Can Cavani Perform Under Pressure?

Edinson Cavani converted a penalty against Leicester City F.C. last Monday to open his scoring account ahead of start of the season. However, his performance as a whole during the International Champions Cup hasn’t eased the concerns many supporters have over his ability to replicate Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goalscoring exploits.

Despite numerous clear-cut chances to score, particularly against Real Madrid and Inter Milan, the Uruguayan failed to convert from open play throughout the preseason competition. Unfortunately, this is fairly characteristic of his career thus far at PSG.

Although Cavani has managed a respectable 81 goals in last three seasons, he has largely failed to live up to expectations. This is mostly attributed to low confidence stemming from former manager Laurent Blanc playing him out of position on the wings to accommodate Ibrahimovic. Having been promised a return to his preferred position at center-forward, Cavani seems ready to rise to the occasion. Cavani said to L’Equipe:

No, it’s a big challenge that I’ve been presented with to be part of the PSG attack in this central position. I’ll try to be at my best and to respond to expectations, like I’ve tried to do in previous years. With the confidence of the coach and the club, I hope that everything will go the way we all wish it to.

Every footballer has his way of playing. I have no pressure. What I’m presented with is a personal challenge in order to give the best of myself, to win titles, to score goals for my team and to help it when it needs it. It’s the opposite of pressure. For me it’s an honour to be one of PSG’s attackers.

Cavani’s performances in preseason hasn’t helped fans share his optimism but I won’t give up on the former Napoli striker just yet. The 2014-15 season (relatively his best so far at PSG) showed his ability to cope with the pressure of being the team’s main scorer. That season saw El Matador enjoy his most appearances at center-forward as well as his longest run consecutively in that position, which contributed greatly to him being the club’s highest goal scorer in that campaign with 31 goals in all competitions.

Cavani previously blamed some of his poor performances when played in his preferred position on the constant changes to his position by Blanc and he proved his point. In a season where Ibrahimovic missed long spells due to injuries and suspensions, the Uruguayan enjoyed two separate prolonged runs in his preferred position that season. The first spanned nine games and while he failed to score in the first four games, he went on to net goals in each of his next five while finishing the season with 10 goals in seven league games in Zlatan’s other absence towards the end of the season. Combining these two totals, he had a total of 15 goals in 16 games, which amounts to almost a goal a game. Not bad, eh? Even in arguably his worst spell at the club, the second half of the 2013-14 season, Cavani managed to score 7 goals in 20 games and it was a seven-game run in the center of the attack which saw him score four.

There’s no doubt that Cavani is a frustrating player to watch, but he has proved that when given extended time at his preferred position, he can more than get the job done. With Ibrahimovic out of the picture, the 29-year-old has no excuses not to perform. The pressure is now on Cavani to step up and redefine his career at PSG.

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Photograph by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

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