Serie A

How Ronaldo has made Juventus a more fearsome force

 • by Ryan Baldi
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With six wins from six to kick off the 2018/19 Serie A campaign, it’s already beginning too look as though an eighth successive Scudetto is a mere formality for Juventus.

The Bianconeri haven’t hit full stride yet this term but already the Turin-based winning machine is chugging along at its customary pace.

And the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid this summer appears to have added grease to its cogs, with Massimiliano Allegri’s men more fearsome than ever in attack.

On the surface, Ronaldo’s impact doesn’t seem to have been especially tectonic. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was a slow starter in his final season with Madrid before going on to score 44 in 44, claiming a third Champions League title in a row, so there is little reason for concern over his humble return of three goals from seven Juve outings to date.

But, while the Portuguese superstar is yet to rediscover his customary, otherworldly scoring form, his arrival has lifted Italian football’s dominant club to greater attacking heights.

As the above graph from the Football Whispers Lab demonstrates, using expected goals (xG) to measure the quality and quantity of chances they are creating, Juventus’ attacking output has reached new levels since Ronaldo’s arrival.

This early juncture of the new season, of course, represents a small sample size, with the Old Lady also enjoying a relatively comfortable run of fixtures thus far. But the numbers behind their attacking uptick are impressive nonetheless.

In terms of xG, Juventus’ average for last season was 1.47 per game in Serie A, while this term they are averaging 2.45. There have been similar increases in their per-game averages for total shots (14.57 to 23) and big chances created (1.55 to two), too.

Interestingly, Juve are averaging fewer touches and passes per game than last season, while crossing the ball more, hinting at a more direct approach aimed at maximising Ronaldo’s supreme aerial ability, reaction time and speed over short distances.

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Ronaldo himself is contributing little to these creative numbers directly, but his presence at the point of attack is transformational in itself: his reputation as arguably the game’s greatest-ever goal-scorer has a gravitational pull, drawing the attention of opponents and creating space for team-mates; and his knack of finding space in the penalty area makes him the ideal target for the creative skills of the likes of Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi.

However, Juventus have not yet managed to parlay their improved creativity into an increase in goals, hitting the net 2.17 times per game so far, compared to last season’s average of 2.26.

Ronaldo will inevitably find his scoring boots at some point in the next few months, though, and begin reaping the benefits of the Bianconeri‘s creative improvements. When he does, Juventus will be more difficult to stop than ever.

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