Serie A giants Juventus were keen on moving Paulo Dybala on this past summer. Deals came very close with Premier League giants Manchester United and Tottenham, but image rights issues kept it away from completion. About three months on from those times, Dybala is back winning games for the Bianconeri. Not just normal matches, he is winning Champions League matches.
His brace against Lokomotiv Moscow was a treat to watch. La Joya almost single-handedly rescued a side that was pushing him away. Juve were keen on getting rid of him, despite the player’s desperate attempts to stay. Perhaps, it was meant to be this man.
In a sense, one has to laud Dybala for being so professional throughout. He never let his head drop for a single second, despite all the speculation regarding his future. He worked hard, got back into the side and made full use of his chance.
The 25-year-old made his first appearance against Hellas Verona- during Juve’s 2-1 win over the newly-promoted side. Playing as a striker in a 4-3-3 shape, the Argentine completed as many as five dribbles- the highest in the game. He played two key passes too (via Whoscored).
He didn’t score but he laid down a very promising foundation. There were times when he and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t look on the same wavelength in the new system. But it only improved with time.
The next game against Brescia saw Dybala get paired up with Gonzalo Higuain in a narrow 4-4-2 diamond shape. Clearly, Maurizio Sarri was trying to inculcate him into the side and get a link-up going with the other two. Against Brescia, Dybala played the fourth-highest number of passes in the game-61, picking up two key passes (via Whoscored).
He was probably Juve’s best player in the game against SPAL, grabbing his first assist of the season. In this game, Sarri had played him alongside Ronaldo in the diamond 4-4-2. In what was a dominating performance, Dybala completed four dribbles.
From there on, it has been a matter of time. He scored with a stunning low shot from a tight angle against Inter, helping the Old Lady win the Derby D’Italia and rise to the top of the Serie A table.
Sarri kept him on the bench against Bologna in an attempt to see the Ronaldo-Higuain duo get going up front in the same formation. The brace against the Russian side was probably coming, considering Dybala was rested at the weekend.
It has been a case of swift progress. Sarri has done exceptionally well in rotating his three most important goalscorers. He has succeeded in sparking a very good link-up among all three of them. They seem on the same wavelength already.
Dybala has completed the highest number of dribbles per game for Juve-2.2 (via Whoscored). That has been clear from how he has approached every game. He has had one target man-esque striker around him. This has allowed Dybala more freedom and time on the ball.
The fact that he is thriving can be established by the fact that he’s been the fourth-best passer at 89.2 percent.
The way Sarri wants Juve to play suits Dybala too. He will have a lot of possession- as much as he would love. With a rather immobile midfielder like Sami Khedira usually behind him, he has extra space. Dybala can float about just anywhere on the right side of the pitch since Juve don’t really have ultra-attacking full-backs like Joao Cancelo anymore.
Miralem Pjanic has been key to laying down the foundation for Sarri’s system. He has been feeding the forward players like Dybala, who has benefitted. Having a player like that behind you gives a sense of assurance and security. Pjanic has played 74 passes per game this season- more than anyone else in the team (via Whoscored)
Under Max Allegri, Dybala was shafted wide. The system was pragmatic and structured. That never helps a flair player like him. He was forced to stick to the touchline and that took a lot out of his strengths.
Juve’s inability to sell Dybala due to image rights issues has become a crucial turning point of their season. His influence will only increase. He has many doubters to silence.