It’s been a roller coaster ride for Juventus forward Paulo Dybala this season. The young and talented 24-year-old Argentinian has the potential to be a world class player — some even think he can reach the heights of Lionel Messi.
While that debate can be saved for another day, Juve must adjust to life without Dybala now that he’s been sidelined with a hamstring injury against Cagliari. Despite Dybala’s inconsistent season, Juve still depends on him as a focal point to their offense — even if he’s used as a decoy — as you don’t just become a better team by subtracting 16 goals and six assists in the starting lineup. Whether Dybala has reached his world-class potential or not, there’s no question Juve will miss his creativity and scoring ability on the pitch.
Losing Dybala for possibly 30-40 days to injury is never easy for a team with title aspirations on multiple fronts, and when transfer rumors are swirling and reports of Dybala not sold on Turin as a final destination to his young career, the timing if this injury is less than ideal.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri says it’s important for the team to be well-rested to endure the absence of Dybala. “Fortunately we go into a two-week break now and he’ll evidently need to rest more than the others during that time, so hopefully he will be fresh for the final weeks of the season,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium.
Juventus has dealt with injuries all season, and this particular scenario gives others on the roster a chance to shine. Juventus never has and never will be about one player. The Bianconeri have proven they move on like a well-oiled machine when adjusting from absences of players; just ask them how much they miss Paul Pogba and Leonardo Bonucci, they’ll say “Who?”
The Old Lady will find out what they have on offense without Dybala. Let’s face it, at times, Juventus has looked terrible on offense even with Dybala on the field. While most may be guessing Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic and Douglas Costa as the candidates to fill the scoring in the absence of Dybala, one name has a chance to turn heads:
The Italian winger hasn’t received a ton of playing time in a crowded roster up to this point. Bernardeschi, 23, made 231 appearances while scoring four goals since arriving from Fiorentina this summer, but he rarely has been given an opportunity to start under Allegri (four starts) and has been one of the forgotten men on Juve’s crowded roster. He could be a vital part to Juve’s future, but in light of recent injury-related events regarding Dybala, Bernardeschi has a chance to make a statement of deserving a shot in the starting lineup for next year.
Bernardeschi can provide Juventus will a unique spark. He has a strong left foot that can rocket goals in from long distance, although don’t expect him to use his right foot too often. His size and strength can serve as a weapon for Juve, who have seen Juan Cuadrado and Dybala struggle at times against bigger defenders on teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Roma. Bernardeschi has a smooth, nimble dribble for someone his size, and has shown the ability to create outside of the box by setting up teammates with terrific touch on various passes — especially with through balls. He can cause problems for defenders when given space, as he’s very good at drawing fouls and finishing goals from exceptionally difficult angles and distances
Not only can Bernardeschi shoot from the outside with power, he has excellent touch on his finishes. Again, Juve can use Bernardeschi’s creativity and scoring ability to compliment the offense from the right side.
However, pairing Bernardeschi with Mandzukic and Higuain could deplete Juve’s attack when it comes to speed. Higuain isn’t a speed demon, and Manduzkic is better at finishing goals in the box than outrunning defenders from distance. While Bernardeschi isn’t slow, he's not as flexible and laterally quick as Cuadrado or Dybala. A potential trio of Bernardeschi, Higuain and Manduzkic could either be glorious ... or disastrous.
Could Douglas Costa compensate for the lack of speed and provide balance to the attack? Maybe. Though it’s unlikely Allegri trots out an attack of Douglas Costa, Mandzukic, Higuain and Bernardeschi, as his devotion to Cuadrado remains strong. Whatever the lineup may be, Allegri must make necessary adjustments to keep the offense.
When given an opportunity this season, Bernardeschi has cashed in. We saw it in the Champions League in Greece against Olympiacos, scoring as a substitute. We saw it late in last Saturday against Cagliari to save Juve from disaster. Signs suggest we’ll see it again.
If the future of Juventus doesn’t revolve around the magical left leg of Dybala, it could hang on the powerful left foot of Bernardeschi. The next 30-40 days will show Allegri and company what they have in No. 33.
Maybe the play of No. 33 will ease the injury to No. 10.
Or maybe No. 33 will become the next No. 10 right before our eyes.