Once again, Juventus showed why vast squad depth wins games – but most importantly – Serie A titles. While Cristiano Ronaldo was resting in Turin, the Scudetto holders utilised the luxury of their deep bench by starting Paulo Dybala and bringing in Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey in the latter stages of the game.
The talking point of the match was Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain rediscovering their lethal HD partnership up front from two seasons ago. The Old Lady’s third goal in the 3-1 win against Atalanta evoked memories of when Higuain set up his compatriot for the winning goal against Tottenham in the 2017-18 Champions League.
Just like the Round of 16 fixture with Tottenham back in 2018, Dybala and Higuain once again managed to create some individual quality to turn the game on its head and beat an Atalanta side who looked in control with half an hour to go. In Bergamo last season, Ronaldo came off the bench to level the game 2-2 and salvage a point against La Dea. Once again, Juve’s strength in depth made the difference at what is now called the Gewiss Stadium. In comparison, Atalanta had to start teenager Musa Barrow – who missed a penalty – and are missing Duvan Zapata more than ever.
It looks like Maurizio Sarri has finally reignited Dybala and Higuain – giving them the freedom to express themselves in attack. But while this positive display has brought a smile to many Juventini, it now poses a delicate and challenging question: where does CR7 fit into this team?
Ronaldo’s inconsistent form in Serie A has so far been frustrating for numerous Juve supporters and a shock to many of the Portuguese star’s followers. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner’s exceptional performance for Portugal over the international break suggested that the 34-year-old is showing no signs of carrying an injury. It has most likely been Sarri’s tactics that Ronaldo has been struggling with.
The former Real Madrid forward has failed to ignite on nearly every occasion Sarri has placed him in the wide areas. Ronaldo doesn’t have the explosive pace he used to showcase at the Bernabeu and Old Trafford. But over the last four years, the Portuguese captain has had adapted to a new playing style – spending more time as a poacher in the box.
Ronaldo proved that this calmer and intelligent playing style allowed him to become more lethal in the penalty area – improving his goalscoring ratio in the Champions League and impressing in his maiden season with Juventus after scoring 21 goals in 31 appearances.
Ronaldo has played up front with Higuain under Sarri this season, although the service from Federico Bernardeschi has been inadequate. CR7 usually plays better whenever Dybala starts or gets substituted in, as the young Argentine has more dynamism in his game. In the win against Atalanta, Higuain also showed why he benefits from La Joya’s presence on the field.
With all that being said, it might be time that Sarri plays Ronaldo, Higuain and Dybala playing just behind. This forward combination seems like the most suitable solution to offer Ronaldo better service in the box and increase his involvement in the game.
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