After a relatively poor 2018/19 season, it was unsure whether or not Juan Cuadrado had a place in this stacked Juventus squad, with many claiming it was time to look for replacements. With only his creative actions staying at a respectable level, and his other attributes seemingly waning, not many would have blinked an eye with a suitor came in at a reasonable price. Was he capable of reinventing himself to produce a noteworthy contribution?
Through an analysis of his performances this season, we will discover how he has performed under new coach Maurizio Sarri, and how he has altered his style of play to suit the tactics the Italian has introduced. As many wingers do, Cuadrado has suffered from a reduction of pace and agility as he has entered his thirties (not to a debilitating degree), but his ability to create a key pass remains present. What we will explain in this scout report is how he has continued to develop the defensive side of his game to force himself into the starting XI.
In this tactical analysis, we will dissect Cuadrado’s performance across the 2019/20 season, how he has improved, and where he can improve upon.
Style of play
The Colombian is a flair winger, being converted into a flying full-back, who likes to combine with his teammates down the right-wing, geared toward sending in smart passes into key areas. His dribbling ability and off-the-ball movement are impressive, especially as these key attributes complement each other brilliantly when it comes to progressing the ball forward for Juventus, as he is strong on the ball and off it.
Due to his strong dribbling ability, he is a player who receives plenty of pressure from the opposition and gets fouled often as a result. He is a player who is more intelligent than he is given credit for, with his awareness of his surroundings a key factor in why he can hold on to the ball as long as he does, as his opponent’s find it very difficult to dispossess him. When it comes to Juventus’ style of play this season, he fits very well. He has taken his transferrable assets as an attacking winger across his career and adapted them well to a newly-found defensive role. Although, he is encouraged to roam forward where possible.
Juventus tend to play possession football via short passes, opting to play the safe option and frustrate their opponents out of the game. They control the game in the opposition’s half in the middle the pitch, with through balls being their main avenue of chance creation. Sarri’s favoured formations are 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 which seem to fit Cuadrado’s role really well. As stated, Juventus attack down the middle, but Cuadrado is often used to progress the ball up the pitch and stretch the opponent, especially when they play 4-3-3.
Passing and build-up
Juventus focus on playing possession football. They prefer patient and short build-up through the middle of the pitch, rather than fast and direct counterattacks and an overload of crosses from out wide. Thanks to the quality of talent at their disposal, they are excellent at retaining possession, sometimes at the cost of creating chances in high volumes. Unless they are in the final third, they opt to play the short pass, and as such, they have the highest pass accuracy in Serie A, with all their players finding their man 87.8% of the time on average.
Cuadrado roams up and down the right-wing, often moving in-field to combine with the central-midfielders. The Colombian helps during the build-up by moving into the right spaces off-the-ball for his teammates to find him, often then proceeding to progress the ball up the field with his runs or passing. Even though Juventus most frequently attack down the middle of the field, Cuadrado is very useful at progressing the ball from the back of the pitch via his deep completions.
Here, we see his average locations across the season.
He is an important link between the defence and midfield, but he is even more important in getting the ball into dangerous positions. When found in the moving in-field, he tends to do rotations with his teammates, the typical passing triangles you would expect from Sarri’s football. When on the wing, he is very strong at passing the ball into key areas, often received within 20 metres of the goal line. He ranks fourth for deep completions amongst full-backs in Serie A this season, averaging 1.68 per 90 minutes.
Above, we see Cuadrado moving towards the ball to receive it. We can also see the passing triangle which is continuously present throughout Sarri’s matches.
In the image above, we can see Cuadrado send the ball into a dangerous area, where two of his teammates could receive it. They have the potential to make a combination and send the ball out wide to find the run of Douglas Costa.
Impact on their attacking approach and defensive contribution
As mentioned, the team’s 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 formations fit Cuadrado’s style of play really well. He is strong at numerous key aspects of Sarri’s game and tactics, especially when it comes to his attacking contribution.
This season, the strongest side of his game could be seen within his passing. As discussed, he is very helpful in the build-up phase, but he is also a useful asset when it comes to final third actions as well. His ability pick out a key pass highlights him as a dangerous player when approaching the opposition’s half.
Here, we see Cuadrado weighing up his options, before lifting the ball towards the box. We can see the options of runs he has to choose from, partly thanks to the distraction being made by one of the Juventus forwards.
Further on in the action, we see Cristiano Ronaldo attempt an overhead kick. Thanks to the delivery and the distractions made by his fellow forwards, he was able to direct this towards goal. Unfortunately, it is straight into the goalkeeper’s palms.
He also creates a great impact with his dribbling, although a different style of dribbling that he used to produce, the type that Chelsea brought him for nearly half a decade ago. He is an efficient dribbler, though he does not attempt nearly as many dribbles as he did in his physical peak. He is still considered to be faster than the average footballer, but he is losing that last yard of pace that used to make his dribbling so effective in the final third. Now, as a full-back, the dribbles he attempts are under a higher amount of pressure, due to his positioning on the pitch, which naturally leads to a reduction in success percentage. This causes to him to have a 58% success rate, which compares favourably to another Serie A full-back Ola Aina’s 57% who is highly regarded for his dribbling ability.
Above, we can see Cuadrado recover the ball from his opponent. Highlighted are two dribbling avenues he could decide to take, in-field to link with his teammate, or directly towards an opponent.
As the play progresses, we see Cuadrado take on his opponent directly. In this action, he has the potential to take the defender out of the game, leaving them flat-footed. Potentially then passing on the ball to one of the forwards.
Both his dribbling and passing actions allow Cuadrado to be heavily involved in the build-up to a chance on goal. His passing is progressive when he sees the opportunity to attempt so, and his dribbling is a great tool to evade pressure from the opposition. Though his success rate when it comes to take-ons is not outstanding, it is understandable why it is lower than expected. As a result, his xGBuildup90 of 0.51 is an elite figure within full-backs who play in Serie A. Again, when compared to attacking full-back/wing-back Ola Aina, who has an xGBuildup90 of 0.31, we can see how well Cuadrado performs in this regard.
When it comes to his defensive actions, he is also no slouch and has improved drastically in this regard. He is now a good tackler of the ball, largely due to his strong defensive positioning. If we look into the defender’s performance, we will see that he produces a competent amount of defensive contribution, but it is not an incredibly high volume. This is to be expected in a side that keeps a high amount of possession. He produces three combined tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes in Serie A.
Notice above how Cuadrado is aware of the ball that is being played towards an opponent forward. Thanks to his pace and anticipation, he can attempt to run back and defend his goal.
As stated, thanks to his pace and anticipation, Cuadrado can get in front of the ball and produce a clearance to remove the pressure of another attack.
The one weakness worthy would have to be his finishing. His decision-making concerning taking shots on goal is poor.
In this scenario, Cuadrado has two potential avenues he could take to create a chance. Dribble to the by-line and whip in a delivery, or lob in an early cross.
Instead, Cuadrado shoots the ball directly at the defender. This breaks down the attack and leads to a thrown in for the opposition.
At the age of 31 years old, Cuadrado has evolved into arguably the best right-back in Serie A this season. He is a key member in progressing his side up the pitch with his off-the-ball movement and his actions on the ball as well. Thanks to his history as a forward, he is capable of producing actions of significance in the final third, and he has become a competent-enough defender. Although he is not outstanding in one particular area, his well-roundedness is what makes him a dependable player for Sarri to rely upon.