Friday, 20 September 2013

Starting to get worried about Zlatan? Don't

In their only hit of note, terrible pop band The Hoosiers were Worried About Ray.

As far as I know, most Paris Saint-Germain fans don’t share the group’s concerns about anyone called Ray – except Domenech perhaps – but some are starting to get worried about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Last season Ibra’s goal output was consistently impressive, starting with a double on debut against Lorient and ending the season with an impressive total of 30 goals in 33 matches, making him the first player to score 30 Ligue 1 goals since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1989.

So far this term he hasn’t hit those heights, with one goal– a last minute strike against Guingamp – to show for his efforts in our opening five league games.

Throw in his penalty miss against Olympiacos, and the presence of New Big Name on the Block Edinson Cavani, and you can see why there has been some speculation about Ibra’s happiness levels.

The man himself says he’s not bothered about a lack of goals, and I for one am not going to argue with him.

"People are demanding," he said in a recent interview. "They always expect more of me.

"For an attacker, it is always important to score. But I do not want to be reduced to that. I try to play the game and help the team. I hope to deliver more assists.

"It's important for a team that the responsibility for scoring goals is shared. At PSG, we can always score a lot."

I think there’s a lot of truth in what he says. People always look for drama where Ibra is concerned, but in this instance I really don’t think there is anything to worry about.

Firstly, because the team is better off than it was last year. We have 11 points compared to last season’s nine, and eight goals  as opposed to last season’s six, five of which came from Zlatan. This is one of those cases where PSG – and Ibra – can’t win; at this time last year people were calling us a one-man-team, and now we’re patently not a one-man-team people are worried that the one man isn’t scoring enough.

It's not that he isn't getting into good positions either: WhoScored statistics show he's having 5.6 shots-per-game so far in 2013/14, compared to last year's 4.6. Alright so they're not going in, but I'd be more worried if he wasn't getting the chances.

Even leaving statistics aside, I know there’s not too much to worry about where Zlatan is concerned because I’ve seen him with my own eyes. In most games this season he’s still been our chief creative force – witness the sublime pass for Blaise Matuidi’s goal against Bordeaux, or the ball that put Maxwell in the clear to set up Cavani’s opener in Greece on Tuesday. If PSG put together a good move going forward, it’s a safe bet Ibra is involved.

The only elephant in the room is his relationship with Cavani; Is there space for both of them in the team? So far the evidence is inconclusive, with some great moments of interplay interspersed with times where they appear to be on completely different wave-lengths. But it’s still early days, and Cavani is not up to full speed yet, so they deserve a bit more time before sentencing is carried out on their relationship.

Manager Laurent Blanc has also played down his star man’s travails in front of goal: "I don't worry about Ibra,” he said at his press conference earlier today. “He is making assists and will find success [in front of goal]"

What can’t be denied is that Zlatan proved himself last season to be the man for the big occasion, getting the goals in the matches that mattered. I’m sure no-one would be surprised if he played a decisive role in Sunday’s Cashico with Monaco. If you ask me the only people who should be worried about Zlatan are the ASM defence.


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