To a sympathetic soul trying to surmise a specific and, more importantly, potentially reversible cause for Edinson Cavani’s rapid descent from Top Five Pure Striker to Fernando Torres 2.0, the most coherent case would go something like this: upon joining Paris Saint-Germain, poor Cavani was shunted both literally (on the pitch, where he was usually played on the wing) and figuratively (hidden in the umbra of PSG’s then-unquestioned star’s dense, immense shadow) to the periphery in favor of Zlatan Ibrahimović.
No longer nurtured on the number of chances and team-wide central focus he needed to thrive, his sidekick status in Paris led to a relative paucity of chances, which led to a relative lack of goals, which led to a cratering confidence, which led to even fewer goals and more embarrassing misses in must-score situations, all of which redounded upon each other in an infinite feedback loop of suckitude. Napoli’s stalking, fearless Matador became PSG’s meek rodeo clown.
As is the case for most confidence-shorn strikers, the easier the chance, the more certain it was that he’d miss. Cavani’s goal record in France looks impressive at first glance, but anyone actually watching the games would recognize the sad husk of a poacher out there booting half of his would-be tap-ins over the crossbar. And maybe the saddest part about it all, no matter how many times he humiliated himself contriving to miss all sorts of unmissable shots, he still tried as fervently as ever to get into good positions and shoot his shots, only to continually fail. Again, very Torres-esque.
But there’s no need for this drop in performances to have been permanent, so this pro-Cavani thinking would go. Ship out Ibrahimović, as PSG did earlier this summer, move Cavani back to his natural habitat in the center of the pitch, as was a natural result of Ibra’s departure and the club not signing another starting-caliber striker, feed the Uruguayan the huge number of goal scoring opportunities this overpowered PSG generates in the under-competitive French league, and maybe, just maybe, Cavani would once again look like the elite forward he was just a couple short years ago.
Well, this weekend saw the second match of PSG’s new Ligue 1 campaign with Cavani as the main goalman, a natural experiment in whether Cavani had been or could be redeemed. Let’s check how it went: