Juventus rolled to a sixth consecutive league win last weekend in a dominant display in the 194th Derby della Mole, comfortably defeating crosstown rivals Torino 4-0. The Bianconeri improved to 74 league wins in this fabled clash, and have only lost once to the Granata since 1995.
Despite Juve’s well-established supremacy in this meeting, the home side was prepared for war. Torino entered the J Stadium on Saturday undefeated in the league and looked to continue that streak, with hopes that talisman Andrea Belotti would ignite his rather tepid start to the season with a pair of goals. But when the whistle blew, ‘Il Gallo’ remained on three goals to his name, sitting tied for eighth with teammate Adem Ljajic in this year’s Capocannoniere race. On the other end of the field, Juve displayed a tactically sound and energetic performance. Giorgio Chiellini kept Italian compatriot Belotti in his back pocket all match, while the Bosnian ‘maestro’ Miralem Panic put in arguably his best shift in pinstripes to date, posting a delightful goal, two assists, and four key passes with a 96% passing accuracy. But it was once again Juve’s shining star Paulo Dybala who spearheaded his side to victory with grace and swagger.
Dybala continued his white-hot goalscoring form, adding two more to his tally, alongside four key passes and ten shots. It’s almost as if the #10 shirt has finally found a home on the back of the Argentine, its wearer being imbued with the mystical powers of his famed predecessors.
Upon being handed the #10 this summer, Dybala described how he gained “…an even stronger commitment inside of me to bring my team to victory in every game, in every competition and for every trophy.” The young man is doing just that.
The heritage, prestige, and iconography of the #10 shirt at Juventus is nothing short of legendary. Worn by Omar Sívori, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, and Alessandro Del Piero, the #10 demands more than just goalscoring and chance creation, but also the emotional and spiritual responsibilities of leadership, bravery, and inspiration to teammates and supporters alike. In other words, it was duty of the #10 to ensure that children would grow up dreaming of sporting that venerable shirt one day for the club.
With a staggering ten goals in just six outings, Juve’s star man is now one goal shy of last year’s tally with a whopping thirty matches left in the season. Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri has taken to re-shifting the side to accommodate the strengths of Dybala. The relocation of Mario Mandzukic into the center forward role allows for Dybala to operate in the hole, where he has a penchant to curl one in on his favored left peg, his trademark finish. Gonzalo Higuain, Juve’s highest scorer last year, has had a sluggish start to the season, which is enough to warrant his removal from the starting XI. However, his benching on Saturday in favor of Mandzukic, a target man with a tireless work-rate, tells us that Allegri may view Dybala as the team’s principal attacking threat, and is willing to bench one of the world’s top strikers to get the most out of his #10.
Allegri, who, in the past, has dabbled with slotting the Argentine wide right or centrally as a second striker, has now given him the green light to play as a trequartista, an imaginative, technical, advanced playmaker with considerable tactical freedom to roam into the half and wide spaces. So far, the youngster has flourished in this role, and is expected to continue to do so on Juve’s quest for their seventh consecutive Scudetto.
Perhaps the most magical aspect of Dybala sporting the #10 is the fact that he appears to be cut from the very same cloth of his predecessors. With the flair of Sívori, the grace of Platini, the technical skills of Baggio, and the soul of Del Piero, Dybala is a time capsule of sorts, possessing all of the special qualities of the legends that have come to define the #10 at Juve.
Through Paulo Dybala, the world is gifted a glimpse into the past, the present, and the future of ‘La Vecchia Signora’.