First we make the following warning: Juventus was already a team of the highest quality without Cristiano Ronaldo and with all certainty they will be much better with him. They are the overwhelming favorites to win the Italian Serie A and although the UEFA Champions League (like all competitions with elimination format) is difficult to predict, the Turin should be among the favorites, including "La Orejona" ".
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The question is how much Juve will improve with him and something that is crucial: which coach Massimilliano Allegri will be able to do so, so that his players can maximize their full potential. In other words, you have a CR7 unit (or rather, with the CR7 unit) … What to do with it now?
It is not as easy as it sounds. Cristiano is at this stage of his career no orthodox player such as, for example, Robert Lewandowski or Kevin De Bruyne. You simply can not place it in a predefined role that already exists, because what the Portuguese do is practically unique and in any case it was something that did not exist in Juve.
During almost all nine seasons he played at Real Madrid, he stood in line as left wing, next to a mobile front center. Gonzalo Higuaín alternated with Karim Benzema for a while and then the Frenchman took the full-time position for that goal. Cristiano's style (like his body) evolved over time, but his production level was always high.
His first five years at Madrid were "the cusp of Cristiano". He was an attacker as a wide striker and often took control of the ball from afar, opposite his opponents (he averaged more than six dribbles per game) and depended on his athletic ability to take a ready position. to shoot the target. Heat maps of that time showed that he spent more than 60 percent of his playing time on the left third of the site.
Things changed after 2014. After having had tendinitis in the kneecap of one of his knees, he lost weight and sacrificed muscle mass to maintain his speed despite having reached 30 years of his life. Moreover, their position has changed: in heat-zone maps 44 percent of the time is shown on the left, in the middle 37 percent and in 21 percent on the right. In a sense, this increase in his mobility enabled him to achieve unequal confrontations. He could (and still has the ability to do so) overcome the most wings and run to pass to the main part of the power station.
The first point that emerges for Allegri is whether he will play his new number 7 in the same way as in Madrid (with the corresponding adjustments he will have to make) or get a new role for him. Most line up projections for Juventus gambling on the second, as it happened during about the first hour of Cristiano's Serie A debut against Chievo Verona last Saturday. He was put on the field as the only man forward, with fast endings on each side, like Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and Douglas Costa, plus the presence of Paulo Dybala between them, making it a 4-3-2-1 formation made.
You can see the logic: the side branches were meant to offer many opportunities to exploit the air skills of Cristiano and the creation behind the Argentinian Dybala. It might work, although it remains to be seen that a midfield consisting of two men, namely Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira (or Emre Can) provide sufficient defensive coverage, especially when attacking defenders like Alex Sandro and Joao Cancelo.
Do not get confused Cristiano has all the elements to be a legitimate center forward. It is devastating in the air, his movement near the bow is exceptional and his top, excellent. The funny thing about him is that although his critics doubt the number of failed shots that he makes (for example during a drought he sustained in the Spanish League), the figures tell us an unmistakable story.
His number of expected targets for each shot in the past five years is .143, which is similar to that of Higuain, which he replaced and is the prototype of the stealthman. And that includes all recordings of long distance / low angle / low percentages. In other words, Cristiano does not score many goals because he constantly shoots guns. The point is that he generally makes very accurate recordings of very suitable positions.
The question is whether you want a player, who turns 34 next February, to jump to defy perverted centers, especially in an extremely tactical competition such as Serie A, where even the smallest teams are annoyed when confronted.
It is not about not being able to establish yourself in that position (you can do most of the things you present on a football field and better than most of your colleagues). The problem is to consider whether the risk, in terms of injuries, punishments and frustrations, might not be worth it, because Juventus is trying to protect and make the most of the investment of more than $ 100 million.
There is also the question of what Christian chooses to do. There is a reason why Real Madrid placed him as the only striker in the center on very few occasions and it was not that Benzema was the second coming from Marco van Basten. Many people in the neighborhood of Cristiano indicate that he does not regularly consider himself to be the only striker, with the possible exception of a formation with two in the front.
The obvious alternative is a 4-3-3 formation, "plug and play", to replicate what was available in Madrid. Then Allegri could add Blaise Matuldi and his career to the center of the field (or to Can, Rodrigo Bentancur or anybody else), put Ronaldo to the left and let Mario Mandzukic stand out as the center.
This alternative is logical, in case Mandzukic has the physical presence, minute work and tactical knowledge to serve as a supplement to Cristiano in the same way as Benzema did in Madrid. Unfortunately, everything is not rosy. Mandzukic is 32 years old, played only once as a starter in more than 28 league matches in the same season and shortened his preseason season by being part of the Croatian national team's World Championship that brought her to the final.
That is why it would be very difficult to ask Mandzukic to become leader of the attack and to take on the heavy burden week after week. Of course you can count on him to play that role in important matches, but that would mean asking someone else to do that in the rest of the chances. There are no other Serie A-experienced centers on Juve's grid, with the exception of Moise Kean, but he is only 18 years old and can be given on loan. Which means that there is no Plan B, with the exception of putting together a totally different training.
The other problem with the 4-3-3 formation is the third place in the front. If we only rely on talent, Dybala would be the obvious choice, but it remains to be seen whether that change will work out the best. Or it can be alternated with one of the three remaining points (Cuadrado, Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa), which would be a challenge to keep everyone happy about the minutes of play.
Much negativity? Well, there is good news. Allegri is one of the most pragmatic and tactically creative technicians that exists. He does not marry a system, he has played them all and he shows no more fear to experiment, more than most strategists. As for keeping his troops happy, although it makes the sting "player-technician" because he wants them to appreciate his tactical intellect, he belongs to the best at the time he is honest with the minutes.
There may be other solutions that would sound crazy at the moment, but Allegri might surprise us. For example, place Dybala as "fake 9", or that Cristiano plays in a formation with two front and a recycled end as a second forward.
If the real yardstick for the success of Juventus this year is to win the Champions League, the Bianconero coach has about five months (until the decisive stages start) to get an answer. Whether it is a different formation or the chemistry needed to accommodate the presence of Cristiano, who has a tendency to go free on the field by listening only to his instincts, even if he is placed as the left wing, because it is still time to work in the interest of a solution
If all of the above fails and Allegri thinks that only a 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldo as the only striker works better, there is always the possibility to go to the transfer market in January. Juventus does not need a world-class shooter. Only a worker is needed to attract the overall and Mandzukic allows him to enjoy a few days of rest.