There has been a lot of talk about Paolo Dybala’s future. Whether strong Dybala will finish the season has been on Juventus supporters’ minds lately. Top 4 league finish and Champions League qualification are still up for grabs. His contract with Juventus is set to expire at the end of the 2022 season. Renewal has yet to be signed. There is a lot of uncertainty. However, one thing I believe is certain is that we are going to see a strong Dybala finish to the season.Embed from Getty Images
There are three reasons why we should expect strong Dybala for the remainder of the season. First, because he is a fantastic player. Second, Juventus’s new center forward (Vlahovic) is exactly the type of player Dybala loves to play with. Third, Chiesa will not be returning for the rest of the season, which will force Max Allegri to heavily rely on the Dybala-Vlahovic duo for goals. Now, let’s discuss these three points.
Dybala is a Top Player
As already stated Dybala is fantastic. That is reason number one why we will see strong Dybala finishing the season. He has had some issues with health and fitness for the last year or so. After winning the Serie A MVP in the 2019-2020 season, Dybala has suffered multiple small injuries and missed some important games. He seems to have recovered now and has been in terrific form as of late. He has contributed to 14 goals in 21 Serie A and Champions League games this season. More importantly, he has caught better form as the season progressed.
As for the rest, little needs to be said. Dybala has been fantastic for Juventus when healthy. He is a type of player fans love to watch and the team loves to depend on. After scoring over 100 goals for Juventus Dybala has little left to prove about his abilities.
Signing Vlahovic will Allow for Strong Dybala Presence
In the midst of reported financial troubles, Juventus just signed one of the most desirable prospects in the world.
Signing Vlahovic does not only make Juventus a better team, but it makes for strong Dybala too. Every Juventus fan will tell you Dybala’s best years in a black and white shirt came before Juventus signed Ronaldo. During pre-Ronaldo years, Dybala primarily played behind a center forward (be it Mario Mandzukic or Gonzalo Higuain). In this second-striker role, he played a central role close to the goal with a license to roam and drift. In that role Dybala was phenomenal.
For those who do not know, Dybala joined Juventus in the 2015-16 season. He ended the year with 23 goals and 7 assists. During this year he played primarily behind Mandzukic (and also Alvaro Morata rotating in) which allowed Dybala to flourish. Mandzukic’s physical presence, good hold-up play, and ability to drag defenders with him in the box, allowed Dybala to show his best abilities. Dybala was able to move between the lines and find himself closer to the goal. Strong Dybala finishing and creating abilities allowed him to really prosper in that free role.
In 2016-2017, Juventus signed another center forward in Gonzalo Higuain and received a strong Dybala performance once again. Playing along with another world-class #9 allowed Dybala to continue to do what he does best. Move around the main striker who knows what to do in the opposition box, who knows how to create spaces around him, and can provide link-up play down the middle. That season Dybala once again delivered and contributed 19 goals and 9 assists even though Higuain was able to carry the scoring load. Playing vs Barcelona, Dybala put on a show that Juventus supporters still remember.
🗓 Today in 2017… Paulo Dybala netted twice as Juventus defeated Barcelona 3-0 🤩— GOAL (@goal) April 11, 2020
Sit back and enjoy 🍿pic.twitter.com/YSzvfgKHXr
Dybala During Ronaldo Years
Things changed in the 2018-2019 season. After Ronaldo’s arrival, Dybala’s role changed and it showed. During the season he only managed 10 goals and 2 assists. With Ronaldo’s arrival, Dybala was forced to step back more. Max Allegri had trouble fitting Ronaldo and Dybala close to the goal when neither player likes to occupy a central position in the box during developing phases. Ronaldo likes to attack from the left until the final ball is played in the box.
Dybala on the other hand likes to roam around the box, create from the deeper positions and roam to the right. To solve the issue of missing forward in the box, Allegri used Mandzukic as a primary target man to link up with Ronaldo. That forced Dybala to drop deeper into the field. His productivity suffered.
To be clear, this is not a dig at Ronaldo, who was and continues to be a fantastic player. Rather, it is to highlight the difficulties his arrival created for Dybala who prefers to play next to or behind a true center forward as a secondary scoring option.
Some will argue that the Ronaldo-Dybala partnership was not an issue because in the 2019-20 season we saw strong Dybala performances again. Mauricio Sarri was able to get over 30 goal contributions out of him. He even won the Serie A MVP award. Under Sarri Dybala was moved closer to the goal once again and he shined. However, Juventus as a team suffered a great imbalance. The team rarely looked defensively stable and lost some uncharacteristic points.
For example, under Sarri, Juventus kept 11 clean sheets in Serie A. Juventus kept 11 clean sheets in the first 20 games in both years directly preceding Sarri’s appointment in 2018. In addition, Juventus averaged 92.5 points in those two years before Sarri arrived. Juventus only managed 83 points with Sarri; which is almost a full 10 point regression. Lastly, Juventus also finished with a +51 goal difference on average in the 2 years before Sarri. Under Sarri the team only managed +33. Therefore, even though Dybala had a good year from a personal point of view, the team did not. Sarri never figured out how to stabilize a team with Dybala and Ronaldo both starring.
Dybala continued to struggle into the 2020-2021 season under Pirlo. Mostly due to negging small injuries, but nonetheless we did not get to see Dybala and Ronaldo link up well without the rest of the team suffering. Dybala finished the season with less than 10 goal contributions and Juventus nearly missed out on the Champions League. The team also missed out on their first league title in 10 years.
2021-2022 Season with Morata
Along came (back) Max Allegri for the 2021-2022 season and Juventus lost Ronaldo a week before the season started. With a primary goal-scorer missing and with no time to replace him, Juventus struggled to kick off their season well. The team only picked up 2 out of 12 available points during the first 4 games.
Things have become more stable since. Juventus are now 9 games unbeaten and have kept 8 clean sheets in the last 12 league games. However, the team is having trouble scoring goals. Morata was not able to step into that true CF role that Mandzukic and Higuain were able to play for Dybala in past. Morata himself likes to drift wide and play off of a true CF.
With Vlahovic arriving, Dybala again has that reference point to play with. Vlahovic has everything Dybala likes in a forward. He is strong, big, and is able to play with his back to the goal. Vlahovic can also wreak havoc in the opposition’s box. He is like Mandzukic when it comes to physical presence and like Higuain when it comes to his goal-scoring abilities.
With Vlahovic, strong Dybala is likely to show up again. Dybala will once again play as a secondary goal-scoring option directly behind a center forward who is able to carry the load of a primary goal-scorer.
Chiesa Missing the Rest of the Season will aid Strong Dybala Performances
Chiesa suffered an unfortunate ACL injury and is out for the rest of the season (and beyond). While there is nothing positive about Chiesa’s injury for Juventus, it will help us see strong Dybala for the rest of the year. With Chiesa out, Max Allegri will have to focus all of his attention on the Dybala-Vlahovic duo, without having to worry about fitting a natural winger such as Chiesa into his formation. To be clear, Chiesa is a phenomenal player and Juventus will miss him dearly. However, Max will have fewer tactical conundrums to deal with in his absence.