Andrea has been a Juventus fan for over 26 years... his whole life!
“True Champions Never Break”
Cristiano Ronaldo put his words into practice with a vintage goal scoring display against Cagliari on Sunday. Many fans and critics alike were quick to point the blame of Juventus’ infamous recurring failure in the Champions League on the shoulders of the veteran. This is a notion that has been echoed by the likes of Antonio Cassano and the usual anti-Juve rhetoric distributors. As has been the case after every early exit of the last three years, as soon as Juventus were thrown out of the European competition Ronaldo was half-way out the door in “advanced talks” with other clubs such as PSG and Real Madrid. Do not expect these sort of headlines to disappear, but do expect the level of disrespect towards the veteran to vanish with this perfect hat-trick. It’s safe to say that against Cagliari we saw a reaction from the Juventus team that was spearheaded by a goal hungry Cristiano Ronaldo. In this article we will break down not only Ronaldo’s perfect performance but how the team assisted in this crucial Serie A victory.
The Return of “CAir7”
There was an eagerness, a desire, that was present in Ronaldo’s performance on Sunday that should not come as a surprise from statistically one of the greatest goal-scorers in football history. In the lead up to his first goal, he was demanding the cross from Cuadrado in the face of Alessio Cragno and the former Juventus defender who had the unruly pleasure of marking him, Daniele Rugani. We saw the return of Ronaldo’s trademark leap which undoubtedly provided the opening goal of the game. Twenty-two minutes of play later, Cristiano Ronaldo would chalk up a hat-trick on the match scoreline. His other two goals came from his ability to drive into more central positions within the box. He made a genius counter-attacking run to claim the penalty from Cragno on the second goal, and positioned himself in clear space of the box for his hat-trick scoring goal. As well as his remarkable desire to get on goal, there was another important factor that allowed the hat-trick hero to obtain the space.
Back to Basics for Pirlo: 4-4-2
Andrea Pirlo has been constantly critiqued all season for his tactical approach in setting up the team. He has been berated for trying to reinvent the wheel too often with line-ups that would not only change week-to-week but from the preliminary pre-match line-ups to the kick-off. Against Cagliari however we witnessed a starting 4-4-2 that for the majority of the game remained in the same shape. From this tactical approach the team maintained the full width of the pitch as wingers Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski obtained the space to the right and left of the goal. With these spaces being filled, Cristiano Ronaldo was given full reign to find the space in more central areas in front of the opposing goal.
Can we expect this 4-4-2 going forward?
It's hard to expect Pirlo to field this tactic week-in-week-out, however, it would be extremely beneficial for the team to continually use this model. There’s no argument, this set-up got the best out of Ronaldo who should remain as the individual that the team is built around. As well as benefiting Ronaldo, this set-up proved beneficial for Juventus’ rising attacking starlet, Federico Chiesa. Once again the winger put in a performance that the Juve fans have not seen from an attacking Italian since the days of Allesandro Del Piero.
On the other wing, we saw Kulusevski playing in his natural position. Along with many other representatives of Juventus, Kulusevki has also received his fair share of criticism this season. Kulusevski throughout the season has been deployed as the “4th striker”, a position he is not used to. He has had an image crisis on the pitch and In a recent press conference Pirlo has voiced his solution of this problem with the intent of playing Kulusevski as a “mezzala” in the midfield. Although he did not have an amazing performance, there is clear potential for Kulusevki to play for Juventus in his position on the right-wing. He has the skill and physicality to cut in which allows Cuadrado to provide the overlap to create more superiority in the attack. He just needs to pick his head up and move forward in growing with the team.
Got control back over his defence after receiving heavy criticism mid-week. Made a handful of saves, and could not do much more on the conceded goal.
50 assists as a Juventino! 3rd most in the history of the club. Provided a perfect corner kick to open the scoring. Did not provide as many overlapping runs as usual, but by the 30th minute we did not need him to.
De Ligt 7
Got the better of Joao Pedro on every occasion and had Europe's top scoring Brazilian is his back pocket.
Great to see him back! Captained the team well and provided an exceptional interception from a dangerous cross.
Alex Sandro 5
Provided solid defensive cover on the left before his early exit due to injury.
Seemed more comfortable in his natural position but was just always missing something every time he had the ball. There’s definitely potential for him to grow back into this position.
Proved to be a reliable and versatile player to have in the roster. He was solid in the centre of the pitch in assisting to keep Nainggolan from driving forward. Slotted in perfectly at right back in the dying minutes of the game.
Anchored the centre of the pitch well alongside Danilo. Just needs to be more clinical when he has the ball at his feet in attacking areas of the pitch.
Was mesmerising at times! Once again had the drive to push the team forward with his excellent burst of acceleration in the lead-up to the 3rd goal. Provided a peerless cross for Ronaldo to get his hat-trick.
He seemed like the only player who did not put the mid-week drama behind him. Wasted an early chance with a weak effort. Made some crucial touches in the lead up to the 2nd and 3rd goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo 10
“True Champions Never Break”... Cristiano is back!
Was beaten too easily in the lead-up to the conceded goal. Provided a good dribble in the second half but needs to work on his defensive game if he wished to provide the Zambrotta switch to left-back.
Captain for captain switch. Slotted in nicely for a tiring Chiellini. Was unlucky not to get on the end of a cross on goal.
Provided some good energy and defensive strength in the midfield.
Late sub. Blocked a shot late in the game
Late Sub. Uncertain whether or not he would fit well in this style of 4-4-2.
© 2021 Andrea Sciambarella