There is no certainty that Juventus win the Serie A this season. That isn’t a statement that fans are used to hearing over the last decade. While they’re in the table and they’re a chance they still grab the Scudetto, the overreliance on Cristiano Ronaldo became clear on Thursday in the Coppa Italia game against AC Milan.
The Portuguese won the penalty- a controversial one. And also put it in the back of the net. If that isn’t a sign of overreliance on Ronaldo, only Maurizio Sarri will tell what is.
Ronaldo has now scored in ten games in a row in the Serie A. This comes just weeks after many had begun to doubt his abilities at the age of 35 under a new technical system. In all competitions, he has contributed to 27 goals in 29 games and has scored more than any other Juve player.
He has contributed to 45 percent of Juve’s goals this season, lagging just behind Ciro Immobile’s record of 47 percent for Lazio in what has been an impressive season for him. But for Ronaldo, the case is very different.
Immobile has done that in front of a thriving midfield, with Sergey Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto enjoying impressive seasons. Ronaldo has done that in a side which is still transitioning into a Sarri side and hasn’t had enough creativity in midfield. In fact, the lack of technical ability in midfield has let Juve down.
That has led to Ronaldo overperforming on his XG by 4.57. Strangely enough, it is the first time in five years than the Portuguese has overperformed on his XG- first time since the 2014-15 season at Real Madrid. He’s done that by taking the least number of shots per 90 minutes over the last six years- 5.71.
Those numbers are surprising. Last season, Ronaldo had only 21 goals in the whole season while taking 5.85 shots on target per 90 minutes. This season, he already has 20 goals to his name by taking fewer shots on target. That, when seven have been penalties.
Despite taking fewer shots, he’s more efficient in front of goal. Penalties have a high XG and he’s scored all of them, meaning he’s converted many shots worth less XG. Credit does go to Sarri for changing his system to a 4-3-1-2 and playing Ronaldo closest to goal.
Ronaldo has also played the second-highest number of key passes per game this season- 1.7, only behind Paulo Dybala. He’s also second behind La Joya for dribbles completed per game– 1.9. He’s won 1.4 aerial duels per game– only behind Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci out of regular starters.
It is clear that this isn’t just about goals. Ronaldo has also been effective in other departments, even though goals prove the quality of the season more tangibly.
His goal had got the side a point against Sassuolo and his brace against Udinese had won them the game. His sensational header got them all three points against Sampdoria, while he got a hat-trick and an assist in a 4-0 win over Cagliari. He had come up with a decisive goal in a 2-1 win over Roma. While the penalties he got against Fiorentina were controversial, they were goals nonetheless.
Ronaldo’s overperformance on his XG has been one of the vital reasons for why Juventus aren’t fifth in the table like the Expected Points tally expects them to be. They’ve overperformed on their XP tally by 12.05- the highest tally in the season in the Serie A.
That very much defines everything. The reason why Ronaldo is still constantly scoring is probably why Juve are very much in the title race. If not for him, they would be fighting for the top four.