When Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up his injury it was a blessing in disguise for Edinson Cavani. It gave him the chance to show what he can do as the central striker for more than an adequate period of time. The Uruguayan has given his all, he never gives less than 100%, but a lack of service and self-belief has resulted in a barren spell that resulted in him being heavily criticised.
Is it justified? Well, to an extent yes. With a player of his ability he has had a number of gilt-edged chances where at least one should have been dispatched. Away to Caen in the 2-0 win he must have had six glorious opportunities but was unable to convert any of them. This was not necessarily a bad thing. He looked a lot sharper as the main man up top and got into the right places as a predatory striker should. He linked up well with his peers, especially with Javier Pastore and although he may not have scored I felt it was a good shift from the Uruguayan who kept persisting.
It was a different story a few days later against Toulouse. This was a laboured, mundane performance from the entire team. If it was not for Marco Verratti and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck’s smart thinking to come up with the equaliser from a quick set-piece, the champions may very well have lost that game. Cavani cut a frustrated figure throughout the 90 as he was starved of service.
Against Barcelona and Monaco, Lucas Moura was playing just off him at times as a second striker before drifting further out wide. This has benefited the team, especially Pastore playing in the hole just behind where he has become Paris’ best attacking outlet – along with Lucas. Cavani though has just been a passenger. Like I said, it is not as if he has not been putting the effort in but his confidence is shot to bits. There was one instance against Monaco where he was played in by Thiago Motta, bore in towards the penalty area but ended up kicking thin air as he missed the ball completely. It just summed up his demeanour at this moment in time but the Parisian supporters got behind him immediately by chanting his name. The vast majority are rooting for him!
His last two goals were back to back against Ajax and Lyon where he was playing out on the left. He may not enjoy it there but there is no denying that his richest vein of form in a blue shirt came from the wing when he first arrived. On the right-hand side of a front three he struck up an immediate understanding with Gregory Van der Wiel, netting six goals in his first 10 games. During the month of October – this time last year – the 27-year-old netted six in four games – including two braces against Bastia and Lorient in two 4-0 victories.
He picked up an injury at the back end of January to his thigh. Although he finished joint-second top goalscorer with 16 league goals along with four other players (Zlatan in a league of his own in front) he never showed that early season form again. Ibra was missing for the crucial quarter-final second-leg against Chelsea where we had a 3-1 aggregate lead. Edi had a glorious opportunity to put the tie to bed in the second-half but he put the ball over Petr Cech’s goal. Subsequently, Demba Ba scored the goal minutes from time to send the London club through.
Laurent Blanc has a decision to make. The performance against Barcelona was mesmeric in the 4-3-1-2 formation and despite letting the lead slip against Monaco the weekend before last, it worked in that game too. Ibra will be back soon so either Cavani is dropped or pushed back out to the left-hand side. Either way its food for thought for the coach but if the Matador is to rediscover his form, he needs to play.