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Manu’s Grab Bag: Lackluster in Naples

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We talk about the very dissapointing Juve performance, Ronaldo’s form, the Johnny Square Experience and we say goodbye to an icon.

SSC Napoli v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

When I was a young lad, my mom would pick me up after school and ask about how my day was. Most of the time there was something relevant to tell her, but some days there really was nothing to report.

I attended, sat down, ran the clock out and got out. Nothing eventful or important happened. My mother, God bless her soul, would then proceed to badger me endlessly trying to extract some additional piece of information about my supremely uninteresting day at school.

How come nothing happened? Nothing? NOTHING?!

Yes, sometimes there are uneventful days — it happens, they suck, but they do happen. Well, that’s kind of how I feel about Juventus’ severely lackluster 2-1 loss against Napoli on Sunday. If you hard press me, I don’t think I could tell you one interesting or exciting moment of the game outside of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the dying minutes of the game.

The people still expect a Grab Bag, though, so let’s try to extract some water out of this proverbial rock of a game.

GIF I tried to submit to Danny instead of a piece

Trending Down: The Johnny Square Experience

One of the most surprising and pleasant surprises of the Maurizio Sarri-led Juventus had been the great play of Juan Cuadrado as a right back. For most of his career, the Colombian had been an attacking player and, outside of a couple of cameos as a defender, there was little indication that he could thrive in that role.

While the first half of the season was pretty good for Cuadrado, his last couple of games — and especially this one — have been deflating signs that maybe he is not the answer at the right back position. He offered little going forwards and he was downright catastrophic defending, arguably at some fault for both Napoli’s goals as attackers beat him to have wide open chances.

I understand the real world is not like FIFA in the sense that you can’t just plug and play a guy and expect him to be good, but it is troubling to say the least that Juventus hasn’t really been able to fill that role long term since Stephan Lichtsteiner left the club in 2018.

Song of the week

*Insert Cartoon Wolverine meme lovingly staring at an old photo of the Swiss Express yelling at a ref, here*

Trending Up: Cristiano Ronaldo

Another week and another goal for Ronaldo, who continues his blazing start of 2020. It wasn’t his best game, but he continues to play at a high level and was one of the few Juventus players out there who didn’t look sluggish on Sunday.

His goal, via a gorgeous pass by Rodrigo Bentancur, was one more reminder of how effective he is, even when being afforded very few chances.

Trending Down: Miralem Pjanic

Not only because of his injury, an injury in which we don’t really know the extent of as of yet, but Pjanic has played rather disappointingly the last few weeks and Sunday was another lackluster performance.

I don’t know if it’s due to a lack of rest or poor physical fitness, but Pjanic wearing down and playing uneven football in the second half of the season continues to be a recurring theme in his Juventus career. It really is staggering considering the form he showed early in the season, when it seemed like Pjanic had taken another step forward and was looking like a world class midfielder under Sarri’s system.

As we wait for the results of his recent injury, let’s hope it’s not something that sidelines him for a long time, though if you want to look for the silver lining in this whole thing, it might be just the rest that he need to come back fresh for the rest of the season.

Trending Down: Wojciech Szczęsny

Allow me to be perfectly clear on this, Woj has been really, really good this season. In my opinion the Polish keeper does not get enough credit for how seamless the transition has been from having one of the GOAT’s of the game in the sticks, as he has cemented himself firmly as a Top 5 keeper in Europe.

Yet, Sunday was not a banner day for Woj as you could make the argument, as I’m making right now, that the first goal could have been avoided with a better parry and not one straight back into the middle of the box.

A rare mistake for a guy who has accustomed us to not have many, Woj will be back.

Parting Shot of the Week

As we were gearing up for what ended up to be a very disappointing game, news broke of the tragic accident in which nine people lost their lives in a helicopter accident in California, of those people NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were among them.

We often talk about moments where you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news and this was decidedly one of them. Bryant was not only an otherworldly athlete, but he was also one of those sports figures that seemed bigger than life.

The tragedy of his passing is compounded by the fact his daughter was with him at the time, as they were en route to a basketball game of hers, because sometimes life has a really messed up sense of irony.

As sports fans, we tend to mythologize the human beings who play the games we love. We ascribe a larger than life stature to them, they become reflections of who we are or how we perceive ourselves to be, they become role models, icons and heroes.

We do this so much that we sometimes forget they are, after all, just regular human beings who happen to be very talented at a particular activity that we happen to find enjoyable. We lost a legend of the game and a cultural icon, sure, but the truly heartbreaking part is that three girls lost their dad and their sister and one woman lost her husband and one of her daughters in the blink of an eye.

Whoever and wherever you are, take this as a reminder that life is a very fleeting thing that can evaporate in the blink of an eye and that fate really doesn’t care who you are, your stature in society or your age. Take this as a reminder to maybe hug the people you care about a bit longer today and every day, because well, you never know.

See you all next weekend.