His transfer fee in the summer of 2013 cost €64 million, but you wouldn’t have guessed it if you watched Edinson Cavani’s performance last Sunday at the Parc de Princes. The man affectionately called “El Matador” has looked out of sorts since the heel injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Four games have passed since Zlatan’s last game, the 1-1 draw versus Lyon, and Cavani’s yet to produce a goal. This wouldn’t be an issue in of itself. Attacking players of relatively top notch quality (Messi and Ronaldo don’t count seeing as they are androids seeking world domination) have their goal scoring droughts, so it shouldn’t be too worrying a sign.
But this is a bit different than other cold streaks, going past the expensive price tag. Cavani’s previous gripes with PSG’s modified 4-3-3 formations are well documented, and with the injury to Ibrahimovic, this should’ve been the opportunity for Cavani to snatch at. PSG without Zlatan have abandoned the 4-3-3 in favor of a diamond 4-1-2-1-2, similar to Olympique Lyon’s set up. Pastore has moved from a weird left sided central midfielder into his favored #10 position (and has looked spectacular in the process) and Lucas Moura has played on the right side in the front two. You can do much worse than have someone like Javier Pastore or Verratti feeding passes.
And it hasn’t been for a lack of effort either. Just watch his performance versus Monaco last Sunday. He played on the left, he played centrally. He did a lot of industrious things, including a couple of back heels and solid target man play but when he had his shots, including a prime opportunity in the second half, It just looked like a man devoid of confidence:
Now far be it for me to use narratives like that to describe a player’s current form. I generally don’t like to use narratives period unless they’re backed up with statistical data. Trying to predict a footballer’s emotions and state of mind is as difficult a task as becoming a Quantum Physicist. Thankfully though this is one of those times where the data complements the eye test. Edinson Cavani so far is having one of his worst seasons as a professional footballer. He’s only scored 3 goals in domestic play registering a Non Penalty goal rate of 0.348, which is Shane Long levels of mediocrity. His overall shot data has been in decline since his 2012-13 season in Napoli, and he’s taking the least amount of shots in the penalty area over the last five years:
It’s troubling to see this type of decline, doubly so if you paid €64 million for his services not too long ago. Last years’ numbers are explainable to some extent. Cavani had to share with Zlatan Ibrahimovic (and in almost any situation in life, what Zlatan wants, Zlatan gets), being relegated at times to being a pure winger. It’d be difficult to register the same shot data as he did the previous season but it still fell in line somewhat with his other two seasons in Napoli.
It’s much harder to explain why Cavani’s numbers have tanked to the extent that it has this season. This is as good a scenario as he ever would’ve envisioned. Yes he’s not playing with Marek Hamsik as his #10, but Javier Pastore (when in his natural position) in comparison ain’t chop liver. Verratti is one of the best at long looping balls over back lines, something Cavani can take major advantage with.
Could this just be a cold streak that’s come in the most inopportune time? Quite possibly. Football is a fickle mistress that makes us all prone at certain times to look like bumbling idiots. By January Cavani could be sitting at 11-14 goals and make this article look obsolete. It’s the things that come with being a football writer.
Or maybe, just maybe. We’re seeing the start of the decline of Edinson Cavani. Edinson Cavani has played a lot of minutes in the last 6-7 season. In fact in his last 6 completed seasons, Edinson Cavani has played 16768 minutes of domestic football. That’s 500 minutes more than Zlatan has played in the same duration, 1751 more minutes than Robert Lewandowski, 2250 more than Wayne Rooney, and over 4000 more minutes than Karim Benzema. On the whole a figure like 2250 minutes may not seem like much, but that’s pretty much one seasons’ worth of minutes right there without factoring European football.
Cavani might be 27, but it’s an old 27. There are a lot of miles on Cavani’s legs and perhaps we’re finally seeing some of the effects of that. If that’s the case then this is a major issue that PSG need to rectify. It’d be tough for PSG to get a Cavani sale around €64 million with the way Cavani’s played, but even selling him at 40-45 million wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for PSG’s bank accounts. Whatever the case maybe Edinson Cavani desperately needs a goal from open play as soon as possible, because his struggles are part of the confusing web that has been the 2014-15 Paris Saint-Germain season.