forward
Value – ~£7m (via Transfermarkt)
Cameron Archer is a very exciting young prospect who has been a constant threat to any defence he has faced in the English Football Leagues in the past few years. I was initially introduced to Archer by my younger brother who is an Aston Villa fan, and I almost immediately fell in love with his prowess as an ‘in the box’ striker. Cameron has a great array of finishes at his disposal, seemingly always finding a way to put the ball in the back of the net. Ollie Watkins may have finally hit a stretch of form that many thought he was capable of as a younger player, but given the overall state of affairs in Aston Villa’s striker department, there is a clear pathway for Cameron to follow towards the first team as soon as next season. In this report, I will explain what makes him so good and why he could become one of the best sharpshooters in the Premier League one day.
Cameron was born in December 2001 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. He was born and raised in the small town of Walsall, around 9 miles north-west of Birmingham. Cameron showed his footballing ability extremely early on. Whilst his older brother (Southport striker Jordan McFarlane-Archer) played in Northern Premier League side Chasetown’s youth team, Cameron had a short stint with the youth setup of local side Walsall before joining the Aston Villa academy at the age of 8. Cameron didn’t waste his time at Villa, regularly playing with higher age groups. His first recorded game for the Aston Villa under-18s came in the under-18 Premier League in late August of 2017. Coming off the bench as a left winger, Cameron managed to notch his first goal and earn Villa a 1-1 draw with Swansea City. He didn’t make many more appearances for the under-18s that season, but the following season he would break out, eventually making his first under-21 squad at the age of 16.
The 2018/19 campaign saw Cameron continue to impress eyes at Villa as he worked his way through the youth ranks. Initially staying with the under-18s in their efforts to improve their poor league performance from the prior season (just 6 wins in 22 games), playing his first game of the season in October and contributing 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 total appearances. He would then earn a call-up to the under-21 side, playing both left wing and centre forward for them as they reached the end of their Premier League 2 campaign. He had more success here, scoring 3 and adding an assist in 7 total appearances for the side. He would stay with the side as they reached the Premier League 2 playoffs, but was unable to prevent a 2-0 loss to Southampton under-23s in the semi-finals.
Archer would make his first steps towards senior football during the 2019/20 season, splitting his time between the under-18s, under-21s and even making a cameo appearance in the senior squad. He would begin the season with the under-21s in the Premier League 2, where he would play the majority of his minutes in the season. He didn’t have to wait long to make his senior debut for Villa, however, coming off the bench as a late sub in a dominant performance over League 2 side Crewe Alexandra in August. Whilst this would be his only taste of senior football for the season, Cameron would still press on and impress for the under-21 side. His overall stats may have looked worse (4 goals and 1 assist in 14 total Premier League 2 appearances), but that could be attributed to the sheer amount of minutes he was playing compared to the prior season. In total, Cameron made appearances in 5 separate competitions across 3 different Villa squads, from the FA Youth Cup and under-18 Premier League to the EFL Cup.
After numerous impressive years in the youth squads, Archer would finally make his way into senior football in 2020/21. Initially playing 3 games in the Premier League 2 (managing 1 assist in that time), Cameron would be sent on a short-term loan to nearby National League side Solihull Moors. He would make his debut for Solihull shortly after joining in October, coming off the bench for just over half an hour in a 2-1 loss to Woking. It wouldn’t take long for Cameron to announce himself to the Solihull fans, scoring twice and adding a great assist in a 5-0 win over King’s Lynn just 7 days later. Cameron clearly impressed the Solihull coaches, as in January they would reach an agreement with Aston Villa to extend his loan until the end of the season. Unfortunately, Cameron would struggle to maintain this form over the second half of the National League campaign, only managing 2 more goals over the rest of the season as Solihull achieved a mid-table finish in the league.
Whilst his previous season in the National League saw his form fluctuate, Cameron would have an electric start to his 2021/22 season that truly kickstarted his ascent over the English Football League. He wasted no time in his return to Villa, memorably netting a sensational hat-trick in a dominant 6-0 win over League 2 Barrow. Archer showed signs of having a real nose for goal, with the best of the 3 goals being a cute chip over the oncoming Barrow keeper. This performance gave Cameron a huge push towards the senior squad, and after a stunning headed goal in an EFL cup loss to Chelsea, he would be handed his Premier League debut as a late sub against Manchester United. He would make 2 more substitute appearances in the Premier League in October and November, although the 3 appearances would only total 24 minutes overall. He would continue his goalscoring exploits for the Villa youth sides though, notably providing 8 goal contributions over just 3 games in the EFL trophy group stages. The highlight performance was undoubtedly against League 1 side Burton Albion. He would score 2 first-time shots from just outside the box along with one well-struck half-volley in traffic as he helped his side to a 4-2 victory. These performances caught the eyes of many clubs, and in late January Championship side Preston North End would take a chance and loan Archer in until the end of the season. Cameron had made a habit of making an immediate impact wherever he went, and this would not change in his move to the Northwest. It would take Cameron just under 12 minutes to score his first goal for Preston, being subbed on against West Brom and heading a rebound into the net from 2 yards out. Overall it would be a tough season for Preston, but Cameron played an important role for them as they reached a 14th-placed finish, netting 7 times and adding an assist in 20 total appearances.
