Across Europe’s top five leagues, the assist table is filled with the usual suspects. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes, Ángel Di María and Jack Grealish. All creative players for their respective clubs. However, there are two names within the top 13 that do standout.
Harry Kane (11) has been getting many plaudits for his playmaking ways this term. We’ve already covered the Spurs attacker in this feature piece with our partners Sportlogiq. Today, we’re going to focus on Juventus centre-forward Álvaro Morata. The 28-year-old has the same number of assists (seven) as Jadon Sancho this season and he’s struck up quite the partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo upon his return to Turin.
The Spaniard assisted Ronaldo for the fourth time in Serie A during the recent 2-0 win over Roma. In the process, the legendary Portuguese forwarded extended his lead in the race for the Capocannoniere, while Morata climbed to outright third in the assist table. Only Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can better his return.
Andrea Pirlo’s side have won ten of their last 11 outings in all competitions, and their front two have played a pivotal role in getting their season back on track after an uncharacteristically slow start.
In his debut season as a manager, Pirlo has done a superb job finding a style to get the best out of his attackers. He’s done an even better job in identifying the perfect foil for Ronaldo. More often than not, his output comes at the expense of others. For context, Karim Benzema sacrificed parts of his game to ensure Real Madrid could benefit from CR7.
Paolo Dybala scored 22 league goals in the season prior to the former Manchester United man making the switch; he’s scored 18 in the following three years.
In Morata, Juventus found an ideal strike partner for the 36-year-old. The one-time Chelsea man rarely gets the credit he deserves for being one of the best multifunctional No.9s in world football. He does a bit of everything and he can play various roles in different systems.
For Atlético, his function was to score goals. For Juventus, Morata is used much more in the build-up. The Italians know all about that side of his game though. The last time he registered seven assists in a single season was during his final campaign in his first spell at Juve .
The comparison radar highlights this perfectly. While turning out for Los Colchoneros, the Spanish international was used more as a target man. He was competing for almost ten aerial duels and receiving just ten passes per 90. He was averaging over 2.5 shots with a goal return of 0.48 from an expected goals (xG) average of 0.52. He was a final phase player.
For the Bianconeri, Morata does a lot more outside of the penalty area. He’s attempting and receiving more passes. Juventus aren’t relying on his 6’2″ frame as much and he’s attempting fewer than three aerial duels per 90. Shots are down, as are goals and expected goals, but all of his creative numbers are up.
It’s kind of remarkable that you could look at the radar above and think those two players would make an ideal combination in the attack; yet, in reality, it’s just one very adaptable player.
All the graphics and visualisations in this article use Wyscout data and were produced in the Twenty3 Toolbox.
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