It has been a very peculiar experience watching a Juventus player drizzle past defenders at ease with the ball at his feet, taking on one or two at a time before ruthlessly dropping them behind. And not just doing it sporadically but with every given opportunity, at speed and more often than not, doing it effectively.
It didn't really happen in the last few years, with the small exception represented by a certain blonde winger whose idea of defending involved something within the narrow margins of keeping a close eye on his man and following him from a safe distance while smoothing his rumpled feathers -- Milos Krasic.
But now, there is that feeling which struggles but keeps on fighting nonetheless against a strong set of conceptions already part of any tifoso bianconero DNA. That particular feeling that tries to persuade the brain into believing Juventus actually have a player capable of dribbling past opposition; capable of developing great pace in an instant in areas of the field where it matters the most, around the 18-yard box. A winger in either a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 formation, doing all of the above while also fulfilling his defensive duties and making the terrible absence of Stephan Lichtsteiner look less painful and less damaging.
Juan Cuadrado has been amazing to watch so far.
When the team had lacked consistence and failed to break through sturdy defences -- and it happened one time too many this season -- he would still perform his magic. Why then, you will ask, having had such a jolly joker in the team, Juventus registered results damnable even for a team of Atalanta-like calibre in the opening stages of the domestic campaign? And why, despite all his scintillating moves, Cuadrado only made a single assist in eight appearances in Serie A and Champions League?
Good questions. Pertinent questions.
Simply put, decision-making is not something Cuadrado masters. And joining a Juventus team alongside nine more new players who, just like him, had to adapt to a new club, training regimes and philosophy, did nothing to help him improve this. The level of chemistry within the squad was close to nought in the opening stages of the campaign, with Max Allegri constantly changing formations and shuffling the starting line up before each game. A good enough alibi then for failing to make his mesmerising skills count towards the team's results.
But it shouldn't happen anymore.
Before the international break, Juventus offered encouraging signs that they are back to the normal level, with commanding victories against Sevilla in the Champions League and Bologna. It seems that the team has started to click again and perhaps the return of Sami Khedira to action isn't a simple coincidence, nor is Alvaro Morata's re-emergence. Both of them have proved once more it is possible to influence the course of a game with dominant individual performances.
Cuadrado is more than capable of doing that as well, but a major improvement in his in-game decisions is needed. Learn to be able to discern when playing a simple pass is more effective than launching into yet another spectacular series of dribbles. A better timing of crosses and through balls for a natural-born target-man like Mario Mandzukic or Morata can easily lead to goals. The extravagant turns into success. The fantastic, into results.
The key to this rests solely with Allegri. He is the one who has to work closely with Cuadrado and decide how much freedom or how many restrictions the Colombian needs in order to deliver; to decide when a long-distance blast from an individual is worth taking a chance and when not. A version of Cuadrado that manages to take the best decisions at the right time could be influential enough for Juventus to surge all the way back to the top of the Serie A table. It is a matter of Allegri bringing the best out of him.