Paulo Dybala scored a goal against Udinese on Saturday night. That’s no surprise considering he tends to score goals a good portion of the time when Juventus plays Udinese, no matter if it’s at Allianz Stadium or at the Artist Formerly Known as the Friuli.
This is something that, if you were a betting man or woman, would get pretty good odds of doing so whenever the two teams clad in bianconero match up against one another.
But it won’t be Dybala’s goal in Juventus’ 2-0 win over Udinese at Allianz Stadium that will have people talking. (Even though it was a pretty nice team goal with some very nice combination play!) The discussion will be centered around Dybala’s actions — or lake thereof — after the goal, with no celebration, no Dybala Mask, just a few hugs for his teammates, a point skyward and then a strong glare directed toward Juventus’ management team sitting up in the skyboxes. Whether it was for Pavel Nedved, Maurizio Arivabenne, the entire group sitting in tribuna or, as Dybala said after the game that he “was trying to find a friend in the stands,” it is going to be the singular moment in this game that will be remembered by the Italian press and will absolutely dominate headlines in Sunday’s sporting newspapers.
Prepare for it.
You know it’s going to happen no matter the reason.
But when you’re in a contract dispute like this and there’s been so many twists and turns — hell, even over the last couple of months — there’s going to be that extra amount of attention put your way no matter what you do.
And, obviously, whatever Dybala does these is going to be hyper-analyzed and put under a microscope that few players at Juventus have been put under the last couple of years. Even more than usual, too. That’s just how it works when you’ve been in this kind of contract negotiation for this amount of time and with this kind of attention put toward it.
Right or wrong, friend in the stands or not, Dybala’s goal will be the secondary talking point for many. Instead of focusing on the fact that Juventus recorded another shutout and moved up, at least temporarily, level on points with Atalanta, this is the direction that a lot of folks will take things. (Yes, I know, I am guilty of that right now.)
But Juventus, knowing how much the attack has struggled this season, needs Dybala both firing on all cylinders like he was against Udinese — seriously, when he’s on that kind of level, it’s so fun to watch him work — and do it consistently because we all worried just how far down the road his next injury absence is. Without Federico Chiesa for the rest of this season, Dybala is going to have to put this team on his back if they want to have any chance of pulling ahead of Atalanta — a team that has absolutely no worries when it comes to the amount of goals they score — and grabbing a spot in the top four.
For one night, Dybala did that. Hopefully it’s a hint of what’s to come.
Because Juventus need Dybala now more than ever before to try and ensure that they’ll be in the Champions League again in September even if he might not know for sure where he’s going to be playing his football next season.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus’ captain on this night will see his current contract expire on June 30.
- Juventus’ vice captain on this night will see his current contract also expire on June 30.
- With the stadium capacity being dropped down to 5,000 for the next couple rounds of fixtures, we got to hear something that we have yet to hear much of this season because there have been stadiums either at 50 or 75 percent capacity: The sound of Carlo Pinsoglio yelling at his teammates. Clearly he’s able to be in full voice again after his short COVID absence.
- Juventus, a team managed by Max Allegri, had close to 72 percent possession in the first half against Udinese. You could have probably thought that Udinese would drop back and defend a decent amount of the time, but it’s not like seeing Juve have a ton of possession is something we’ve gotten used to this season.
- While he tailed off in the second half, the opening 45 minutes was like a trip down memory lane to 2019 when Rodrigo Bentancur was a promising young midfielder rather than a disappointing talent who has had a very poor last 18 months. Bentancur led Juventus in tackles (5), clearances (3) and interceptions (3), and looked a lot like the player who was thriving under Maurizio Sarri during Saturday night’s game. It’s one game and I will not overreact to one game. It was just refreshing to see him play well rather than be the bumbling player full of mistakes. At least for one day.
- Weston McKennie is starting to really look like the player we saw during the first half of the season under Andrea Pirlo. He’s getting forward more and more, he’s showing what kind of threat he can be in the air again and he’s just covering so much damn ground that I have no idea how the dude is going to be able to walk after all the running he’s done lately. He’ll probably tell you he should have had at least one more goal, but McKennie really is establishing himself as a must-start player at this point.
- The camera panned to the sideline. There was Kaio Jorge, ready to come on. The camera switches away for a second, then back to the sideline where subs wait to come on. All of the sudden, a wild Adrien Rabiot appears. We didn’t get Kaio Jorge as Juve’s final sub Saturday night, we got Rabiot. The final 10 minutes were a disappointment.
- But then Rabiot completed all eight of the passes he completed, so suck it haterz.
- In 35 minutes on the field, Mattia De Sciglio had an assist, a team-high two key passes and four tackles. This is Max Allegri leaning back in his chair on the bench and thinking “My boy, my boy....” to himself. (Also, hi Sergio!)
- Poor Moise Kean. Another game without many touches. At least that assist to Dybala was pretty sweet.
- ARTHUR PASSED THE BALL FORWARD AND IT LED TO A GOAL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
- Some of the crosses Juan Cuadrado put into the box in this game were gorgeous. They didn’t always find an end target, but they were pretty damn nice.
- Credit where credit is due: During this stretch of games where he’s been essentially thrust into the starting lineup, Daniele Rugani has been nowhere close to a disaster. After playing so little the first half of the season, things could have gone poorly. They haven’t, and he’s done a pretty OK job minus a few mistakes here and there. Coulda been a lot worse, folks.
- I know, I know, Atalanta has two games in hand. But one of them is Sunday against league leaders Inter and maybe for one of the few times this season I actually want to see those jabronis do well. So, please, Inter, go on and beat Atalanta and do so with room to spare.