There will come a point in time where whatever Paulo Dybala does in a Juventus shirt won't surprise us. The goals, the flicks, the tricks, the everything in between will become even more of a regularity than they already are. But, for now, we can't help but wonder how good this little gem of a striker will end up being.
He reminded all of us about his world-class ability in the first half of Friday's 1-0 win over Sassuolo, bending in an absolutely beautiful goal past Andrea Consigli. It ended Dybala's four-game goal-scoring drought in Serie A, and was the perfect exclamation point between a great series of build-up interchanges between himself and Juan Cuadrado on the right wing.
You combine that goal with the fact that Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon was brilliant AGAIN and extended his shutout streak to 926 minutes, and you've got the definition of what has helped Juve turn its season around in quick fashion.
There was some Dybala brilliance. There was some Buffon brilliance. And there was a Juventus clean sheet.
I mean, if that's not a trifecta for success, I don't really know what is.
#Juve win 1-0 and become the first team in history to keep 10 consecutive Serie A clean sheets.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) March 11, 2016
Everything came full circle at Juventus Stadium on Friday night. Juventus' last loss, back on Oct. 28, was to Sassuolo. Now, nearly five months later, Juve are still on the same amount of losses as they were as they headed back from the Mapei to Turin. If you thought that was possible with the way Juve were playing 18 Serie A games ago, then you're some kind of freaking genius. That team was searching for answers everywhere it looked.
But this time, it's a little different this time around.
There were moments where Buffon had to bail his defense out, but there were also plenty of spells in the game where Juventus looked in complete control. You compare that to when Juventus last played Sassuolo and it was a completely different story. It could have been much more than a 1-0 Juventus win, and that's pretty good considering what happened back in late-October.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I used to get frustrated with this Juventus side for not being able to do much of anything right. These days, I'm getting "frustrated" with Juve when it doesn't extend its lead.
There could be much worse problems to have, ya know.
Amen, Paulo. A-freaking-men to all of that.
Random thoughts and observations
- Paulo Dybala is good. But you probably knew that by now.
- Buffon, whose shutout streak surpassed Dino Zoff's club record midway through the second half, needs all of four scoreless minutes to set a new Serie A record, which is currently owned by former Milan keeper Sebastiano Rossi. And if it comes in the Turin derby, then that will just be the icing on the cake for Buffon and Juventus.
- Color me surprised that Max Allegri went with the 3-5-2 when all of the media speculation involved some form of a four-man defense. And, honestly, this is the formation Juve needs to use as long as personnel available to the second-year manager allows it. Look at the way they attacked compared to when he used a 4-4-2 over the last month. This team is so much more comfortable in a 3-5-2, and that's the best recipe for success going forward.
- I was also somewhat surprised that with the 3-5-2 came the decent amount of rotation within the starting lineup. It allowed Kwadwo Asamoah and Dainiele Rugani to get some much-needed minutes. And it allowed Paul Pogba and Stephan Lichtsteiner — who both made second-half cameos — to get some much-needed rest. Well managed, Max. No complaints here.
- Rugani, especially, played pretty darn well against Sassuolo. There were a couple of somewhat shaky moments in the first half, but how he played after halftime might have been his best 45-minute stretch in a Juventus jersey. He had a couple of huge tackles, and this was coming with him pressing so high up the field that he was either close to or completely out of Juve's side of the field.
You want a Rugani display where you can't help be think what he will be like when he gets consistent playing time, then you have that second-half showing. Kid's good. Really, really good.
- I can watch Mario Mandzukic work his tail off to contribute on defense all day long. His value is so much more than just scoring goals and providing assists. He's such a great piece to this Juventus puzzle, and I am so happy that Beppe Marotta decided to sign him this past summer.
- This was a classic Cuadrado kind of game. There were some really good moments, like the run he made on Dybala's goal. There were some frustrating moments, like when he had plenty of room to cross yet drove the ball right into the defender's legs. This isn't new to any of us, but it remains that the hot-cold nature of Cuadrado — even within the game itself — is never going to go away. This is who he is.
- Six points clear of Napoli at the top of the table for the next two days at the very least. That has a pretty nice ring to it, doesn't it?
- Now we switch to Champions League mode, where we will hear for the next four days about how Bayern Munich will eliminate Juventus. Ah, the underdog role is a fun one sometimes.