Complete Analysis of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain Role

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Complete Analysis of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain Role
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at it again in midweek, scoring twice to help Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-1 win away at FC Nantes on Tuesday to secure a place in April’s Coupe de la Ligue cup final. 

One of his two goals was an outrageous lobbed effort that has attracted plenty of attention, with agent Mino Raiola even telling France Football (h/t Goal.com) that he has pleaded with his client to stop making French football look “really easy.” 

The superlative effort is just one of a number of stunning strikes that Ibrahimovic has netted so far this season for Laurent Blanc’s side. 

Back in November of last year, following another wonder goal in the 5-0 UEFA Champions League away at RSC Anderlecht; the Swede was even touted as a potential 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner by former Olympique de Marseille striker and 1991 award winner Jean-Pierre Papin. 

Although he did not go on to win the award, there is no doubt that the 32-year-old is currently one of the best players on the planet. In Ligue 1, he is certainly top dog at the moment, despite the presence of strike partner Edinson Cavani and AS Monaco’s Radamel Falcao. 

However, Ibrahimovic’s importance to PSG extends beyond the pitch. He is more than just a player for the French champions in his current role.

Zlatan is a talisman for the club, a leader on the pitch without the need for the captain’s armband on a regular basis. He is also a shining example to those around him as to what is needed in order for the side from the French capital to succeed in their aim of ultimately becoming Europe’s top team.

Here is a complete analysis of Ibrahimovic’s role at the Parc des Princes, underlining why he is PSG’s most indispensable player and the most outstanding of all performers in Le Championnat at present.

Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

Goals

Any top striker’s main currency is goals. Ibrahimovic scores lots of them and is the most prolific attacking player in France’s top flight at present. 

The Swedish international has struck 18 times so far this campaign and is only 12 goals short of equalling last season’s total of 30. That feat was the first time since Papin had done so in the 1989/90 season for Marseille, that any player has scored 30 goals in a Ligue 1 season.

Ibra is already targeting better this term. But perhaps his overall statistics are more impressive than his 18 goals from 22 league starts so far.

In 56 Ligue 1 appearances since arriving in 2012, the towering striker has scored 48 goals and provided 17 assists. Extend that to all competitions, it reads 66 goals and 25 assists in just 78 appearances.

It is an incredible tally, even by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s impeccable standards.

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Creativity 

But Ibrahimovic’s value to PSG does not only lie in his goals. The Swede is also an extremely creative player, demonstrating a rare blend of prolific ability in front of goal and exceptional vision, technique and unselfishness when his teammates are better placed. 

Considering that he accounts for 33 percent of PSG’s total league goals so far this season, his creativity must also be accounted for in how big a role he is playing for Blanc’s team at present.

Ibrahimovic has provided nine direct assists in the 22 Championnat matches he has featured in so far this term. Added to his goal tally of 18, PSG would not have scored 27 of their total 54 goals without him.

That is exactly 50 percent of all of the capital club’s league goals this campaign. 

Breaking down the statistics further thanks to Squawka, Zlatan has created 46 chances in 22 league appearances this term, with a pass accuracy of 75 percent. In the Champions League, that figure reads eight chances created in just five games with 81 percent pass accuracy. 

Whether he is in front of the goal or pulling the strings from behind, Ibrahimovic is playing an absolutely pivotal role for PSG. 

Francois Mori/Associated Press

Talisman

While there are a number of stars in the current PSG squad, players with relatively similar importance to Ibrahimovic in different positions such as Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Silva, the Swede is still the unquestioned talisman of Blanc’s side. 

The 32-year-old steps up when not everybody is able to, and his ability to almost singled-handedly lead PSG to the title last season is testament to that. 

In terms of consistency, he is ahead of the majority of his current teammates and particularly relishes the champions’ biggest domestic and European games.

When Ibrahimovic does not perform, PSG often fail to deliver. Last season’s Ibra-dependency has been offset somewhat by the arrival of Cavani since, but the team still depend heavily on the Swede.

Michel Euler/Associated Press

Leadership 

In the absence of PSG’s captain Silva on occasions this season, particularly at the start of the campaign after the Brazilian suffered a thigh injury against AS Monaco in their first meeting this term, Ibrahimovic has taken on the captain’s armband and led the team. 

It is a role that the former AC Milan and Barcelona man is not unfamiliar with, having been captain of the Swedish national team since 2010.

Combining his ability to lead by example and his own personal leadership qualities, he proved to be an influential leader of the side in both the league and Champions League while Silva was away. 

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Although the Brazilian is now fit and once again captaining the side, Ibrahimovic is still looked toward by Blanc and his teammates for inspiration, while being expected to set an example in games and in training. 

A number of the Swede’s former coaches have lauded his professional approach to training and match preparation. His being in the French capital has also been crucial in altering the character of the squad toward a greater level of professionalism. 

His “winning” mentality, also provided by a number of other senior players including Silva and Motta, has helped to instil a hunger for success into the current players that was lacking at the club prior to his arrival. 

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Off-Field Role

In addition to his integral role in a playing capacity, Ibrahimovic plays an even bigger one off it in commercial terms.

The Swede is more than just a player for PSG.

Ibrahimovic adorns posters, heads the club’s marketing campaigns and is a huge hit with the fans in terms of replica shirt sales. At the Parc des Princes on an average match day, you will likely see more Zlatan shirts than any other. 

His presence in Paris has made the French champions instantly more recognisable and infinitely more respectable because they have been able to attract a player of his impressive calibre.

PSG’s profile has risen on and off the pitch because of Ibrahimovic’s exploits, his reputation and the loyal following he has built up over the years inside and outside of Sweden.

Francois Mori/Associated Press

Importance 

Right now, Ibrahimovic is irreplaceable for PSG. 

There are arguably no players in the world, outside of Ronaldo and Messi who are capable of filling the mercurial striker’s role adequately on all fronts. 

Messi is, for the moment, unobtainable according to president Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s recent interview with L’Equipe. A move for 2013 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo appears unlikely. 

Yves Logghe/Associated Press

Ibrahimovic’s goals and assists, not to mention his position within the team, are so integral at present that if he were to be absent for a considerable period of time then PSG would struggle to cope.

No attacking player has scored as many goals as he has this season, while no midfielder comes near him for assists. 

Strike partner Cavani missed Tuesday’s Coupe de la Ligue win over Nantes and will miss Sunday’s vital clash with Monaco in Ligue 1, as well as the first leg of their Champions league last 16 encounter with Bayer Leverkusen

Had it been Zlatan with the injury instead of El Matador, then the Parisians might have been facing some real problems, despite Cavani’s own prolific scoring record. 

Should Ibrahimovic be able to lead PSG to a second straight Championnat title and progress past last year’s Champions League quarterfinal appearance, then he might even find himself up against Messi and Ronaldo for next year’s Ballon d’Or.

But in an immediate sense, he will be able to once again underline his untouchable position within the team with a star performance against title rivals Monaco in their massive Ligue 1 clash on Sunday.

 

*All statistics taken from Squawka and Ligue1.com.

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