The differing fortunes of Manchester United and Liverpool during the week underlined the value of one piece of transfer business conducted by the latter in the summer. There were eyebrows raised when United signed Edinson Cavani on a free transfer, due to his age and wages. However, he has already had a huge impact and played a role in the team’s lofty league position. In basic terms, the Uruguayan striker is a world class goal scorer and a born winner. Both qualities have already been on show at Old Trafford since he inked his short term deal.
This season, Cavani has played 509 minutes in the Premier League. During this time, he has contributed four goals and two assists, which means he averages a goal involvement every 84.8 minutes. Some will suggest that his goal-scoring record at PSG was a consequence of the quality of Ligue 1. Cavani played in a team that dominated the division, and as such, his goal scoring record will have benefitted from that. However, he is now proving his world class ability in the Premier League. Long term watchers of the 33-year-old will point to his early career record in Serie A as further evidence to show his undoubted quality.
It is more difficult to show his winning mentality using stats, but it is noticeable that he has lost only three times this season. Only one of those loses came when Cavani was in the starting eleven. This was against former club PSG in the Champions League. His two major contributions have come in the Premier League against Southampton and Fulham. In both matches, he played a key role in helping United come back from behind to take three points. The 33-year-old hasn’t come to play a bit-part role. He is scoring big goals to propel Manchester United to a title challenge.
According to Understat, Cavani is averaging 0.76 expected goals (xG) per ninety minutes in the Premier League. Of players with more than 400 minutes, only Anwar El Ghazi (0.82 xG) and Jamie Vardy (0.78 xG) are averaging higher than the Uruguayan. Both of those players have taken penalties in the league this season. There is no doubting Cavani’s intelligence in the final third. If he continues to play regular minutes, he guarantees goals.
It may be a short term move for Manchester United, but it could be one that pays huge dividends if they do win the title this season. They remain an outside bet, but Cavani is a player with a winning mentality who will score big goals.
The transfer is one that Liverpool wouldn’t have considered making. They have a data driven approach and they prefer to sign players with potential who they can mould into world class players. They have done this with Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane among others. They moved away from this policy slightly in the summer when they brought in Thiago Alcantara. That said, he is four years younger than Cavani.
During the week, Liverpool laboured and their scoreless run in the league continues. They have tried to change personnel, but they don’t have the depth in attack to maintain their incredibly high level of performance. Divock Origi has scored some big goals during his Liverpool career, but he missed a big chance against Burnley that cost the team. Meanwhile, Cavani scored an equaliser against Fulham to lay the foundations to allow Manchester United to get three points. This was through great positioning and goal-scoring instincts.
Manchester United have their own problems in attack, with Anthony Martial in poor form. The Frenchman has scored just twice in the Premier League. However, this isn’t talked about much by the mainstream media, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a plethora of attacking options and is able to change things up in the final third. The signing of Cavani is now looking like a shrewd piece of business and one that other top European clubs may be ruing missing out on.