Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Last season, Cavani scored 16 goals playing the majority of the season alongside Ibrahimovic. In its most simplistic form, the formation was classed as 4-3-3, but the movement and players used made it much more versatile that it sounds.
Cavani was not playing as an out-and-out winger and was given full freedom to cut inside and exploit the space left by the opposition defenders.
Although Ibrahimovic scored 26 goals, the Swede played a deeper role than the normal No. 9. He would come deep to collect the ball, and the 11 assists he contributed showed the more creative side of his game.
Ibrahimovic’s movement opened up a huge hole in the centre-forward position, something that Cavani was allowed to fill at every opportunity. When he aired his concerns over PSG’s tactics, he made it sound like he was stuck out on the wing, but that was far from the truth.
Speaking to L'Equipe in April, via ESPN FC, Cavani spoke of his new responsibilities.
As an attacker, I am used to finishing attacks and scoring and today I must perform other tasks. No, it is not easy, it's true.
I do not want to talk about sacrifice, because I am happy putting the effort in. But today I hold a more defensive role than before.
I am more like a defender and it is more difficult because, when I arrived, I had other ideas.
If you look at a typical PSG game from last season—we’ll take the 3-1 win away at Rennes—you can see from an average position map that Cavani is taking up a central position alongside Ibrahimovic.
However, when Cavani has been given his chance to play the No. 9 role without Zlatan’s support, the striker hasn’t set the world on fire. What Cavani needs to realise is that Ibrahimovic takes a lot of the attention away from Cavani and opens up huge gaps for the player to slip into.
Without his partner, Cavani has to do more of the work himself.
Against Saint-Etienne, Cavani has another chance to show that he can carry the burden of being Paris Saint-Germain’s main striker, and another limp performance will do nothing but cast more doubts over his ability to carry the flame once Ibrahimovic steps down.
This is Cavani’s chance to shine, and it would do wonders for the striker's confidence if he can fire PSG to glory during Ibrahimovic’s absence.