Welcome to Manu’s Grab Bag!
With the recent departure of staff writer Hunter, there was a space to be filled out in the BWRAO rotation. So, Danny, our fearless editor decided to tap yours truly to fill in the editorial gap.
You might be wondering what this column — I’m calling it a column because that’s what Big J, journalists, as myself call our contributions — is going to be about. Razor-sharp tactical analysis? In-depth looks at how the game developed? Things that the normal fan doesn’t notice, unless they have a deep knowledge of the inner workings of the beautiful game?
“Will I learn something?” you are probably wondering, bright eyed; full of hope and in all probability wasting time at work/school. And the answer is, no, of course not. This column is going to be about none of the previously mentioned things.
The grab bag will consist of all the tiny, almost insignificant parts of the game that in conjunction make this sport the subject of our undivided love and attention.
Let’s put it this wayL The grab bag is the player that every single middle-aged talking head, hot-take artist on TV despises. All flash, no substance.
Essentially, Paul Pogba’s post-Juventus club career.
It would have been better for everyone involved if the first grab-bag was about a better match, a match where Juventus doesn’t waste endless chances and lose against an already eliminated European minnow. But, hey, first in the group is first in the group.
So, screw fundamentals. Let’s cook.
Worst name related pun during the match coverage
During the broadcast, the color commentator said for what seemed to be the millionth iteration of the same basic pun, “It looks like the Young Boys are teaching the Old Lady a lesson!” Yes, Young Boys is kind of a funny name for a football team, and coupled with Juve’s nickname lends itself for relatively amusing juxtaposition. It was worth one (1) pun. Y’all took it way too far and I’m disappointed in everyone involved.
Worst (Best?) unnecessary stadium name change
If you think the pundits had a field day with the moniker of Young Boys, it would have been absolutely insane if they still played in the old Wankdorfstadion. Now that’s a name worthy of puns. Their new pitch is called Stade de Suisse, Switzerland’s Stadium, and look it’s not a terrible name and the stadium itself is great. But, if you’re the Young Boys and your old stadium literally translates to Stadium of the town of Wank, you can’t get rid of it. It’s too good. Shame on you, Young Boys.
Winner: Paulo Dybala
Look at my large, adult son thrive.
While his integration to the lineup with Cristiano Ronaldo has been a bit tricky, when this dude is on, he is ON. He had already scored a hat-trick against the Swiss side and he upped his tally Wednesday night with an absolute rocket after coming on as a sub and generally looking incredible during the last 10 or so minutes he got. He could have — should? — have had two incredible strikes and be the hero of the game.
I will forever stan for Dybala, even if you sometimes have to withstand some streaky runs of poor performance, he is so talented he can change a game with one touch or one play.
Loser: The Dybala Mask
Can we all talk about how the Dybala Mask, kinda doesn’t make sense? I will never not be happy to see it, because well, that means Dybala scored, but still. It very much feels like someone in his PR team told him he needed a catchy, signature celebration, the dab was already taken and that’s where they landed. It’s corny and I could do without it.
Flash forward to a few months from now, when Dybala scores a rocket against Real Madrid in the Champions League, and I Dybala Mask so hard I shatter the bridge of my nose.
Look, Juventus lost against Young Boys in a game they should have won. There’s not a whole lot of praise to throw around when something like that happens. The game Ronaldo had might be the perfect example of how the game went for the Bianconeri — good enough to not be the patsy, but at the end of the day, lost, wasted a gazillion chances, hit the post and was to blame for Dybala’s second goal being called offside. Speaking of which…
The “It was your fault, but not really…” award
Look, you can’t really blame Ronaldo for that one. I know I just said it was his fault and technically it was, but the guy is one of the greatest goal scorers in history. At that point you can’t guess whether or not the ball is going in or not, or if the goalkeeper might get a hand on it or not. This guy had been thought to try and deflect those balls all his life, it’s pure instinct at that point, can’t really blame him for trying to do something.
The “Not hitting the Panic button yet” award
Leo Bonucci still looks a whole heck of a lot like Milan’s Bonucci and not peak Juve Bonucci. He keeps having these baffling lapses of play, when he loses his mark with ease. My hand is for sure not on the panic button yet, but I’m starting to throw nervous glances at it and pretending I don’t see it.
First off, shout out Young Boys, huh? Sure, they got lucky a bunch, but beating the absolute juggernaut that Juve had been in the run up to the game is a pretty admirable thing. I was lucky enough to watch the 2011-2012 Swiss Cup final, between FC Luzern and FC Basel. A game that my beloved Luzern Lions lost in penalties, getting absolutely jogged by the refs, bears mentioning. Either way, Switzerland has a very underrated football scene and I remember thinking that the Stade de Suisse was a gorgeous stage for a prime-time game, with an electric atmosphere. I’m happy that it showed against Juventus.
Also, massive shout out, Valencia! This had all the makings of a Juve screw up that sends them to the second place, when they shouldn’t have, but Valencia managed to play spoiler, secure qualification to the Europa League and do us a solid.
In the words of the legend Chris Berman, rumbling, stumbling, bumbling but we got there. Juventus is qualified for the Round of 16 as first in the group with 12 points, a couple of great wins, a couple of baffling losses and enough flashes to give us all hope that this might be the year.
That’s it for the inaugural grab-bag! Did you like it? Hate it? Was this piece insulting to you, personally, and want to let me know? Have a take? Email me at BWRAOmailbag@gmail.com