Juventus are the giants of Italian football. They have won the last six Serie A titles; have made the Champions League final in two of the last three seasons; and are playing some of the best football in all of Europe, even in the midst of a tight race with Napoli for this year’s Serie A title. Although they are known by casual fans for their staunch Italian defensive trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Gigi Buffon, Juve are much more than the combination of their defensive stalwarts. In fact, those more familiar with Juventus know that they play some elegant, end-to-end football.
The Man Behind it all
Who is the man behind this visually appealing style of play? 24-year-old Argentinian attacking midfielder Paulo Dybala.
While Bosnian international, Miralem Pjanic, operates as the metronome in midfield, Dybala is the team’s offensive genius, expected to work tirelessly in order to breakdown opposing defenses. Why has Massimiliano Allegri handed over the attacking reins to Dybala? Because he is one of the most dynamic creative midfielders world football has to offer. His first touch, scintillating left foot, passing range, body positioning, shot accuracy, skill on set-pieces, and overall on-field awareness make Dybala a generational talent.
It is worth noting here, that Allegri did drop Dybala from the starting lineup for a period earlier this season due to a couple of poor performances and a slight leg injury. Still, statistically, the former Instituto and Palermo midfielder has had a hot start to this season. He already has 21 goals (17 in Serie A, one in each of the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana, and one in the Champions League) and three assists, making him one of the more productive players in Europe’s top five leagues.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 11, 2018
Lots of ink has already been spilled on Paulo’s skill and nearly unrivaled technical ability, so for the rest of this piece, we are going to briefly examine how Dybala is able to operate so effectively within Juventus’ squad.
Ownership of Juve’s Creativity
Of course, most of the credit for Paulo Dybala’s, and by proxy Juventus’, impressive beginning to the 2017-2018 campaign must go to Allegri. By surrounding his young playmaker with top-tier well-rounded, defensively inclined midfielders like Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic, and Sami Khedira, Allegri has allowed Dybala to take nearly full ownership of Juventus’ creative style of play. With the midfield players that Juventus have, Dybala is able to focus almost solely on creating chances.
Another well-built aspect of Juve’s squad that has provided Dybala extra freedom is their center backs’ ability on the ball. Chiellini, Barzagli, Medhi Benatia, and Daniele Rugani all have the confidence and ability to posses the ball and recycle it back into midfield. Because of that quartet’s skill, Paulo Dybala gets more time on the ball, which leads to additional chances created by the Argentinian maestro.
A final key that allows Dybala to maximize his impact on the game is Gonzalo Higuain’s ability to keep the ball in tight spaces. Almost always deployed as a lone striker, Higuain is often tasked with holding-up play in some very difficult situations. He is positioned by Allegri as a flexible outlet, able to drop deep into midfield, if the situation mandates, or stay high as an extension of the attack in order to stretch the opposition and create space for his teammates.
With Paulo Dybala in great form, now seems like the perfect time to acknowledge the fantastic work done by Allegri in adjusting his squad to play to his young playmaker’s strengths. Allegri and Dybala really are the perfect duo.