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Manu’s Grab Bag: Uninspired

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A rough game overall for Juventus as they draw Crotone away after the International Break.

FC Crotone v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

After what felt like forever, Juventus finally took the pitch again on Saturday to play relegation battler Crotone and the results continued to be underwhelming.

You can make any argument you want — there was a ton of injuries, players are coming off an international break, the ref, VAR, all of which we will talk about more. But, simply said, there is absolutely, positively no reason for Juventus not to be able to beat freaking Crotone.

No disrespect to Crotone, but we are talking about a squad that hadn’t earned one single point in the season coming into this game, a team that, more likely than not, will be playing their football in Serie B next season and is clearly one of the worst teams in the league.

There’s a lot to discuss about what ended up being an incredibly frustrating game, so let’s get right to it.

Winner: Alvaro Morata

After his unimpressive Juventus debut against Roma — Re-debut? Debut Part Deux? — Morata had exactly the game he needed to have to settle himself in back in black and white.

Scoring Juve’s only goal of the match on a quintessential poacher’s effort from a nice Federico Chiesa cross and working well with his build up and holding. He could have had a hat trick if things had been slightly different after heading a cross to the post and getting what should have been the winning score disallowed by VAR.

Despite all, in a team that will have a crunch for playing spaces once Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala are back, Morata made a nice case for why he should be the one joining the aforementioned superstars.

Loser: Leo Bonucci

When you think about, Bonucci’s Juventus career has been a freakin’ rollercoaster.

During his first stint he was part of a historic three-man defense, kept improving until he comfortably established himself as one of the best center backs in the world, got in trouble with management and was shipped to AC Milan in 2017 where he promptly fell off a damn cliff.

Re-signed by Juventus, he had a mediocre (at best) first year back in Max Allegri’s last season and bounced back as a pretty good defender and leader for Maurizio Sarri’s team last season.

If we follow the rollercoaster analogy I’m trying to push here, it kind of makes sense that this season would be a valley. So far, Bonucci has been looking more like Milan Bonucci than the above average player he was last season for Juventus.

At fault for Crotone’s PK and in general not very good at defending in this game, I understand his value as a ball-playing center back, but at times this year he has looked straight up unreliable.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but so far Danilo has been the most consistent and reliable defender in that three-man backline. Freakin’ 2020, man.

VAR Controversy of the Week

When VAR was first implemented, the idea was to have every possible technology and resource to help refs avoid any egregious mistakes in key moments in a match.

Say, there’s a flagrant handball in the box in the 90th minute and the ref misses it, well VAR in theory could make that call and pick up the slack. It was a good idea, I supported that idea once it was implemented, because getting the right call is always a positive.

As we all know, VAR has been used for everything, but what was originally intended and we got another taste of that on Saturday’s match.

In the history of football, there is no scenario in which Morata’s go-ahead goal is called offside, that’s a damn FIFA call where the system gets that you are millimetrically offsides and makes the call. It’s completely against the spirit of the rule and even of VAR itself when it was first implemented.

This is not even because the VAR luck happened to go against Juventus this time around. This continues to happen in every game, in every league where this technology has been implemented. I believe it’s safe to say that the great VAR experiment has mostly failed and it either needs to go or needs to get seriously retooled because as it currently stands its just not working.

Incomplete: Federico Chiesa

A debut for the young winger that had it all.

Some nice spells of play when he showed all the promise that made him a €50 million signing, a nice assist for Morata’s score and overall a lot of energy and pressing in the wingback position.

He also had some spells where his decision making was slightly lacking and yes, he got red carded, leaving Juventus down a man for the majority of the second half.

I don’t know if the foul merited a straight red — for what it’s worth, I think it should have been more of a yellow — but he still ended up going studs up on a dude’s shin, so I can’t entirely blame the ref for that one, either.

Overall, I was left more impressed than not when it comes to Chiesa’s Juventus future, and if that partnership with Dejan Kulusevski is something we can see in Juventus for years to come I think we will all be pretty confident in this club’s future.

Loser: Federico Bernardeschi

I just ... man. I don’t know what to say.

I know it’s only a clip on an overall longer performance for the Italian winger, but that clip tells you everything you need to know about where Bernardeschi is right now.

Unconfident, unreliable, and just lacking in general. I was still hoping against hope that a switch to wingback could be a much needed shot in the arm for him, but the early returns, much like his Juventus stint has been underwhelming.

Kit Ranking

I had never heard of Zeus, Crotone’s kit maker before this weekend, but I really liked the big ass lighting bolts in the shoulders, folks subtle it is not, but it’s a nice touch either way.

Honestly, I just wanted to talk about Juventus redone Jeep sponsorship — not because I know what 4xE is supposed to stand for and I’ll be damned if I do any research on the matter, but more because I kind of liked the silver-ish detailing that accompanied it.

It looked a bit odd with the current gold piping in Juve’s kit, but it made me think of how clean it would look if they changed the gold accents for silver. I believe it’d look really sharp, unlike our play on the pitch, HEY-OH.

Parting Shot of the Week

Here’s the good news.

Bayern Munich got clobbered by Hoffenheim a couple weeks ago, Real Madrid lost to Cadiz and FC Barcelona against Getafe on Saturday.

Currently, Everton leads the Premier League and supposed heavyweight Manchester City is sitting there in ninth.

My point being, football all over Europe seems to be a bit wonky in the early goings of the 2020-21 season — which, all things considered, is to be expected. Do I love that outside that initial jolt of lightning that was the Sampdoria win the team has looked unimpressive at best? No, but I don’t know if it’s reason to call the season quite yet.

Here’s the bad news.

AC Milan currently looks very much like the real deal, as does Napoli and Atalanta. Sassuolo is feisty as hell and Inter will more likely than not improve. Serie A is not going to be easy this year and already being down four points in the early goings and dropping points to bad teams is not ideal in what will surely be a tight championship race.

Like I said, no need to panic just yet, but its looking like this will be one of the more unpredictable seasons of the last few years.

See you for Champions League action.