The 2021/22 campaign would also see Archer make his first steps into international football, making 6 appearances between the under-20 and under-21 teams. He would particularly stand out in the European Under-21 Championship qualifying stage, scoring 4 times in 4 games.
Cameron’s fine form had impressed many at Aston Villa, including then-manager Steven Gerrard, who elected to keep him in the Premier League squad for the 2022/23 season. Despite the inconsistency of starting strikers Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, Archer would frustratingly be limited to cameo appearances off the bench, never amassing more than 10 minutes in any game. Highly regarded coach Unai Emery would replace Gerrard in late October, but this would not see a change in Cameron’s game time, and it was decided that he would be allowed to go out on loan again in January. Middlesbrough were looking to add to their squad, and after loaning out American prospect to Scottish side Hibernian, they decided to bring Archer in. Cameron made his debut for Middlesbrough just one day after joining the club, coming off the bench in a heavy loss to Brighton in an FA cup tie. Archer took a little while to cement his place in the side, initially being used as a backup option to Middlesbrough’s more established attacking players such the in-form Chuba Akpom. However, he did not disappoint once he earned more playing time, adding an assist in a 2-0 win over Watford in his first start. He would score his first goal for the club 2 weeks later, also assisting in a 3-1 away win over the struggling Cardiff City. Just 4 days later he would notch a second half brace against fellow promotion hopefuls Sheffield United, pushing his side to another 3-1 victory. His first goal was the more impressive goal, smashing the ball into the roof of the net with his weaker left foot from 6 yards out. Michael Carrick has worked nothing short of a miracle in his time at Middlesbrough, dragging the side from the relegation zone all the way to 3rd in the table. Cameron has shown that he is a real threat in front of goal, and Carrick will undoubtedly be hoping that he can continue his goalscoring ways as Middlesbrough look to return to the Premier League again.
Notable dates in Cameron Archer’s career:
2010 – Joins the Aston Villa youth academy
26/08/2017 – Makes his Aston Villa under-18s debut and scores
04/02/2019 – Makes his Aston Villa under-21s debut
18/02/2019 – Scores his first goal for Aston Villa under-21s
27/08/2019 – Makes his senior debut for Aston Villa
02/10/2020 – Joins Solihull Moors on a short-term loan
10/10/2020 – Scores his first senior goals for Solihull Moors
04/01/2021 – Solihull agree to extend his loan until the end of the season
31/05/2021 – Returns to Aston Villa
24/08/2021 – Scores his first senior goal for Aston Villa and gets his first senior hat-trick
25/09/2021 – Makes his Premier League debut for Aston Villa
11/11/2021 – Makes his England under-20s debut
24/01/2022 – Joins Preston North End on loan until the end of the season
26/01/2022 – Makes his Preston North End debut and scores
31/05/2022 – Returns to Aston Villa
03/06/2022 – Makes his England under-21s debut
07/06/2022 – Scores his first goal for England under-21s
06/01/2023 – Joins Middlesbrough on loan until the end of the season
07/01/2023 – Makes his Middlesbrough debut
11/02/2023 – Scores his first goal for Middlesbrough
Cameron is an incredible young talent, so whilst his game is fairly one-dimensional, he is extremely effective at what he does. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Archer is capable of scoring nearly every type of goal. Strong foot, weak foot or headed. On the volley, first time shots, even from the edge of the box. His goalscoring is undoubtedly the key to his game, but he is definitely has other strengths as well as just being a finisher. Here, I will look at all of the key parts of Cameron’s game, as well as some of the many types of goals he can score.
Cameron may usually be on the other end of these exchanges, but he is by no means a poor playmaker. Here, he receives the ball deep in QPR’s half. He takes a couple of touches towards the box before recognising the run of fellow prolific striker Chuba Akpom. He plays a pass into the box, but he unfortunately puts slightly too much on the pass and by the time Chuba has a chance to shoot he has no space to do so.
Outside of the opponent’s box, one of Cameron’s best traits is his ability to identify space and attack it as soon as he can. He is almost constantly scanning in his opponent’s half, which gives him the ability to be one step ahead of the defence. He receives the ball around the halfway line with his back to goal, but Cameron has already recognised the huge gap between Sheffield United’s centre back and left back. He plays a first-time pass and before his teammate has secured possession he is attempting to get in behind the defence. A mixture of a slightly poor pass and his opposite man telegraphing the play means that the resulting through ball is intercepted.
