With Juventus entering a crucial stretch in their season, Massimiliano Allegri must put aside his differences with Paulo Dybala and find a place for him in his lineup. Immediately.
When the bianconeri took on Parma last weekend, La Joya was left on the bench and stormed off in frustration after Allegri used his third and final substitute. The former Palermo man has since apologized for his outburst and was constrained to the sidelines once more in Juventus’ most recent win against Sassuolo, coming on in the 83rd minute.
This season, Dybala has seen a change in his role and has typically operated from deeper, as per Allegri’s instructions. The Juventus tactician even went so far as to dub him a “box-to-box” midfielder in a press-conference earlier this season. Adapting to a completely new role, Dybala has experienced some growing pains and has struggled to influence games from the midfield.
All too often, the 25-year-old wanders wide in hopes of carving out space for himself. What this leads to, however, is Dybala getting less touches near the opposition’s goal and far less chances to use his creativity to dictate play.
With Ronaldo occupying the sole striker position, it doesn’t leave much room for the Argentine international in the final third. Factor in Mario Mandzukic’s importance and ability to combine with the former Real Madrid star, and you quickly realize Dybala is an awkward fit in Allegri’s current setup. While the obvious solution would be to field Dybala behind Mandzukic and Ronaldo, it would take away from the Croatian’s aerial threat – something Juventus could ill afford.
Since being fielded on the left wing, Mandzukic has been able to bully the opposition’s fullback and take advantage of the notable height difference to head home crucial goals. Fielding him centrally again would make the former Bayern Munich man face off in the air against centre-backs and would reduce his aerial presence. This season, Mandzukic has been immense for the bianconeri and has established himself as their big-game player, scoring against Napoli, Inter, Milan, Roma and Lazio. Moving him positions at this point in the season would not only be detrimental to his game, but to Juventus’ overall play. So where does all this leave Dybala?
Over the course of his career, the Juventus playmaker has been at his most dangerous playing behind a striker as a trequartista. In this role, he’s capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and play off his teammate. Last year, Dybala scored 22 goals in league play when playing alongside Higuain – something that Allegri should not banish from his memory just yet.