Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani is currently in the best scoring form of his time with the French champions. The Uruguayan has found the back of the net seven times in his last seven appearances in all competitions, following his double in PSG’s 3-1 win over AFC Ajax in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Back in early October, after Cavani hit rock bottom with arguably his worst performance in a PSG shirt in the 1-1 draw at home to AS Monaco, such a run of form was unthinkable.
However, now El Matador is back scoring for fun once again and has started to rebuild his reputation as one of European football’s most feared marksmen. The 27-year-old’s infamous gun-toting celebration is well known and it is something we have been seeing plenty of lately in the French capital.
With strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic now back in the fold after a two-month absence with a heel injury, we could be seeing Cavani celebrating even more in the coming weeks and months.
For a while during the Swede’s absence, though, PSG’s No. 9 struggled to fill the boots of the capital club’s talismanic striker.
It took the Uruguayan international three Ligue 1 matches without Zlatan by his side before he finally managed to score, having bagged three goals between the start of the season and Ibrahimovic’s final game pre-injury against Olympique Lyonnais.
Cavani led the line for Les Parisiens in seven of their eight fixtures in all competitions without Ibrahimovic, scoring four times across five Ligue 1 and two UEFA Champions League matches. Three of those four goals made the difference between one point and three, including both narrow 1-0 wins over Apoel Nicosia in Europe.
The South American also scored on Ibrahimovic’s return to action in Le Classique against Olympique de Marseille, before coming on as a late substitute in the 3-2 win away at FC Metz. Finally starting together against Ajax for the first time since the 1-1 draw with Lyon, the pair both found the net with Cavani scoring two of the three.
A lot was made of both players’ unwillingness to pass to each other during Ibrahimovic’s comeback game against Marseille, but the Ajax performance should quieten those who were particularly critical of their lack of chemistry in that match.
However, Cavani’s comments to journalists after the Ajax victory on Tuesday, per ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman, suggest that there is some tension in their relationship without confirming it outright: "The most important thing is the respect two partners must have for each other. Respect is really the most important thing. When a player has been injured for several weeks, he needs time to get his fitness and best form back. Ibra has to play matches. But he'll quickly get back to his best, I'm sure of that."
While both might believe that they are the most important element in the PSG attack, the fact remains that playing together brings the best out of both of them.
Ibrahimovic may be the team’s most influential player, creating and scoring in equal measure, but his presence on the pitch makes Cavani more formidable than he is without his strike partner by his side.
Zlatan cannot do it all by himself anymore. Whether he likes it or not, Cavani is an important part of Laurent Blanc’s PSG team as well and thrives when Les Parisiens’ No. 10 is on the pitch. By the same token, El Matador may be frustrated with Ibrahimovic’s top-dog status at the Parc des Princes but must acknowledge that he plays better alongside the Swede.
Cavani and Ibrahimovic need each other.
The pair can cope without one another in the side, perhaps the latter more so than the former, but both need the other if they are to fire PSG to success in all competitions.
Because of his 33 years of age and recent injury struggles, Ibrahimovic can no longer be relied upon in the same way that PSG have done in the past. Sooner or later, the French champions will need to consider life without their star man, and Cavani has already given them a taste of what is to come when their talisman steps aside.
It would make little sense to allow Cavani to be forced out because of a potential struggle for power within the PSG team. If that were to happen, Blanc’s men would have to look for another player similar to the Uruguayan to come in and replace him. It is a solution that makes no sense.
Instead, Cavani and Ibrahimovic need to continue to “respect” each other, as the South American says. If the pair can build on the Ajax performance and Zlatan can get back into his best shape after an unusually long lay-off for him, then perhaps they can rediscover the sort of form that we saw them in together during the first half of last season before Cavani went off the boil.
El Matador now seems fully focused on his football once again and has finally emerged from his personal malaise that had been afflicting him since the start of 2014. His return to form has coincided with Ibrahimovic’s return to action.
With both now back and raring to go, a little bit of needle between the two as they try to score the most goals for the team could be a good thing. However, they must never lose sight of the respect that they need to continually show to one another.
If they can keep this in mind, then PSG will go from strength to strength domestically and in Europe as the season progresses.