Cavani’s transfer to PSG has raised a lot of eyebrows. The surprise is not from the fact that he garnered the largest transfer fee in French history or that PSG was the team to give it to him but because of the team he went to. PSG played last year in a 4-3-3 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the lead striker and main focal point of their attack. The strategy worked well with Zlatan scoring thirty goals and led the Ligue 1 in scoring. However, Zlatan is notorious for being three things, two of which earn him a lot of vitriol from football fans, he is a great striker, incredibly selfish, and has gained a reputation as a mercenary. If he feels his position as center of the PSG universe is being threatened he could try and force his way out or force Cavani to play out of position. Neither of which are desirable outcomes if PSG is looking to bolster its attacking prowess.
On Napoli, Cavani played more of a central striking position while on Uruguay that position is occupied by Luis Suarez, and a lot of blame for his poor performances on the national team has been blamed on this very fact. Although to be fair, there have been many great players who have not performed at the level they are expected to on their national team because they have so little time to mesh with their teammates on their national team when compared to the time they have to mesh with their club teammates. Despite this caveat it is interesting to note how Cavani has consistently under-performed when put out wide. Zlatan never plays wide due to his style of play and body-type. If you look at PSG’s success last year it is hard to argue that Zlatan was the reason for their failure in the Champions League. Therefore, can PSG really make the case to play Zlatan out of position or change the formation that he thrived in without angering the fans and, more importantly, Zlatan himself?
Zlatan moving position seems unlikely but PSG would be foolish to not try everything to make sure their record-signing as effective as possible during his PSG career. Therefore, this is where the questions arise. Obviously, every effort must be made by a team like PSG to get one of the best strikers in the world but by signing Cavani they put two world-class strikers on the same team who have a proven track record of being unable to thrive out of position. So the real question is, can Laurent Blanc devise a formation that utilizes both strikers in a way that will get the most of their potential? Or will this signing hasten Zlatan Ibrahimvic’s exit from PSG?
There are a lot of possible formations that could be utilized. One of which is a 4-4-2 with Zlatan playing behind Cavani and a little bit to the left or right. In this scenario Cavani would be the point man and could lay off balls to Ibrahimovic who can run at defenders with some space. This is assuming Ibrahimovic will play as effectively without the service provided by two wingers. There’s also Ezequiel Lavezzi to worry about, assuming Cavani’s arrival doesn’t lead to him seeking a transfer to elsewhere, because his talent lies on the wing and having to consistently track back will hurt his effectiveness on the offense, same with Lucas Moura. Not to mention this leaves Javier Pastore as the odd man out as both wide midfield positions would be occupied by Lavezzi and Moura. PSG now has a wealth of offensive talent but a lot of offensive talent can be a bigger problem than it looks on paper because each talented player wants to play. However,too many offensive minded players can lead to weaker defense. This is because offensive players are notoriously bad at tracking back and playing defense which can overwhelm the PSG defense forcing PSG to have to outscore their opponents in way too many games to counteract their defense being constantly under fire.
Each and every formation will have its ups and downs, especially with this over-abundance of talent and a dearth of offensive positions within most formations. At the end of the day it is whether these two highly played players, and the rest of their talented offensive cast, can adapt their playing styles in order to compromise for the good of the team. Although, as the past has shown highly-paid players are usually not the ones most willing to compromise. If PSG wants to challenge in the Champions League then Laurent Blanc and company better make sure they do. However, it is entirely possible, and likely, that one of these players will have to leave in order to make room for Cavani and if Cavani does not mesh with Ibrahimovic then he could be worth a lot less tactically then the record transfer fee PSG paid for him. The only positive is that Cavani and Lavezzi have shown that they play well together after their time playing together on Napoli. Thus at the end of the day PSG’s success relies on whether Ibrahimovic and Cavani, two fantastic world-class strikers, can play at their best when sharing the spotlight.