Juventus’ 2-0 win over Brescia was hardly the most fascinating one at all. It was more like what Maurizio Sarri would want though and a lot of it was needed. It was about getting all three points while Lazio beat Inter in a huge game at the Stadio Olimpico. More than anything though, it was a game which showed how important Juan Cuadrado has been to the bianconeri this season.
The selection of the Colombian on the flanks was a surprise in itself. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t start but Cuadrado got a rare start on the right-wing when a majority of his season has been played out in the right-back position.
Cuadrado got a goal for himself- a rare one. And he was one of the best players on the pitch. Not just the goal, Cuadrado completed three dribbles and had a tally of four key passes. He made one tackle and one interception, helping out Danilo in the defensive phases.
It wasn’t just proof that he had a good game. It defined the sort of season he’s had. Very silently, Cuadrado has been one of the best players in the side this season. He’s made up for injuries and has made sure that he’s useful in many regards.
Cuadrado could easily have left the club in the summer. Juve were looking to recover some cash by selling players and there was a point when Cuadrado was seen to be part of this exodus. Links were made to a move to China, but the former Chelsea man stayed to fight for his spot.
The right-back position was a problem for Juventus early on in the season. Both Mattia de Sciglio and Danilo were out and Cuadrado had to slot into that position, despite not exactly being a right-back. He was always more of a right wing-back and that made him the viable option.
Cuadrado has done that job very well. So much so that he’s become the regular instead of being the stop-gap option in that position.
He has completed 1.2 dribbles per game, also coming up with 1.4 key passes per game for the Old Lady. While that is proof of his economical creation and dribbling, he has been dribbled past only 0.7 times per game. That has been dispelling doubts that he isn’t as good a defender as a natural right-back.
He did show signs of slackness in defence early on. But over time, he has become a thorough player in that area. Unlike Danilo and De Sciglio, he adds a technical outlet to that part of the pitch- something Sarri would like in a right-back. He’s got pace and in an attack-minded system, he’s better at getting forward than the other two options as well.
While his best game did come further forward against Brescia, but his best performance at right-back came against Torino in the Derby della Molle. He won four tackles, completing as many as four dribbles too. The 31-year-old also came up with a couple of key passes in the game.
The fact that Sarri has changed his predominant system to a 4-3-1-2 has been of help to him as well. It has allowed him to almost play like a wing-back, with the whole right side entirely down to him, as the three midfielders are narrow in the formation.
Strangely enough, he also played in central midfield against Bayern Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League. He put in a sound performance, proving that he’s been one of the most reliable rocks for the club this season.
He was at right-back in the first game against Die Werkself and it had earned special praise from Sarri. The Italian told reporters:
“Cuadrado is growing into the role of right-back and everyone benefited from that. He is defending and attacking in the right way, he never left us unbalanced.”
That praise was well deserved and he deserves one for the whole season. If not for him, things could have been very different. The flashier players like Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo do get attention, but Cuadrado deserves just as much of it.