Solving Sarri’s Attacking Conundrum

Since returning from the first international break, Juventus have looked lethargic in the final third and have struggled to find the back of the net. In a majority of the biaconeri’s wins, one goal has separated them from their opponent and they have rarely played the opposition off the pitch. While much was promised when Maurizio Sarri was hired, we are yet to see Sarriball in full flow. Currently, the former Napoli tactician is faced with a selection headache in the final third and is under immense pressure to make his front-three fire on all cylinders.

Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is experiencing a rough patch and has arguably played his worst football in recent memory. Sarri has not shied away from tough decisions and has subbed off the Portuguese superstar in Juventus’ last two wins. Despite reports suggesting Ronaldo was carrying a knock, the former Real Madrid man joined up with Portugal for the international break and scored a hat-trick.

Alongside him, Sarri has typically opted for one of Gonzalo Higuain or Paulo Dybala. In Sarri’s ‘Christmas-Tree’ (4-3-1-2) formation, an out-and-out number nine is of the utmost importance and Higuain has thrived since returning. Whether he’s linking up the attack with deft touches around the box or creating space for himself to score, Higuain has epitomized what a modern number nine is and is almost undroppable.

Much like Higuain, Dybala has benefitted greatly from Sarri’s arrival and has put last season’s woes behind him. Most recently, la Joya scored a crucial goal against Milan, gliding past their captain Alessio Romagnoli as if he wasn’t there. Before these match-winning exploits, Dybala notched a brace against Lokomotiv Moscow and has regularly been Juventus’ best player this season. Given his good form along with Higuain’s importance to Sarri’s tactical schemes, it’s difficult to leave one of them on the bench.

Yet, in the name of balance, it needs to be done. Otherwise, with Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo all on the pitch, Sarri fears Juve would be overrun in the midfield. He briefly used the trio together against Inter but promptly brought on another midfielder into the fold to regain control.

Factor in Douglas Costa’s return to fitness and electric nature on the ball and it’s clear Sarri is faced with quite the selection conundrum in attack. Should he play a 4-3-3 to accommodate the Brazilian? On the other hand, who should he drop between Higuain and Dybala? Finally, and perhaps most crucially, how does he get the most out of an out-of-form Ronaldo? These are all questions Sarri will be pondering deeply over the course of this international break and will largely come to define this season.

Despite the headaches these issues may give him, it’s a positive problem for Sarri. After all, who wouldn’t want an attack as deep and as versatile as Juve’s? The important thing now, however, is piecing it all together all-while maintaining defensive solidity and balance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

As Sarri has shown, this prospect is much more difficult than it seems and is a delicate situation to approach. Over the course of the next months, Sarri’s handling of the situation will dictate how far Juve will go and will shape the future of Juventus’ attack.

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