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Manu’s Grab Bag: New Season, New Juve

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The 2019/2020 Serie A season is underway, it was too long.

Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus (2L) celebrates with Cristiano... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

We are back!

Somehow, we made it.

Juventus finally played meaningful minutes against Parma on Saturday. How did they do? Let’s not waste any more time and get right in the grab bag, first of the year, LET’S GO!

VAR Controversy of the Week

Everyone’s least favorite segment is back for another year. As a full-fledged VAR apologist, I got to say, I still have some remaining hope that the kinks will be worked out, but the more and more time passes it seems like we will continue to have the type of decisions we saw on Saturday.

Was Cristiano Ronaldo offside? Maybe, sure, by an inch or so. Is that call made without VAR? Obviously not. Is it the correct call? By the letter of the law, sure. Does it go against the spirit of the rule? In all certainty, yes.

VAR was instituted to avoid any potential egregious refereeing mistakes affecting games, that was the idea at least, however it continues to be used more to correct any and all types of calls. Even calls that for all intents and purposes were right in the first place, only being reversed under frame by frame scrutiny. I’m not sure if this will change, and if it doesn’t then who knows how much it will affect the game as we know it. What is for sure is that in a day in which Cristiano Ronaldo was not at his best, that call cost him a goal and Juve some needed breathing room.

Speaking of whom…

Loser: Cristiano Ronaldo

YES, THE GRAB BAG IS BACK AND SO IS CR7 SLANDER.

Tell em, Bernie.

All kidding aside, not the greatest day for Ronaldo. Got himself in good positions more often than not, but his usual clinical finishing was particularly off and he wasted away a number of chances that could and should have put the game away. I wouldn’t really worry about him, though, because if history is any indication he should be back to his usual goal scoring self in no time. Plus, the one good finish he did have was overruled by VAR as we have previously discussed, so, a bit unlucky there.

He is going to be fine, especially if the next guy keeps performing the way he did on Saturday.

Winner: Douglas Costa

A dazzling performance by the Brazilian Flash, validating his solid output during the preseason. Was a constant threat down the flank and was probably the most dynamic player for Juve in the first half.

It wasn’t that long ago that Costa was the breakout star for Juventus in his debut season, leading the league in assists and being an all-around handful for opposing defenses. His first game of this new season gave me serious flashbacks to that season. Unfortunately, he got subbed out due to a minor knock, but it is not expected that the injury is very severe. Hopefully he will be fine and put forth similar displays for the rest of the season.

(Unexpected) Winners: Those blue kits and Gonzalo Higuain

Both of them looked pretty terrible the first time we heard they were going to be involved in Juventus season. Both of them kind of looked better than I thought they would?

After a couple disappointing loan spells last season and the glut of attacking players currently at the club, it seemed like it was a given that Pipita would not be featured for Juventus at all. Still, after refusing to be sold and deciding to stay and fight for his place in the squad — and his massive wages, might I add — Higuain started the first game of the season and looked pretty OK in the Sarri-less version of Sarri ball. Having played under Sarri before, it should not be a surprise that he looked very comfortable under the new system, kind of working more as a facilitator than an outright prima punta.

The blue kits are also a kind of a neat surprise, the first few leaked pictures looked outright terrible, but with the weird faux tie dye — camo print toned way down they actually look kind of nice. I’m not mad at them, just as much as I’m not mad at Pipita.

Winners: Alex Sandro and Miralem Pjanic

Two of the better performers in the match, both of them looked significantly better than their last few appearances under Allegri.

A common criticism of the latter days of the Max Allegri era was the general sense of complacency for the squad; no better examples would be Pjanic and Sandro, who most of the time coasted through matches — they were not bad, but not great either. It’s still unclear what a fully implemented Sarri system will look like, but if early returns on Pjanic and Sandro are any indication, I can’t wait for the rest of the team to catch up.

Parting Shot of the Week

A season with so much expectation is underway, while the first half had a lot of positives and a lot of potential reasons to get excited, the second half gave us the exact opposite. This is going to take a while is my point.

With a few days left in the transfer window and some names still very much on the chopping block, we might start to see a more accurate version of what this team will look like in a few weeks, but what we saw is enough to make your case, depending on whether or not you believe on the Sarri project or not.

Still, Juventus football is back, they are on the W column and that is always going to be good.

See you next weekend.

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