The biggest transfer of the summer involved Cristiano Ronaldo joining Serie A perennial winners, Juventus, in a deal worth around £105m. The Portuguese has had a strong start to his career at the Old Lady but has he improved this already strong Juventus side or is there still work to be done to bring back another Champions League title?
Whilst Cristiano is undoubtedly a team player, it’s clear that there’s an overwhelming focus on him individually, whether this is instructed by Allegri or Cristiano takes it upon himself is unknown. But looking at the number of shots he has taken compared to his teammates is staggering.
Taking more than triple the amount of shots of the next highest, it’s no surprise that Cristiano leads the xG charts for his team, but at what cost? Dybala has had a quiet start to the season, probably as a result of Cristiano’s dominance. Bernardeschi, who’s only really featured off the bench this season should have given Allegri some thoughts to make in terms of team selection. If the young Italian is given some game time this season then it’s clear that he’ll be an asset to the squad.
Last season, Dybala and Higuain worked in tandem and allowed both players to show their strengths, however, Dybala hasn’t seemed to click whilst Cristiano has been in the team. One possible reason for this is how different Higuain and Cristiano are, you probably say “obviously” but it’s still worth pointing out. Cristiano is willing to drop deeper and pick up the ball or roam across the frontline trying to find space, in addition, as everyone is well aware, he can’t resist attempting a wonderful solo goal. In contrast, Higuain was much more the spearhead of the Juventus attack and that was that, this gave Dybala the role to be the more creative member of the attack, but with Ronaldo often occupying the spaces that Dybala previously picked up, the Argentinian has struggled to find his form thus far.
Ronaldo’s shot map from this season strikes you as that of a player with more than 3 goals to his name, it’s unlikely that this will remain the case for much longer and Ronaldo is due an explosion soon, much to the delight of the rest of Serie A. Furthermore, it suggests that he has taken a role similar to that at Real Madrid, whereby he operates as more of a central striker, this worked so effectively when Benzema was willing to do the gritty work that often goes unnoticed. Dybala does not suit this role and neither does Mandzukic, so finding a way to get the best balance out of the trio is going to be key to Juventus’s chances in the UCL.
Whilst this is only a fairly basic xG model that I have made, focusing purely on position and defensive pressure, the numbers are still fairly accurate. However, what these models aim to demonstrate are the chances of the average player scoring with the shots taken, now, suggesting Ronaldo fits in with the average player can be fairly misleading as we all now he is one of the greatest of all time, therefore it would be expected that he would be outscoring his xG tally, rather than under performing as he is currently, hence why I wouldn’t expect it to be too long before he explodes.
What about the rest of Serie A?
Not only does Ronaldo find himself ahead of the pack at his own club, in the league in general he’s leaps ahead of the others in terms of shots taken, and as a result, xG as well.
It’s somewhat unsurprising considering how talented he is, but even so, maybe it suggests too much expectation from the rest of the squad, do they perhaps expect Ronaldo to carry them through some games or is Cristiano simply being too greedy at times, or are his teammates being too generous and trying to give him the ball even when he is in a poor position? It’s fair to say that Juventus are yet to be firing at full capacity and perhaps incorporating Ronaldo into a more team orientated approach may be successful in terms of bringing out the best in the rest of the squad.
Once again, last season Dybala and Higuain both ended up fairly average, considering Juventus averaged fewer shots than the rest of the top 5, their main strikers found themselves in a strong position. Whilst we are only 5 games into the season, I’m not expecting Ronaldo’s attempts to drop down and if anything, he’ll find himself increasing the game between himself and the rest of the league, maybe to the detriment of his team. However, one thing is for sure, if he does keep up this level, you would expect his goal tally to shoot up alongside. He has been unlucky in these early weeks with some phenomenal saves and some, quite frankly, absurd misses for a player of his quality.
Juventus will probably see themselves to another Scudetto with the team they have on top of Ronaldo’s quality, but his addition still doesn’t look like it’s going to help win the Champions League which is, presumably, what he was mainly purchased for. If he is to help bring it home then perhaps Allegri will need to look at some alternative ways to get the front line clicking.
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