Guest Post By Matthew Amalfitano.
With a delicate touch, the diminutive magician waves his wand, picking up from the spectacles produced in Sicily last season.
At 22 years old, a silky left foot and deadly shot to match, there does not need to be an explanation as to why Juventus invested €40 million into acquiring Paulo Dybala from Palermo – his raw talent was obvious for all to see.
Dybala’s match winning goal against AC Milan is just a glimpse of what we’ve been accustomed to from his collective time in Serie A – scoring 13 goals and providing 10 assists last season – and what we can expect from the Argentinean for years to come in black and white.
Although it was understood Massimiliano Allegri wanted to patiently introduce the forward as he did with Alvaro Morata last term – to which that move could be called a great success – the former Milan coach had no choice but to include him in the starting XI due to Morata’s and Mario Mandzukic’s absences through injury, thus totaling the most minutes out of the attacking line.
The Old Lady of Italian football endured a rough start to the campaign, collecting just five points from their first five Serie A matches, which was their worst start since 1970. Although Dybala has recorded six strikes this season, some have been quick to point to the matches in which he didn’t score and Juventus simultaneously dropped points.
Without even taking into account the necessary adjustment period to the heightened club atmosphere moving on from Palermo and finding chemistry with a new set of teammates, that claim is a bit unfair.
Simply put, the entire Juventus team struggled in this period, especially in the attacking phase – which could be said is still under some tweaking when trying to accommodate Allegri’s quality options up front.
Therefore to criticise the player so early as some fans have done, all while pointing to his large price tag is unrealistic.
Even Allegri fell to some criticism regarding the apparent lack of playing time for the young starlet. But in reality, one could only point to only two 0-0 matches where the 48-year-old should’ve have relied on Dybala more for a bit of creative spark, against Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach.
“I am not worried by a trial by media if I don’t play Dybala. I am worried about all the praise for a 21-year-old who is doing well, but needs to be given the time and space to grow calmly. At his age he cannot have all the responsibility for Juventus success on his shoulders, ” Allegri said.
Given that Morata and Mandzukic were clearly ahead in the pecking order, Dybala stepped up and produced good performances in their absences, providing creativity to a side that has desperately needed it.
Dybala’s displays detail his creative, link up abilities, willingness to run at opposing defences, and sharp finishing skills on goal, all attributes witnessed during his time down South.
Allegri credits the Argentina international’s development to his muscle training.
“I was always convinced of his quality, but it’s normal he needed time to settle. Dybala is growing, he has important abilities and did very well between the lines. He works hard too and in time he’ll become a great support striker. He’s changing physically too and you can see the difference in his legs.”
It was always clear a player of his talent was slowing going to work his way into the starting XI as the season progressed, irrespective of the aforementioned injured players that forced him into the starting XI. With Morata just turning 23 years old, a partnership between the two is something to build on for years to come, exciting Juve fans in the process.
On the field, Dybala is currently averaging 2.3 key passes per match. That number should increase as the Argentinean improves his decision-making skills in the final third.
But so far he has been ultra confident, getting into great positions to receive the ball and constantly bursting forward in search of goal. Dybala has successfully completed 55% of his take-ons this season, highlighting his elusiveness on the field.
Looking ahead, the 22-year-old remains determined and has already bettered the goal ratios of Alessandro Del Piero and Carlos Tevez during their first 18 games for Juve.
After receiving standing ovation last match against Milan, Dybala said: “I am happy with what I’m doing and there is always going to be competition for places, but everyone is helping me to settle in. I know that I can do much more.”
It’s only fitting that Juventus’ next match should be away to Palermo, a homecoming for the skilled magician in black and white. We’re approaching the midway point of the season, just witnessing the beginning of Dybala at Juventus. We can’t wait for what’s next.