With 11 goals in 9 games, Ca­vani has si­lenced PSG doubters

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Hav­ing de­manded a new striker, Paris Saint-Germain fans should be grate­ful that Edin­son Ca­vani was more pa­tient with them than they were with him.

Ca­vani is play­ing well, and his goals have helped de­fend­ing cham­pion PSG with­stand two early league de­feats — as many as it had dur­ing last sea­son’s record-break­ing league cam­paign.

PSG’s all-time lead­ing scorer, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, left to join Manchester United in the off­sea­son. The club then tar­geted Barcelona star Ney­mar, but the big-name striker ex­pected to re­place Ibrahi­movic never ar­rived.

In­stead, PSG signed Jese, a 23year-old Spa­niard from Real Madrid and an un­her­alded for­ward with 13 ca­reer league goals who is more of a wide player than a fin­isher.

That left Ca­vani — reg­u­larly a punch­line among the team’s sup­port­ers — to lead the at­tack.

Their frus­tra­tion was com­pounded when Ca­vani missed sev­eral chances in PSG’s first Cham­pi­ons League game against Ar­se­nal on Sept. 13, which fin­ished in a 1-1 home draw.

That game, they be­lieved, was glar­ing proof that Ca­vani — de­spite scor­ing with a trade­mark bul­let header — is a very waste­ful fin­isher. That ar­gu­ment has merit, be­cause the Uruguay for­ward does miss chances, but it is some­what un­fair be­cause the way he was asked to play at PSG dulled his nat­u­ral game.

Ca­vani very much plays on con­fi­dence. He’s a quick and ex­plo­sive for­ward who re­lies upon speed and in­stinct rather than ex­cep­tional tech­nique.

He can be lethal when that con­fi­dence is high, as 15 goals in 13 games this sea­son for club and coun­try has proven. He scored 104 goals in 138 games for Ital­ian side Napoli be­fore join­ing PSG in the sum­mer of 2013 for a French record fee of 64 mil­lion eu­ros ($77 mil­lion).

But his con­fi­dence was less­ened by be­ing played out of po­si­tion for much of the past three sea­sons, as it was im­pos­si­ble to share the spot­light with Ibrahi­movic.

“Our sys­tem does not al­low Ca­vani to show his qual­i­ties at 100 per­cent,” for­mer PSG coach Lau­rent Blanc said last sea­son.

With the Swedish star play­ing mostly as the lone striker, Ca­vani was pushed out wide right as a har­ry­ing, en­er­getic winger who often tracked back.

That he did so with lit­tle com­plaint is to his credit, for many play­ers of his stature would have forced a trans­fer to play their pre­ferred po­si­tion.

On the oc­ca­sions that he was the striker — mainly when Ibrahi­movic was in­jured, rested or sus­pended — Ca­vani quickly had to re­vert to fo­cus­ing on scor­ing.

He some­times strug­gled and looked clumsy at times. De­spite mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances, he was given no lee­way by sec­tions of the PSG crowd or the French me­dia.

Both de­manded more goals — yet, de­spite often play­ing as a con­verted winger dur­ing his first three sea­sons with PSG, he still scored 81 goals in 147 games.

This sea­son, Ca­vani has 11 goals in nine games for PSG, which plays at last-place Nancy on Satur­day. He was also named the French league’s player of the month for Septem­ber — seem­ingly a re­ward for putting his ego aside and work­ing with Ibrahi­movic for the pre­vi­ous three years.

But if many fans had their way, the 29-year-old Ca­vani would be play­ing else­where dur­ing what ap­pears to be the striker’s peak sea­son.

Ca­vani is cur­rently en­joy­ing a bril­liant form with his club

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