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Manu’s Grab Bag: Derby Time

Turin remains, continues and will always be Bianconera.

Torino FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It wasn’t always pretty, as of recently it almost never is, but Juventus managed to win yet another Derby della Mole against the crosstown rivals of Torino on Saturday night. Despite Torino spiraling as of late, it’s always huge to play a derby with so much history as this one.

Played for the first time in 1907, it’s considered the first derby in Italian football history and the oldest rivalry between two teams of the same city that continues to be disputed.

As with all rivalry matches, a lot happened, so let’s get right to it.

MVP: Gonzalo Higuain

In a substitute appearance, Higuain notches his first MVP recognition in the Grab Bag. Kudos all around.

Higuain completely changed the game by stepping onto the pitch for a rather disappointing Paulo Dybala, had one of the clearest chances on goal with a wicked volley that against a lesser keeper would have been a fantastic goal. Higuain ended up notching the assist to the Mathijs de Ligt’s game-winning goal with a perfectly placed header on a dead ball situation for de Ligt to just push it in.

It’s going to be really hard to find room for all the attacking talent that Juventus has on the roster, but to be able to sub in a player of Higuain’s caliber in the middle of the game and completely revitalize an attack is a luxury that not many teams have.

Runner Up: Mathijs de Ligt

Trending Up: Mathijs de Ligt

Look at my boy, go!

This was the first goal for the Dutch player in a Juventus shirt and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Outside of his goal, de Ligt played a really good game, snuffing most of Torino’s chances and having a mistake free performance. Although, we do have to talk about the fact that balls keep finding his arms in the box and I honestly cannot tell you the reason why this handball was not called and the handball against Lecce was. They were pretty identical plays, so I just don’t know.

Still, given that he had been struggling with some lapses recently, a goal and getting the VAR gods letting him get away with a handball is probably great to build the young Dutchman’s confidence.

Panic Button Update: Juventus defending set pieces

It’s been night and day for Juventus and the defending of set pieces. At the beginning of the season one of the fining developments of Maurizio Sarri’s Juve was that they were incredibly fragile in dead ball situations, allowing goals left and right while the team struggled to adjust to a zonal defending scheme.

However, it sure seems like Juve is turning a corner in that regard. Torino had 11 (!!) corner kicks and every single one of them got snuffed out by Juventus. It’s a refreshing change from early in the season where it seemed like every couple of set pieces were destined to end up in the back of the net. In a pleasant development, while Cristiano Ronaldo struggled on the offensive side of the ball, he has been playing a big part in defending these types of plays. It is no secret that Ronaldo is one of the best aerial players in the world, so to see him be willing to get in there and defend as another center back is quite refreshing.

Panic Button Status:

Same faces, new places

It was fun to see old friends Tomas Rincon and Simone Zaza playing against Juventus. For those of you who don’t remember, both guys had their cup of tea at Juve a few seasons ago.

Tomas Rincon was brought in the middle of the 2016-17 season as a boost to the midfield in what was proving to be a season filled with matches with Juve playing cup, league and Champions League until the end of the season. His stint was rather lackluster, usually coming on as a sub to see games out, but he did make history by becoming the first Venezuelan player to play for Juventus.

After the season he was loaned with an obligation to buy to Torino, where he has managed to establish himself as a starter for the team and continues to do so to this date as he lined up for the full 90 minutes against Juve.

Zaza had a short stint at Juve as well, but much more significant than Rincon. Bought from Sassuolo looking at the 2015-16 season, Zaza looked to fight for starter minutes in Max Allegri’s squad and he did start a number of significant matches during that season, splitting time at the striker position with Alvaro Morata, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala. His most significant contribution to Juventus was, easily, his goal against Napoli in a match that proved to be vital to Juve keeping ahold of the Serie A title.

Zaza was also a regular Italian national team call-up during this stretch, where he looked to be a young striker on the come up. Unfortunately for him, it has all gone downhill from there. Gonzalo Higuain was the marquee transfer for Juventus next season, making Zaza expendable for the squad. He was loaned out to West Ham where he had a disastrous season. Made another pit stop at Valencia, where he performed better, but never quite reached the highs of his Juventus or Sassuolo days. Valencia loaned him out after a year to Torino, where he has played since the 2018-19 season, with mixed results.

Tough to see a path where Zaza gets back to the level that brought him to Juve in the first place, but we will always have that Napoli goal, Simone.

Parting Shot of the Week

Another derby, another win for Juventus, who somehow, someway keep finding ways to get results despite not always playing their best. One of the bigger takeaways of these string of games is that while Juventus continue to experience growing pains, they keep getting results. This was one of the better characteristics of Max Allegri’s Juve teams and it seems to continue on despite changing managers.

The brutal schedule for Juve continues as they ready to travel to Moscow for a Champions League fixture and then turn around to host another derby against the mess of a club that is known as AC Milan at Allianz Stadium.

See you next Wednesday.

And, as always, Torino e solo Bianconera!