Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani: The World’s Deadliest Strike Partnership
Every season, there continues to be a debate over what team has the deadliest strike partnership. While many are convinced that the days of a two striker formation are numbered, they seem to be proven wrong on occasion by a handful of exceptionally talented players who just cant stop scoring regardless of the league they play in.
At the forefront of this striker debate are Paris Saint-Germain. The Parisian giants bought the outspoken Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season from AC Milan for a fee of around 20 million euros and he has consistently proven to be worth his price tag, as he scored a league leading 30 goals in his first Ligue 1 season, which hasn’t been done since 1989. This season they’ve purchased another top striker in Edinson Cavani, who led Serie A in scoring last term with 29 goals.
These two are without question the top striking partnership in the world. They both have undeniably good goal scoring records, and it seems that they’re both in their prime even though Zlatan is now 32. Cavani has scored over 20 goals in his last three seasons for Napoli and has been a top 3 goal scorer in Italy for those 3 seasons having only been outscored by Diego Milito, Zlatan and Di Natale. Zlatan has scored 28 or more goals in the past two seasons and while he only scored 14 goals in 2010 he also recorded 13 assists. The two forwards have proven that they can score in any situation. They score on headers, they score on free kicks, the score with both feet, they can dribble past opponents and they have the awareness to make key passes and unselfish plays to better their team. Coming into this season there was speculation that Zlatan would leave PSG because he didn’t want to play second fiddle to another striker, but through 10 games the two strikers have worked exceptionally well together and their class is undeniable. Cavani has scored 6 goals and made 6 key passes while Zlatan has scored 5 goals, recorded 3 assists and has made 15 key passes. They’re both averaging a shot accuracy of around 50% and they’re winning about 60% of their duels. These two prolific goal scorers are the reason that PSG are sitting atop League 1 with a goal differential of +13 while Monaco sits in second with a goal differential of +11 thanks to their striker Radamel Falcao.
The difference between PSG’s striking partnership and all other partnerships is that these two forwards are the two of the most complete pure strikers in the game with Zlatan arguably being the best pure striker in the world. On numerous occasions the football world has been rocked by the goals he’s scored whether they were for Ajax, Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Sweden, Inter or PSG. Tae Kwon Do inspired goals and acrobatic scissor kicks and bicycle kicks seem to occur regularly for Zlatan who is truly a human highlight reel. His strike partner, Cavani, has been thoroughly impressing over the last few years and has been amassing some great highlights of his own. These two have the strength and speed to make runs in behind the defense. They have the height to take advantage of set piece situations. They’re clinical finishers who can score with either foot or their head and they score just as often for country as they do for club. It doesn’t matter what system you put these two in; they will get results and score plenty of goals. What makes this partnership even more deadly is the fact that they seem to be having a competition for the team and the league’s top scorer. When Ibrahimović scored that unbelievable back heel volley against Bastia to open the scoring before scoring another goal in the first half he sparked something in Cavani, who was subbed on for him in the second half. Cavani responded with a brace of his own and scored an impressive goal where he dribbled past a few defenders and then put the keeper on his backside before finishing from a tight angle. His goal received applause from Zlatan who watched from the bench. It’s a bit difficult to stop PSG when they have strikers capable of making defenses and goalkeepers look foolish on a regular basis regardless of the quality of their opposition.
PSG’s mercurial forwards put on another impressive display in their last Champions League fixture against Anderlecht, who were unable to cope with their class. Although Cavani did score a goal in their 5-0 rout of the Belgian side it was Zlatan who once again stole the show with his 4 goal performance. The big Swede was unstoppable and a word inspired by him; Zlaterna, a Swedish word that means, “to dominate”, can only describe his performance. In the 17th minute Zlatan started his rout with an easy tap in, but the quality of his goals would only get better. In the 22st minute he scored again, but this time with a cheeky backheel that left Proto flatfooted. In the 36th minute Zlatan scored an absolute screamer from outside the box to complete his first half hat trick. Cavani got himself on the score sheet in the 52st minute after a defensive error, which left him 1 on 1 with Proto. Zlatan added his 4th goal of the night in the 62nd minute with a fantastic shot from a very difficult angle. Many will be quick to point out that this performance was against a weak Anderlecht side, but the quality of the goals is unquestionable. In 3 Champions League matches, Zlatan has scored 6 goals and Cavani has scored 2. Most sides are lucky to have one forward with an eye for goal, but when a side has two who are arguably top 5 in the world that’s something else altogether.
As the League 1 season and Champions League progress we are going to see a lot more of these two and it’s not crazy to think that they will both finish the 2013 campaign with 20+ goals.