Cristiano Ronaldo had become a constant with Real Madrid. Year-after-year, the Portuguese talisman had stuck with Los Blancos, helping them win everything and anything. Thus, when Juventus announced the transfer that Ronaldo had joined the La Vecchia Signora, one can imagine the shock and the pure amazement by everyone. For Ronaldo, however, the transfer was just another step to domination. Having already succeeded in England and Spain, it was time for new frontiers. Well into the Juventus season, Ronaldo is having his normal season of goals, charisma, and god-like arrogance. Even though Ronaldo has moved, has he improved in any certain areas? Has the prolific talisman exceeded various fields of performances or has age taken hold of the superstar? We look and compare the season of Ronaldo at Juventus and Real Madrid, more specifically the last season, through our tactical analysis and statistics.
Involvement in the attacking phase
It is worthwhile comparing his statistics from his last year at Real Madrid and this year. Bear in mind that the Real Madrid statistics have an advantage in goals, yet nonetheless, they function as good comparison metrics.
As we can see here, it is evident that Ronaldo has improved his team play while his goals are very close to his total last season. This is primarily because of the differing playing styles. At Real Madrid, Ronaldo, especially in his last season, was primarily deployed further up the field. His roles included left forward and striker, two positions that are near the opposition’s defence. Additionally, last season, Zidane deployed a 4-3-3 which allowed for greater flexibility for Ronaldo as he could drift inside and wade outside. His movements were backed up by the dynamic trio of Marcelo, Kroos, and Modric.
This year, however, Ronaldo finds himself at the feet of a pragmatist, Massimiliano Allegri. Allegri’s preferred formation is the 4-2-3-1 where the impetus of the attack relies on the wing-backs. As such, in this system, Ronaldo becomes the supplier to the wing-backs rather being the medium through which the attack flows. Not only has this allowed Ronaldo to continue his goalscoring, but it has also allowed him to become more involved in the team play. This is further evidenced when comparing his passing statistics:
Allegri’s playing style and formations have clearly made the difference. It is important to note the increase in Ronaldo’s crosses and long balls. He is making more crosses and long balls, characteristics that are synonymous with Allegri’s tactics. With the presence of a target man, Mandzukic, and accompanying players ready to pounce for the second ball, Ronaldo’s crosses become more significant. Another reason for Ronaldo’s increased crosses is the numerical superiority inside the central box for Juventus. Thus, it should be no surprise for his assists to keep racking up.
Another angle to look at his change in attack is through his shotmaps for Juventus and Real Madrid, respectively:
It is evident that his shots have gone down, if only by a little. With Real Madrid, with the ability to play as a striker/left winger, it allowed him to get into central positions. Consider the fact that his heading abilities were primarily used inside corners and one can get a perspective to his increased shots inside the box.
For Juventus, Ronaldo’s attacking purpose differs.
As mentioned before, Ronaldo has become a person who supplies his team’s play and is involved with intricate link-up with the likes of Dybala and Pjanic. Another reason for his decline in his shotmap is the fact that Allegri’s team’s favoured attacking style is crossing. This explains why most of his shots in the shot map at Juventus are in a clear line near the penalty spot.
Despite this, Ronaldo still retains his poaching instincts and individual moments of brilliance which only has improved his playing style. Yet, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, it becomes important to compare him to the best. Who other than Lionel Messi?
It is quite clear with this graphic that while Ronaldo may have improved individually, it is just not enough to match Lionel Messi’s statistics. How much of this underperformance can be credited to the individual is hard to decipher. Ronaldo plays in a system which does not suit his attacking characteristics as much as he would like.
Messi has the liberty to play in his preferred option with a new apprentice with the name of Ousamane Dembele. Ronaldo on the other hand, while having the likes of Mandzukic, Dybala, Cancelo, does not have a dynamic creative player to play off. This inability to play fluidly has led to a certain decrease in his playing style as he is less able to do what he does best: play off of defenders and attack the half-spaces.
At Real Madrid, Benzema and Ronaldo have a telepathic connection. While Dybala has a certain pedigree, the level of interplay will never be near the connection of Benzema/Isco and Ronaldo. Additionally, in his new system, Ronaldo has not been the star of the attack. The intensity of the attack has been diffused, the prime attack coming not through the middle but rather through the wings. Ronaldo has only been in Italy for six months and he is still getting used to the new attacking styles of Juventus. It will take some time for him to build that bond and become the same talisman at Real Madrid.
Especially for a good calibre of player, creative bonds allow for new angles that would have never been possible. It is why the likes of Isco and Ozil are valued.
At Real Madrid, when the attacks came through the middle, Ronaldo often found himself isolated with the full-back in a one-v-one. Overlapping runs by Marcelo would leave gaps in the half-space for Ronaldo to attack. At Juventus, most of the play is concentrated near the wings. It often becomes congested with a packed wing of two-v-two or three-v-three. Since the main goal of Juventus has been to concentrate and then release near the centre of the box, Ronaldo often finds himself drifting near the penalty area. This reduces his dribbling and key passes.
Involvement in the defensive phase
Defence is not Ronaldo’s strong point. Yet part of a new team, Ronaldo’s game portfolio has undergone a change as well. If Ronaldo has changed his attacking techniques, how has he changed his defending techniques?
Looking at the statistics, Ronaldo’s defending seemed to not have undergone a change. This makes sense due to the structure both Real Madrid and Juventus take when they defended. Under Zidane, Real Madrid would tuck into a 4-4-2, with Benzema and Ronaldo at the top. Both were tasked with doing curved runs, blocking passing lanes, and applying the first wave of pressure.
Under Allegri, Juventus tuck into a 4-5-1, with Ronaldo as the lone striker. This is done primarily to increase compactness in the centre. With this format, each of the vertical spaces is adequately covered. Thus Ronaldo, just like at Real Madrid, is tasked with making curved runs, blocking passing lanes, and applying pressure to the man on the ball. In terms of intensity, Ronaldo’s intensity is low to medium, as he is often seen walking.
As we have seen, just like every player, Ronaldo has had to change his playing styles. Playing in a team that prioritises wing play, crossing, and compactness has stifled some of the attacking threat that Ronaldo would bring. But an important factor is being left out of the discussion and that factor is of age. Ronaldo is still scoring and assisting at the age of 34. For a man who has transcended culture and history with his technical skills, Juventus seems apt for the Portuguese veteran. With their slower playing style and an attack with a full supporting cast, Ronaldo can do what he does best: score goals.
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