It’s an odd situation where one of his brightest talents scoring a hat-trick in a Champions League game could present an issue for a Coach, but arguably that’s exactly the situation in which Juventus boss Massimiiano Allegri finds himself.
Last night against Young Boys Paulo Dybala, the darling of the Turin crowd and heir apparent to Alessandro Del Piero, finally sparked his season into life with a fine hat-trick in a comfortable 3-0 win.
While the goals did not come against the most illustrious of opponents, La Joya offered a timely reminder of what makes him such an exciting player, one who drew comparisons to Lionel Messi in the early months of last season.
Dybala’s first was a thing of beauty, a long raking pass by Leonardo Bonucci finished with the most controlled of volleys, more of a golf shot than a full-blooded strike. His second showed the Argentine’s ability to drive from deep, as well as his goalscoring instinct to gobble up the rebound from Blaise Matuidi’s shot.
By the time the third went in the match resembled little more than the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals, but it was nonetheless a fine team goal which Dybala was once again in the right place to convert.
All positive then, one would think, but the 24-year-old’s performance wasn’t so much overshadowed by the elephant in the room as the superstar in the stands: there’s no getting away from the fact that Dybala’s best performance of the season came as Cristiano Ronaldo watched on, suspended.
The Portuguese was bought to take Juve to the next level both in the Champions League and off the pitch, his global brand intended to bring huge commercial revenues to the Old Lady and help her to catch up to Europe’s richest clubs.
CR7 immediately became the club’s highest earner, and it was a show of faith in Dybala that it was Gonzalo Higuain and not he who was sacrificed to make way for the Ballon d’Or. It was a sign that the Bianconeri hierarchy viewed La Joya as a superstar-in-waiting, a player who could one day attain the status on and off the pitch that his new teammate enjoys.
And yet the Argentine has started the season slowly, seemingly unable to find his best form in this new Juventus. When Allegri played with a 4-2-3-1 with Dybala as the trequartista the side looked unbalanced, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic unable to provide the physicality in midfield that the formation required. The Bianconeri looked far more comfortable in a 4-3-3, but Dybala has never looked comfortable out wide. He may like to drift out to the flanks, but shackling him to the wing takes Dybala away from the heart of the action.
It cannot be a coincidence that his best performance of the season came playing as a second striker in a 3-5-2, with La Joya given licence to buzz around Mario Mandzukic, probing for space wherever it may arise. He collected it deep, taking 73 touches in total and many of them wide on the right, allowing him to surge inside on his favoured left foot. With five shots on target and seven in total, he could even have scored more.
Allegri, it seems, has been presented with a bit of a headache: how can he get the best out of both Ronaldo and Dybala, while also accommodating Douglas Costa, Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi?
The Tuscan Coach has switched formation for the second half of each of his four previous seasons, playing 3-5-2, 4-4-2 diamond, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 throughout his tenure. On the evidence so far a front-two works for Dybala, but Ronaldo needs a front-three.
It’s a nice problem for any Coach to have, and Allegri has shown that he knows how to adapt his formation to his players. Last night proved he may once again have to go back to the tactics board.