A Paulo Dybala Debate & Other Takes – The Calcio Consultant

A Paulo Dybala Debate & Other Takes – The Calcio Consultant

For this instalment of The Calcio Consultant, I am likely going to draw the ire of the Juventus faithful by inconveniencing them with this hot take:

Paulo Dybala is not world class.


I’m braced for the backlash already, but let me point out my reasons, and let me also try to disarm Bianconeri lovers by making the assertion that he is a VERY talented footballer.

However, if you’re going to graduate to world class, you must show the ability to do world class things on world class stages.  Dybala has demonstrated, only on one occasion, his ability to deliver.  That was at home against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals last season.

At home.

Anyone that has followed this blog or listened to this pod already knows what is coming for the umpteenth time.  If Paulo Dybala got to play EVERY game at the J, or Allianz Stadium, or whatever they’re calling it, he would be on the Ballon D’Or stage with Cristiano Ronaldo and Leonel Messi each year.  Last season? 19 goals in all competitions; 16 of them at home.

This season he has two hat tricks in away games, so one might suggest he’s turning that corner.  Dybala accomplished this at Genoa and at Sassuolo which, at the time of writing, are teams sitting 16th and 17th respectively in Serie A.  Additional goals against Cagliari and Chievo have given him a Capocannoniere-leading 8 goals to start the season.  So he’s getting it done where he is supposed to, against inferior teams.  Very Zlatan Ibrahimovic-like (here come the Ibra loyalists now).

I’ve no problem with this.  Dybala is getting it done where he should.  Here are my two questions for those that want to rate Dybala as “world class”:

  1. Where was this level at Barcelona in match week one of the Champions League at the Nou Camp?
  2. Where was this level when Juve needed it in the Champions League final thrashing at the hands of Real Madrid?

Juventus, you gave Paulo Dybala the honor of wearing the fabled number 10, I didn’t.  If you’re placing the responsibility on Dybala to live up to the players who wore that shirt in the past – Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Michel Platini et al – then I’m demanding that he lives up to that responsibility.  Even in the big games.

I had someone point out to me that Allegri’s tactics were much different at Barca and in the Champions League final, with Juventus ceding more possession than they do at home.  Rubbish excuse.

World class players adapt and make their impact.  And here are some 10s that did:

  1. Francesco Totti: Had an excellent Euro 2000 in a system where Dino Zoff employed catenaccio
  2. Dejan Savicevic: Fabio Capello’s Milan weren’t known to be teams to monopolize possession, and the Montenegran Maestro was expected to be the creative linchpin in a very tactically rigid Milan. Just look up that 1994 Champions League final (I love bringing this up, can you tell?)
  3. Roberto Baggio: Arrigo Sacchi didn’t necessarily set out to out-possess anyone at World Cup 1994, and it took Il Divino a while to get going, but he ended up putting a nation on his back in getting to a World Cup final.

There are plenty of others, but you get the point.

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So let me conclude with this about Paulo Dybala.  He’s a very good player, on the brink of becoming world class.  I can’t quite get there yet until I see him adapt to thriving under different tactics, and in particular during higher profile away/neutral fixtures.  We may see that from him this season, but I’m not going to be as quick to call Dybala “world class” the way most have already.



Here are a few other thoughts I have on Serie A so far — just blurbs I don’t have a lot to write about, but want to mention:

  • Okay Sassuolo, this is getting annoying. Maybe it’s adapting to Cristian Bucchi’s project, but an attacking trio of Matteo Politano, Diego Falcinelli and Domenico Berardi should definitely have more than one goal between them through these four games.  And more than 2 as a team.  Going goalless in the opening two games against Genoa and Torino is unacceptable given the talent.  At Cagliari midweek and Bologna at home this weekend, get this righted,
  • It might have been home against Crotone and away to SPAL, but one of the under-the-radar things of Serie A in the last couple match weeks is that Cagliari have back-to-back clean sheets. An achievement worth noting, given that they conceded 76 goals last season.
  • Crotone are this season’s Empoli: the team where goals are nearly impossible to come by. Exactly zero goals through their first four games.
  • More surprising on the goal drought side is Hellas Verona. Four games and just a Giampaolo Pazzini penalty to show for it.  With the likes of him, Alessio Cerci and Roma loanee Daniele Verde, you would think there’d be more goals than this.  More troubling is that their defense is awful.  Veteran players like Caceres were brought in and it has so far been a disaster, conceding 11.
  • Looks like we’ll have to wait for the Lazio decline. Unbeaten in the first four games, a Europa League win, and a Supercoppa win; Simone Inzaghi is proving his class as a manager.  Despite losses in a few key areas on the pitch, the Biancacelesti are still playing at a high level.
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MATCH WEEK 4 Team of the Week (4-2-4):

Alessio Cragno (Cagliari, yes, really); Alessandro Florenzi (Roma, welcome back!), Milan Skriniar (Inter), Federico Fazio (Roma), Ricardo Rodriguez (Milan); Franck Kessie (Milan), Radja Nainggolan (Roma); Paulo Dybala (Juventus, fine I just dogged him but he did get a hatty), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Edin Dzeko (Roma); Ciro Immobile (Lazio)




34 goals in match week 4.  Premier League had 21 and La Liga had 19.  But yeah, Serie A is so defensive and boring.  Keep believing that.