Zlatan Ibrahimovic - LA Galaxy - 2019
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LA Galaxy miss Zlatan Ibrahimovic? The difference between 2019-20 so far

The presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was never going to be easy to replace for the LA Galaxy.

It wasn't just about the big, brash personality and swagger that the Swedish legend brought to the locker room and the city of L.A. The numbers don't lie. When he was on the field in MLS, Zlatan produced on the scoresheet, and he did so at an astounding rate.

By the time his MLS tenure was over, Ibrahimovic — whose unforgettable debut is being chronicled on today's "MLS Classics: Remix" — had an eye-popping 52 goals in 56 games (53 starts), including a 2019 campaign that saw him score 30 times in 29 games. Say what you will about his defense (he played little) and whether his famously demanding personality rubbed teammates the wrong way (it probably did) — his departure left the Galaxy attack with some big question marks as to how they would replace that production.

The offseason signing of Mexican superstar Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez was supposed to be the answer, and whenever the MLS season resumes, it still might be. In two games before the season suspension went into effect, though, the Zlatan-less Galaxy were lagging behind the numbers of their 2019 season in just about every category.

 

Stat 2019 2020
Shots/Game 13.79 11.50
Possession % 50.13% 47.42%
Passing Accuracy 82.84% 77.07%
Passing Accuracy, Final Third 72.81% 67.23%
Chances Created from Open Play/Game 9.47 7.50
Touches in Opp Box/Game 27.26 20.50

 

The results on the field fall in line with that drop-off. Cristian Pavon scored a magnificent golazo in LA's season-opening 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo, but that was their only goal through Week 2, as the Galaxy were shut out in their last match — a 1-0 shocker at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Of course, it's important to note that two games is an extremely small sample size. Furthermore, Hernandez is a very different player than Ibrahimovic — it was probably always going to take a little bit of time for his Galaxy teammates to learn how to play with him and put him in positions to best maximize his talents. MLSsoccer.com's Ben Baer did a deep-dive on the numbers behind the lack of service to Chicharito that shows the extent to which the Galaxy have thus far struggled to feed their star striker.

With Hernandez surrounded by the likes of Pavon, Sebastian Lletget and Aleksandar Katai, there's enough high-level talent there to turn those numbers around. Whenever the Galaxy are able to get back on the training ground, that'll be objective number one.


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