How Zlatan and Wenger could decide the Ligue 1 title race
With the Ligue 1 season starting soon, it’s time to start looking at whether they PSG can be caught in their quest for the title, and there is a chance that the race could be affected by a certain Mr Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And yes, I know he’s at Manchester United.
If PSG don’t sign a proper replacement for Zlatan and Arsenal (or, of course, anyone else) don’t sign Lacazette, it will represent a noticeable narrowing in the gap between the two teams. PSG won Ligue 1 at a canter last season, so have a nice buffer to work with, but this was likely helped by some bad luck on Lyon’s part.
Put simply, Cavani is probably not an adequate replacement for Ibrahimovic (and even if he was, he’d need some back-up too). Like last week, let’s look at their possession adjusted shots on target and key passes, to get an idea of the effective things they do with the ball. First up, Zlatan.
2009/10 (Barcelona) – 2.47
2010/11 (AC Milan) – 3.71
2011/12 (AC Milan) – 4.3
2012/13 (PSG) – 3.54
2013/14 (PSG) – 3.51
2014/15 (PSG) – 3.03
2015/16 (PSG) – 3.29
All healthy, with a stand-out year at AC Milan (for reference, Cristiano Ronaldo averages 4.48 over his 7 years of detailed data; Messi is affected by the way Barcelona use possession as a means to defend without taking shots, which will have affected Ibrahimovic’s year there too). Cavani’s history is a little different.
2009/10 (Palermo) – 1.73
2010/11 (Napoli) – 2.27
2011/12 (Napoli) – 2.37
2012/13 (Napoli) – 2.8
2013/14 (PSG) – 1.76
2014/15 (PSG) – 1.95
2015/16 (PSG) – 1.98
Part of the depression of Cavani’s numbers from Napoli to PSG looks like a struggling to transition between the different clubs and the different roles he will have occupied. Even so, his Napoli numbers aren’t super, they’re not Zlatan.
This is where Lacazette comes in. Still not Zlatan good, he nonetheless seems quite handy to have around, based on 5 season’s worth of numbers.
2011/12 (Lyon) – 2.4
2012/13 (Lyon) – 1.53
2013/14 (Lyon) – 2.33
2014/15 (Lyon) – 2.88
2015/16 (Lyon) – 2.3
There’s a very bad season and then a slightly above normal season, and then three years around the 2.3-2.4 level. This is Cavani-at-Napoli levels, and above Cavani-at-PSG. As the central focal point for the attack, his numbers may return to Napoli levels, but at 29 they’re unlikely to go beyond that.
Which means that PSG have essentially downgraded themselves in this department and put them on more of a level playing field with their rivals. Had Arsenal (or, yes, anyone else) pinched Lacazette during the summer, as they may still do, it’s highly likely that Lyon would be looking at a downgrade of their own in the striker department. But as it stands, they’re not. They haven’t even suffered too much from the departure of star centre-back Umtiti to Barcelona, as they’ve brought in N’Koulou from Marseille.
PSG have now signed Jese from Real Madrid but, with the limitations of sample sizes and sub effects, he’s a bit of an unknown quanitity. From 2013/14 to 2015/16 he played 592, 533, and 827 league minutes, with his numbers looking like this.
2013/14 (Real Madrid) – 3.2
2014/15 (Real Madrid) – 2.19
2015/16 (Real Madrid) – 3.87
With this fluctuation and the very small amount of minutes he played in those three seasons, who can tell which of those figures will be closest to what he will produce for PSG.
So yes, Zlatan and Arsene could have an impact in the Ligue 1 title race, all the way from across the Channel. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your hyperbolic statement for the week.
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