What a difference one week makes in Ligue 1.
Last week, Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to have been able to score the goal to seal a 1-1 draw that flattered visitors Ajaccio, and Monaco were romping to victory over Montpellier. Edinson Cavani scored a stunning effort in the frustrating stalemate with the Corsicans, but Radamel Falcao had netted his second goal in as many games as Les Monegasques started to make life in the top flight look easy.
This week, it is the Colombian’s turn to be frustrated after his side’s goalless draw at home with Toulouse, while Cavani has now scored twice in as many games after helping defending champions PSG to a 2-1 win over Nantes.
Still as frustrated as last week, though, last season’s top goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic is yet to get off the mark with three weeks now gone. The Swedish talisman did have a hand in both of PSG’s goals in Nantes, as well as their first of the season at Montpellier, but he has fallen behind his new teammate and Falcao in the early standings.
Here is a small summary of the trio’s actions in Le Championnat this week.
Having notched two wins from their two opening matches, Monaco entertained a struggling Toulouse side behind closed doors at the Stade Louis II as overriding favourites to win the clash. The dominant victory expected did not materialise and the Principality side were held to frustrating draw.
More than that though, Falcao was quiet once again only this time he did not manage to get himself on the score sheet with a lucky finish or a penalty.
As was the case in the two early matches for Claudio Ranieri’s side, the team looked short of direction and purpose at times. Because of that, the Colombian suffered and was never really allowed to get into the contest.
The 27-year-old hardly even had a shot of note and saw less of the ball and received fewer chances than teammate Emmanuel Riviere, who looked lively despite not scoring.
"El Tigre" is struggling to impose himself upon the team without the service of James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho from behind him in the middle. Both were missing from the starting XI against Toulouse and in their absence, wide men Lucas Ocampos and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco dominate Monaco’s opponents instead.
Last season’s first real test for Ibrahimovic was the pairing of rivals PSG and Marseille in "Le Classique,"and it will be the same for Falcao with Ranieri’s team set to face the early Ligue 1 pacesetters next week.
Cavani fared somewhat better than his South American competitor. Picking up where he left off last week, the Uruguayan took just 25 minutes to find the net against Nantes on Sunday.
In the opening half an hour, "El Matador" and strike partner Ibrahimovic looked like they were forming a prospering relationship.
PSG’s dominance, both in terms of possession and creating chances, gave the pair plenty of interaction with one another. During that period the two looked as if they were quickly adapting to each other’s style of play.
But after Cavani’s goal, the performance began to fall apart and so did the capital club’s strike partnership.
The Uruguayan took his goal well and perfectly read the chances that Ibrahimovic was laying on for him, but he was also too eager to impose himself upon the game.
Having worked hard all game long, along with his teammates, he allowed himself to be too selfish and took a chance away from Ibra at the end.
Ibrahimovic was also guilty of trying too hard on the night and trying to force things in the other direction.
His partnership with Cavani was working perfectly when it looking like the pair had accepted their roles within the relationship and were working towards fulfilling their expectations. The Swede provided the 26-year-old with his goal and played a big role in Ezequiel Lavezzi’s winning strike.
However, the 31-year-old was visibly disappointed with the lack of goal-scoring chances he was receiving in his role and tried to create openings for himself, overstretching his responsibilities and focusing on scoring the goals instead of providing them.
In the 25th minute when Cavani opened the scoring, PSG were dominant and could have gone on to destroy Nantes, but instead they were pegged back. Although everyone on the pitch worked hard to re-establish the lead, Ibrahimovic and Cavani let their communication drop, and as a result, the relationship appeared strained and awkward.
The culmination of the confusion was Cavani racing onto a pass meant for Ibrahimovic at the end that wasted a good opportunity to make the score line more convincing.
Enough was demonstrated in the bright opening 30-minute spell to suggest that this partnership can work, but the strike duo will need to work hard to make sure that same work rate is something that does not drop during a match.
Although Cavani and Falcao’s goal-scoring starts are grabbing most of the attention in Ligue 1 for now, there is already serious competition for the top scorer’s crown. The Colombian’s teammate, Emmanuel Riviere, leads the way still with four goals, but it is the consistency of Marseille’s Andre-Pierre Gignac that should have the pair concerned.
The Frenchman has scored three goals in as many matches, and with Monaco facing Marseille this coming weekend, we will get to see one of the start trio of Falcao, Cavani and Ibrahimovic face off against one of the league’s other star strikers.