Cavani and Giroud on dangerous ground
It doesn't look like Cavani and Giroud can inspire a compelling Champions League adventure
(Edinson Cavani 1)
(Alexis Sanchez 77)
The men supposed to spearhead their respective Champions League assaults ended up in a mist of exasperation.
Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw that left both sets of fans tearing their hair out at the Parc des Princes yesterday morning (Singapore time).
A thrilling end-to-end battle produced a number of exquisite footballing moments, but the match will also be remembered as an occasion when two strikers were made to wear hats bigger than their heads could handle.
Edinson Cavani is the man entrusted with the task of carrying the hopes of PSG in the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era.
Olivier Giroud is the unpopular one still regarded as Arsenal's No. 1 striker simply because transfer targets keep spurning Arsene Wenger.
Cavani began the night with a bang, scoring the hosts' opening goal with less than a minute on the clock.
Giroud started on the bench, reduced to the role of a second-half substitute.
At the end of the game, they wore the same look, of men being asked to do more than they were capable of.
Neither Cavani nor Giroud appear to be the answer to their clubs' chronic Champions League failures.
For Cavani, this season is his chance to step out of an intimidating shadow that has followed him everywhere for three seasons.
Coach Unai Emery, hired by PSG three months ago on the back of three successive Europa League triumphs with Sevilla, and whose primary objective is to lift the Champions League trophy, was counting on Cavani to fill the Ibrahimovic-shaped void.
When the Swede maestro confirmed he was leaving in the summer, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi had said: "We have our replacement for Ibrahimovic in the club already, Cavani."
It's not looking promising.
Yesterday, his sizzling start fizzled out quickly.
The 29-year-old Uruguay international could easily have scored five goals, but finished with just one.
His glancing header off a Serge Aurier cross turned out to be the only time over the 90 minutes he displayed the kind of prowess that once made him one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe.
He beat the outstanding Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, only to go on to slice wide of an open goal.
And when he later found himself in acres of space, he lost control of the ball after a heavy touch with his chest.
The half-time break didn't do him any good, as he missed another two one-on-one chances.
Criticism of the striker is mounting as PSG's stuttering start to their campaign continues.
Giroud is also watching helplessly as his season teeters on the brink.
Arsenal and France supporters have long made it known what they think of the 29-year-old striker - good, but not good enough.
Reportedly still unfit, he was left out of the starting line-up in Paris.
Wenger's not-so-secret approaches for Leicester's Jamie Vardy, Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata and Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette were signs that his loyalty to Giroud had waned.
Against PSG, Wenger opted for Alexis Sanchez to lead the line, and the Chilean scored the equaliser in the 77th minute.
It wasn't until the 62nd minute that Giroud came on as a substitute to boost the Gunners' attack.
Wenger was looking for him to provide a little more cutting edge up front, but all he did was rile everyone up.
In less than half an hour, he committed four fouls and received two yellow cards.
His persistent arguing with the referee earned him a booking two minutes from time.
Deep into injury time, his scuffle with Marco Verratti earned both of them a second yellow card and a sending-off.
Whether it was the frustration of being overlooked for the match, or the provocation he received from opponents, only Giroud knows.
Every little negative incident like this tightens the noose around his neck.
What is clear is that for both Giroud and Cavani, the writing is on the wall.