Ibrahimovic thinks less goals means good news
SAINT-GERMAIN EN LAYE, France (AP)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is happy to no longer carry the burden in attack for Paris Saint-Germain.
The imposing Sweden striker notched more than 30 goals for PSG last season, the most prolific of his career. But so far this term he has managed only two in 10 games ahead of Wednesday's Champions League Group C match against Benfica.
Rather than being worried, the 31-year-old thinks it shows PSG no longer relies just on him.
''I think it's a positive thing. Now it's not only one that is scoring, we have another striker like (Edinson) Cavani that can score,'' Ibrahimovic said on Tuesday at a news conference at PSG's training ground. ''Not only him, we have others who can score goals and the team gets stronger.''
Under former coach Carlo Ancelotti, the team revolved around Ibrahimovic. But since taking charge, new coach Laurent Blanc has changed the system to accommodate Cavani, who joined this summer after three prolific seasons with Napoli.
Midfielder Thiago Motta and even 19-year-old center half Marquinhos have also been chipping in with goals.
Ibrahimovic retains the center forward role, but has played more in midfield to give Cavani more space in a 4-3-3 system that sees the Uruguay striker marauding down the right. Ibrahimovic has become more of a provider.
''I've missed a couple of good chances to score this season, but I don't think the goals are the problem,'' Ibrahimovic said. ''If we put the team together it becomes like a machine and then you bring out the best quality from everybody, and that's what counts. Not that one is working and the rest aren't working.''
Cavani has twice as many goals in the league as Ibrahimovic so far.
''I'm not that kind of guy that only thinks of myself for goals, and I don't think Edi does,'' Ibrahimovic said. ''If I win in the end and score less goals I'm happy.''
PSG is the heavy favorite to top a weak Group C that also features Olympiakos and Anderlecht. The real pressure will be to do better than last season, when it was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Barcelona.
''Last year many (teams) were thinking `How good is this PSG? What can they do? How far can they reach in the Champions?''' Ibrahimovic said. ''But this year they know who PSG is, with the players that have come and everything that is happening around PSG. The teams have more respect for Paris Saint-Germain.''
Ibrahimovic has won league titles with Ajax, Juventus, both Milan clubs, and Barca. But he has never won the European Cup.
''I have a lot of dreams. Of course, to win the Champions League would be more than perfect,'' he said. ''I have a great opportunity to win it with Paris Saint-Germain.''
He credits Blanc with trying to play more attacking football.
''He's given the team a lot of confidence, he's given (the players) the free space to play how they want,'' he said. ''When you have a squad like this you have to make everybody satisfied, which is the most difficult part, because everyone wants to play.''
Ancelotti struggled at times to do that during a tense campaign punctuated by dressing room unrest.
''This is part of the game and I think the coach (Blanc) is handling it fantastic,'' Ibrahimovic said.
He may have to moderate his notoriously fiery temper, now that he is captain in the absence of the injured Thiago Silva.
Ibrahimovic was outraged during Saturday's home win against Toulouse after Abel Aguilar barged him over. He shoved Aguilar back. Then, as he left the field to be substituted, Ibrahimovic made a pistol shape with his fingers at Toulouse substitute Jonathan Zebina. They had a punch-up in training at Juventus seven years ago.
''There are some players who have a lot of character. The only problem is that they're average players,'' Blanc said. ''When you have players who are really strong and have a lot of character, it's true that you have to make do with it, but you make more concessions.
''They have a great value on the pitch, not only individually, but collectively,'' Blanc added, ''because the others have massive confidence in them.''