In Defense of Edinson Cavani

It was a frustrating night at the Parc des Princes as Paris Saint-Germain thoroughly outclassed Arsenal on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League but walked away with only a 1-1 draw.

In what was billed as the marquee fixture of match day one, it didn’t take long for things to get interesting. Edinson Cavani scored just 44 seconds after the opening whistle with a fantastic header off Serge Aurier’s cross. It was the kind of start the Uruguayan would have dreamt about but unfortunately for him, that would be the only highlight of his night.

Cavani followed up his goal by wasting so many scoring opportunities that I lost count. I know fans like to say, “our team should have won by 5 goals,” but in this case, it’s actually true. If El Matador finished half of the chances that came his way, PSG would be the talk of the footballing world for the way they dominated Arsenal. PSG had more possession, more corners, more shots on target, and seemed quicker to the ball than the North London side. Unai Emery, who did experiment a bit with the lineup going with Blaise Matuidi on the wing, got the tactics right and should have won that game.

Cavani’s match rating from various sources put him at about a 3 or 4, which is surprising considering he did score PSG’s only goal. Twitter was especially harsh on the former Napoli striker:

I think it’s important to say that without Cavani, PSG would have lost. His goal was one of immense skill and precision and I’m not sure there’s another player in the squad that could have scored the way he did. Jesé Rodríguez and Lucas Moura are on the bench but they’re there for a reason. Neither have impressed enough to earn a place in the starting lineup and how many wasted scoring opportunities have we seen from Lucas? Jesé recently came out and basically said he has no intention of coming off the bench but he’s yet to prove anything since arriving in Paris earlier this summer.

Cavani has to be given credit for not hiding from the spotlight and giving max effort throughout the 90 minutes. Say what you will about his inability to score, but you can’t deny he gives 100 percent for the badge and he’s almost always in the right place at the right time. These are not easy qualities to find in a footballer, especially a striker. I think Billy Haisley at Deadspin summed it up perfectly in his article on Cavani:

Cavani is in an incredibly strange place right now. He’s a player split in two: on one side, he remains legitimately very good at fighting his way into the most threatening areas of the pitch where his teammates can find him with the ball; on the other, he’s so obviously suffering from a bad case of the yips that he’s unable to take full advantage of the great chances he puts himself in position to score. – Billy Haisley, Deadspin

Right now, Cavani is the best striker PSG have and you can say all you want about how the club needed to bring in another striker during the transfer window but answer these three questions first:

  1. Who was available that is better than Cavani?
  2. Was that player available for a reasonable price?
  3. Did that player want to come to PSG?

It’s easy to yell about not signing Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Agüero, or Antoine Griezmann, but it’s not as simple as throwing cash at a player and giving him a PSG shirt. It’s been reported that management offered an insane amount of money for Neymar and you see he’s still at Barcelona. All the money in the world doesn’t matter if the player doesn’t want to leave his current club. That’s why the academy is so important and we’re starting to see it pay off with the likes of Jonathan Ikone and Presnel Kimpembe.

Photograph by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re a PSG supporter, I’m not saying you need to go out and purchase a PSG jersey with Cavani’s name on the back but there is no sense in slagging him off on Twitter or booing him at the Parc des Princes. He’s the best option the club has at the moment and eventually, you have to imagine that his hard work will pay off and the goals will come in big matches. For all the love we gave to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, let’s not forget that he didn’t always light it up in the Champions League and you can certainly point to a few games were he took the night off.

And besides, who among us didn’t celebrate like crazy when Cavani scored his goal against Arsenal? Remember that feeling and just know that more is to come.

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Lead photograph by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Tags Arsenal Champions League Edinson Cavani Jesé Rodriguez Lucas Moura Unai Emery


  1. Ed

    Gotta say, the answer to all three questions atm is Bacca. He knows Emery’s system, excelled in it and is clinical in front of goal. Fact is, in that particular chance Cavani scored, Bacca probably wouldn’t have, due to his vertical limitation, but he makes good runs and I’m sure would have scored at least three times this particular match. We all know that if Luiz had left earlier and/or Maxwell had been quicker in obtaining his French passport Bacca would be at PSG and the aforementioned Jesé wouldn’t.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I definitely rate Bacca but I’m not sure he’s the type of striker that can carry a team and will them to a win through his play (Milan finished 7th last season). If I were to agree that he is better than Cavani then it would only be slightly. Not sure a 30-year-old striker who only scored 18 goals last season in Serie A (Cavani scored 30+ each season) is really the upgrade PSG need at that position.

  3. Well, Bacca, Icardi, Jannsen, Lacazette, Diego Costa, Aubameyang, Insigne, keeping Zlatan… Pretty much any n°9 in any semi-decent team would be better than Cavani.

    If we take players with 100 games+ over the past 3 years, considering only big chances (i.e. 1v1 against the goal and the like) Cavani has EUROPE’S WORST CONVERSION RATE. Maxifoot did an article on that, he sits at 38.2% when every other CF is above 48% and the likes of Costa (52%), Aubameyang (55%) and Lacazette (not 100 games but still) 60% way above.

    Switch Cavani and Icardi and Paris would be #1 in L1 and #1 in their C1 group by far. I do hope this exchange will be made this winter.

  4. Ed I’m not saying that we should have gotten rid of Cavani, just that we should have signed Bacca. Note I did say that Jesé wouldn’t be here if the Bacca deal could have been completed. That said, I’m sure the team would have been much more confident in the midst of El Matador’s profligacy if an option like Bacca was available on the bench.

    Regarding Cavani scoring 30+ in Series A. That man atm does not exist and having the extra 25 goals that I believe Bacca could provide in the league alone would definitely assuage concerns. As Daniel stated in an earlier podcast, the top teams have a primary and secondary goalscorer and PSG doesn’t seem to have that now. I know Kurz has been on fire, but he should be an auxiliary goal scorer, similiar to Marcelo at Real Madrid, not a guy we depend on to win games.

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