Why Edinson Cavani's Game Is About More Than Scoring Goals

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 26, 2013

Edinson Cavani has warped the market price this summer by joining Paris Saint-Germain for a whopping €63 million.

Followers of Mark Lawrenson's commentary have been lead to believe that Cavani is a temperamental player—purely a finisher, and rarely looks interested or up for it.

This is wrong, plain wrong, and while his performances at the 2013 Confederations Cup were not up to scratch, he was battling a divorce and faced the prospect of his children being moved to Montevideo.

A clear-headed Cavani is not only one of the world's most complete forwards, but also one of the world's best players across all positions.

As the Uruguyan prepares to link up with his new Parisian employers, we will take a forensic look at his past in Naples and ascertain exactly what kind of a player he is.


Once a Poacher?

The misconception of Cavani "only scoring goals" is understandable if one took just a fleeting glance at Napoli during the 2011-12 season.

Specifically, when the Partenopei hosted Chelsea at the San Paolo Stadium and played a 3-5-1-1-esque shape with Ezequiel Lavezzi in the deep-lying forward role.

Walter Mazzarri chose to rely on the Argentine's industrious work between the lines to create opportunities for Cavani, meaning his strike partner was largely marginalized to running on the shoulder and providing an outlet.

The wing-backs, too, play a big part in Mazzarri's systems, and with the onus on them to break down the line and cross regularly, they simply have to have a consistent target to aim for.

The goal he scored against Chelsea was with his chest from a cross—very unorthodox, and that again could contribute to the myth that he is just a poacher; Players in that mould, such as Raul or Javier Hernandez, have a bit of scoring with any possible part of their body.

While Lavezzi was in town, Cavani did not play to his full potential as a player. He was still an absolutely phenomenal goalscoring threat (33 total goals), but he didn't unlock or showcase the other parts of his game which make him the player he is today.

That would come following Lavezzi's departure to PSG.



The Onus Is on You, Edinson!

With Lavezzi sealing a €30 million move to the French capital, Mazzarri needed to re-jig his philosophy.

Marek Hamsik, a world-class attacking midfielder, is a magician on the ball and thrives when given license to work, but he cannot run with the ball at his feet like his former Argentine teammate—very few can.

Goran Pandev was trialled in the role but he's not as assured, so Mazzarri went back to the 3-5-2/3-5-1-1 but allowed Cavani to become more heavily involved.

He's always been a tenacious player, fit as a fiddle and ever-willing to track back and help his defence. For Uruguay, when played wide, he often double-covered his marker, helping his full-back and recovering balls from deep.

Allowing him to drop in and help enabled him to pick the ball up in deeper areas, and due to the fact that he was supposed to be the "lone" striker, he had no choice but to start creating attacks as well.

You will now regularly see Cavani track back, win the ball and surge forward.

His lateral passing improved tenfold, his ability to run at people confidently and make the right decisions rocketed; in essence, he enveloped Lavezzi's former role and continued in his own too.


Mazzarri the Tinkerer

There's a third angle to Cavani's development, and it's the lesser-known of the set.

Mazzarri's incredible willingness to change the formation and shape of his Napoli side mid-game is a major factor in the rounding of this striker as a complete footballer.

One prime example of this is Napoli's 1-1 draw with Juventus, in which they switched formation countless times in an attempt to get the better of Antonio Conte in a must-win fixture.

They went from (loose) 3-5-2, to 4-3-3, to 4-4-2 diamond, and end with a 4-3-3 false-nine.

Complicated, but Napoli's squad handled it with aplomb.

All of his key players were capable in multiple positions, with Cavani representing one of the most versatile in the group. He's played poacher, target man, deep-lying forward, from each wing and deeper in midfield.

It wasn't even Cavani playing as a false-nine against Juventus, it was Hamsik—the Uruguayan took up a spot on the left-wing of all places!

Mazzarri's willingness to "throw" his players all over the pitch gave them a taste of something slightly different every week, and Cavani absorbed everything like a sponge.

His goalscoring record has stayed largely the same over the past three seasons (33, 33 and 38) but his overall game has been transformed.

Cavani can pass as well as most forwards, and the development of this technique soon led him to taking some beautiful free kicks for club and country.



The transition from pure poacher to complete forward has been quick, easy and fun to watch for Cavani—expect many more to sit and up take notice of his many desirable qualities now.

Linking back up with Lavezzi, and playing with Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the first time, will provide some interesting storylines in Paris next season.

Will Cavani regress into his former role due to the presence of Lavezzi, will Zlatan's presence as the "main man" see him shrink into the background, or is he finally ready to have his fair share of action at the very, very top?


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