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Manu’s Grab Bag: Clean Sweep

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Juventus beat AC Milan thanks to an MVP performance by Wojciech Szczesny and a flash of brilliance by Paulo Dybala.

Juventus v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Bring out the brooms, boys and girls, because we have a good, old-fashioned derby sweep! With Sunday’s victory against AC Milan in the books, Juventus have completed a sweep of all the local derbies in the first half.

There’s the Derby d’ Italia against Inter. There’s the Derby Della Molle against Torino and the Derby d’-only-other-competent-Italian-team-this-decade against Napoli. And now, whatever you decide to call beating AC Milan. All Juventus wins — game, set, match, blouses.

Was it another slow, boring, dull game? Kind of, but still, I’m not the blogger to look at a gift horse in the mouth. With that being said, let’s get right to it.

MVP: Wojciech Szczesny

Ideally you never want to see your goalkeeper be the most valuable player in the game since that usually means he dealt a bunch of shots on goal and you barely held on. While it wasn’t exactly the case in this game, for large parts of it, AC Milan had the most dangerous chances and Woj was up to the task for every single one.

Especially outstanding was a one handed save on a Paqueta header in the first half that seemed destined for the upper right corner, but it speaks to his performance that you could make the case any other of his saves were the better one. At this point, I don’t know if Woj is underrated, overrated or properly rated given his almost seamless transition from backup to the GOAT to Juventus’ starting goalkeeper. But it’s interesting to talk about how many teams have had such an easy transition between long, mainstay goalkeepers and the newcomer.

Real Madrid with Keylor Navas taking over Iker Casillas comes to mind. Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Victor Valdez at Barcelona, maybe, too? Either way, Woj continues to do an amazing job as goalkeeper No. 1, and he was key for the win against the Rossoneri.

Runner Up: Mathijs de Ligt (My son)

Developing Trend: Paulo Dybala vs. AC Milan

AC Milan continue to be a regular customer in the “Get owned by Paulo Dybala” store, as the Argentinian increased his tally against them to 8 goals in 14 total appearances and his sixth as a Juventus player with the game-winner on Sunday.

Surprisingly, Milan is not the team Dybala has scored on the most; Lazio has surrendered 10 goals on 11 appearances to La Joya, making getting owned by Juventus’ No. 10 something of an art form.

It sure feels good to be on the right side of history when it comes to Dybala and his importance to the club as he was seemingly being shipped out of town during the summer. Tough, to be fair, I was very much on the wrong side of history when it came to Gonzalo Higuain, who I though was absolutely done as a top tier player and has emerged as a key player in Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus.

You win some, you lose some. Water always finds its level in the take game.

Speaking of the take game. There is this narrative, not completely unfounded may I add, that Dybala tends to disappear in big moments. Especially in big-time European matchups. I never fully bought into said narrative, but it kind of made sense, especially in the last couple of years. However, Dybala continues to put the narrative to the test with big time saving goals against Lokomotiv and Milan recently.

Granted, neither of those teams can be considered a true major opponent, but still, good for Dybala to put up when it matters most.

Here are some headlines

Is it good when the majority of headlines are about the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo was angry when he was subbed off? Reader, it is not.

Sarri continues to insist that Ronaldo is injured and that’s why he was subbed off and went straight to the tunnel. That’s all fine and good, but if he is injured, why even start him in the first place? Why force him into action when you have plenty of firepower on the bench with Aaron Ramsey, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa all out of the starting 11? Especially with an international break coming up next, why not give the guy some rest and hope that he can come back full strength in a couple of weeks.

It’s not like Ronaldo is setting the world on fire at his current form, with one of the worst stretches of games he has had as a Juventus player, I think it’s fair to say Juve could have survived without CR7.

Just a baffling development that I’m sure we’ll hear more about in the coming days.

Those were some headlines.

Manu’s Gambling Corner

Welcome to a new segment of the Grab Bag, in which we talk some gambling. It’s free money! What can possibly go wrong?

I made a couple of Juve bets for the Milan game, risking $200 to win $280 for Juventus to win outright against Milan, which was a relatively safe bet and in fact won. I did lose $50 in a prop bet which had Juventus winning and both teams scoring at +240, because I know and love my team, but we all know that the defense had been far from leak-proof and a 2-1 score line seemed well within the realm of possibility.

Woj and Juventus anemic offense made sure that one lost, but no matter, the important one was to have Juventus win. One cool thing about the upcoming International break is the bonkers odds they give out for massive underdogs in the European qualifiers.

You can get +12,500 odds on Lichtenstein beating Finland outright or +6,000 for Gibraltar to beat Denmark. You never know! Any given Sunday, baby! On the real, back when I was a young gun I lived in Switzerland for a while and happened to take a day trip to Lichtenstein which sort of co-exists within Switzerland as an independent semi-constitutional monarchy and I was very confused by because they used Swiss money. To me, it seemed they were part of Switzerland but they were upset at me suggesting that.

Anyway, not the point. The point is that I happened to see a training session for the Lichtenstein national team by happenstance and they are pretty bad. I’m sure I could have starred in that team and, readers; I’m a terrible football player. So, yeah while it might seem fun and enticing to bet those odds, you might as well light a $10 bill on fire and get more excitement out of that than to root for the Lichtenstein national team.

A better bet could be Sweden at +160 to beat Romania outright or Italy to beat Bosnia at +120. You could get funky and parlay both of those at +470, you would be risking some by betting Italy since they have looked inconsistent, but Bosnia relies heavily on Miralem Pjanic, much like Juventus, and the midfielder hasn’t looked as sharp as he usually does lately.

Easy money.

Gambling Corner Record: TBD

Parting Shot of The Week

International Break, huzzah! While Juventus continue to be the living, breathing proof of the Non-Linear improvement theory, they somehow keep winning games and getting results. We are in mid-November and the team remains the only unbeaten side in the Top 5 European leagues.

It’s a slog, its sloppy, they flirt with disaster night in and night out, but you can only chalk up a run like this to luck so much. This is a pretty damn good team and the standings prove it.

See you in a couple weeks.