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Manu’s Grab Bag: A tale of two halves

Juventus looked like absolute world beater and like a squad with a lot of flaws all in the space of a bonkers 90 minutes.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The upside of having a column that’s format is like that of the Grab Bag is that it suits my scatterbrain self. I can just pick and choose whatever pops into my head about the game — good, bad, boring, funny, whatever. It’s very useful in boring games, when it seems that the game was 88 minutes of nothingness with a couple goals thrown in.

It is particularly fun when a wild bonkers, nonsense game like this happens because I can just go full stream of consciousness and submit something that with some measure of luck our fearless editor, Danny, will turn into readable content for your pleasure.

Anyway, Juventus beat Napoli 4-3. I … just ... so much happened, man.

Let’s get right into it.

Loser: Matthijs de Ligt

My other large adult son had a very, let’s say, interesting first start with Juventus.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

His start was mostly due to the fact that captain Giorgio Chiellini suffered an ACL tear the day before the match, which is not anybody’s ideal conditions to debut for your new club. Add to that he was starting in one of the biggest games of the young season against arguably their biggest domestic competitor and, well, de Ligt was going to have to show his mettle quick.

And, for the first half, it most definitely looked like was worth every single penny Juventus spent on him during the summer. He was poised, focused, controlled. The kind of guy who could hold Juve’s backline for the next 10 years.

So, why is he a loser? Because, well, unfortunately the last 30 minutes happened — and, boy, oh, boy, de Ligt looked very much 20 years old. He was arguably at fault for the last two Napoli goals that momentarily tied the game, completely missing the streaking Hirving Lozano in the second and getting bullied during the set piece that tied the game.

There were a lot of positives for de Ligt in this game, but it might be a game to forget as a whole. Hopefully he will put it quickly behind him because Juve will need him way faster than we thought.

Biggest Revelation: Cristiano Ronaldo’s comedy chops

Ronaldo had himself a solid game overall and scored a deadly strike that put the hosts three goals ahead, a lead that at the time seemed pretty unsurmountable.

However, Ronaldo’s biggest moment of the night was his celebration which was ... *chef’s kiss.*

After last week’s disallowed goal against Parma, Ronaldo poked a bit of fun at the whole situation. It was very needed moment of levity before the absolute insanity that was the last 30 minutes of this game.

Winner: Douglas Costa

Back-to-back Man of the Match performances for Flash, and it was an absolutely insane day at the office from Douglas. Did not put a foot wrong the entire game, was a menace either on the left or right flank, had himself two assists and was just so good, man.

I’m the biggest Federico Bernardeschi fan out there, even naming him one of the most important players for the upcoming season. But with Costa playing the way he is playing right now, Fede will have a tough time getting some minutes — and deservedly so.

Winner: Danilo

Coming on early for the injured Mattia de Sciglio, Danilo scored a goal on his debut. Not only his debut, but pretty much his first touch ever as a Juventus player at Allianz Stadium, getting a tap in after Douglas Costa’s vicious run on the counterattack. After that, he put in a solid effort on both the offensive and defensive end of the pitch.

I’m not much for superstitions but scoring within seconds of getting in the pitch for the first time with your new club seems like a solid augury.

Winner: Gonzalo Higuain

It’s a ridiculously unforeseen development that Pipita is starting games, playing well and scoring absolute beauties in important, meaningful games in Serie A for Juventus during the year of our lord 2019.

Unforeseen but pleasing, Higuain continued to be a selfless facilitator and scored a screamer leaving Kalidou Koulibaly seeing visions.

At the time it seemed like that was going to be the worst part of Koulibaly’s night, well, about that …

Loser: Kalidou Koulibaly

Getting dunked on by Higuain was bad enough, but scoring the losing own goal after that epic Napoli comeback in extra time?

Look, when opposing players are going over to you to tell you how bad they feel for you, it is fair to say that you had a very bad day at the office ... and Koulibaly sure did.

Parting shot of the week

After Week 2 of the Sarriball experience, it’s very hard to make a judgement.

On one hand, the initial 60 minutes of the game were an absolute masterclass from the Juventus squad. If that is a preview of what we are going to see the remainder of the year, we are in for a fun as hell ride.

The last 30 minutes, though? Not so much, and weirdly enough after — of all people — Sami Khedira was subbed out, the cohesive unit that was Juventus faltered and almost let an inspired Napoli take a hard earned point. The fragility on set pieces came back and Juve’s defense allowed a couple easy goals.

Still a work in progress, no doubt, but if I was a betting man, I would bet that we will see the first 60 minutes Juve a whole heck of a lot more often than the last 30 minutes Juve.

Until next week ... or after the international break.