Being a natural striker, Cameron’s mind is almost constantly focused on the next attack. This means as soon as his team regains possession, he is looking to get as far up the pitch as he can in the shortest time possible. Cameron picks up a loose ball after a teammate makes a good challenge and knocks the ball into the path of a close by player. He turns and runs ahead of him as the player he passed to plays the ball forwards. Cameron continues his run until eventually someone plays a long ball over the top towards the left wing. His opposite man is positioned fairly well, but Cameron uses his excellent short-range speed to get in between him and the ball. He does well to find some space in a tight position and plays a smart ball inwards to a teammate, but ultimately the chance comes to nothing.
I know I’ve raved a lot about his goalscoring ability in this report, but Cameron provides more than his fair share of assists. He receives a pass in the Cardiff City box with his back to goal and surrounded by defenders. Still, Cameron is able to react quickly and lay the ball off into the path of young Finnish striker Marcus Forss, who is able to strike the ball into the back of the net.
This is another example of Cameron identifying space and attacking it. He receives the ball with his head up, and he knows exactly where he wants to be. He sees the gap between the centre back and right back and immediately decides to try to exploit it. He elects to run directly at the Cardiff City centre back who is on the back foot, getting as close as possible before knocking the ball past him on the outside. Unfortunately, while his touch isn’t terrible, it is slightly too heavy and an alert Cardiff City defender is able to run across the box and make a great challenge.
Natural Goalscoring Nuance
Cameron’s reactions and innate ability to respond to situations before defenders is far beyond what you’d expect for a striker prospect of his age. Here, a Sheffield United defender makes a challenge on the edge of the box and the ball is knocked towards goal. In a split second, Cameron recognises the movement of the ball, and before his opposite man has even realised what is happening he is making a run into the box. His short burst of pace allows him to just get to the ball first, but with little time to make a decision and with the ball on his weaker left foot, you wouldn’t expect much to come of the chance. However, Cameron smashes the ball over the defender and into the roof of a net. The amount of factors playing against Cameron here makes this goal especially impressive.
Cameron is a very technical finisher, and this is a great example of his ability combining with his composure to allow him to secure a victory for his side. With Middlesbrough already 2-1 up, Cameron begins to make a run with his side on the counter. He recognises the space he can attack in front of him, and calls for a pass in behind the defence. He receives a great pass, and as he plays with his head up at all times, he is able to see the Sheffield United goalkeeper pushing towards him. He takes one touch which sees the ball move towards the centre of the box, before coolly whipping the ball around the keeper and into to corner of the net.
I had to break this entire phase of play into seven images, simply because Cameron does so much right. These kind of game-breaking plays are what make Cameron such a dangerous striker. Firstly, he is making a run forwards but constantly scanning both the on-ball player and the defenders ahead of him. As soon as he identifies the space he wants to attack, he calls for a long through ball and releases a short burst of pace. He times his run to perfection and gets to the ball with the Cardiff City goalkeeper rushing out to stop him. Again, he has been scanning the entire time, so he knows the keeper is coming and takes a brilliant heavy touch out wide to get around him. Whilst the majority of the work has been done, he is still in a position that many strikers could waste. However, with a Cardiff City defender tracking back to block his shot, he correctly chooses placement over power. Staying composed, he lifts his shot over the defender and into the back of the net.
“His moment is to play minutes, to score goals and to try and improve. I spoke with him about it and he had the same idea. Here, of course he can play because he played when he was here. For him, it’s very important to take confidence, to play and to be competitive and, of course, to score goals like he is doing and we are very happy for him and, of course, it’s a good decision we made and shared with him.”Unai Emery’s response when asked about the decision to send Cameron Archer out on loan (source: Birmingham Live) https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/aston-villa-cameron-archer-middlesbrough-26269103
The path to first-team success is fairly straight-forward for Cameron at Aston Villa. Ollie Watkins is enjoying a fine stretch of form currently, scoring in his last 4 Premier League games, and after the sale of Danny Ings to West Ham, Villa brought in young Colombian striker Jhon Durán. Whilst these two will have the upper hand over him in terms of first-team experience next season, I would argue that Archer’s sky-high potential will earn him his fair share of minutes in Villa’s Premier League and cup campaigns. He is most effective as a Centre Forward, but he is also capable of shifting out wide and playing on the wing. Arguably his overall game, especially his build-up play, is more effective when played on the left wing, something that will be extremely useful for Villa. With a full pre-season to implement his system and shape the squad, Unai will be able to work with Cameron to help him transition to top-flight football smoothly. Ideally, Cameron will be used sporadically, earning more game time throughout the season as he adjusts to the Premier League. However, he has made a habit of defying expectations and hitting the ground running for any team he plays for, so I believe Cameron would be more than ready to perform if he was called upon for the opening fixtures of the 2023/24 season.