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Manu’s Grab Bag: Bad Breaks

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Juventus get a draw on an overall unlucky and lackluster display against Hellas Verona.

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Juventus v Hellas Verona - Italian Serie A Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images

Much like the limited edition Pharrell collaboration kits they wore on Sunday night, Juventus final score line might look pretty ghastly at first, but there was more than meets the eye upon further inspection.

Drawing at home is never great and drawing at home against Verona is definitely not great and I hate to be the guy who plays the what if game, but this wasn’t a bad game for Juventus overall. They had chances and they didn’t allow Verona much either, the team hit the crossbar twice and Alvaro Morata got called for, yet another, FIFA offsides that disallowed a goal.

This game could have very easily turned out different if a couple of moments go the other way. So, does that mean this makes this result a good one? Not really, but I’m still hesitant to press the panic button just yet.

Let’s cook.

Winner: Dejan Kulusevski

As veterans of the Grab Bag know, we don’t award an MVP for draws or losses, but damn, if we could name one the young Swede would get it in a heartbeat.

Despite not starting he was one of the most impactful players on the pitch — he provided pace and aggressiveness on the left flank and immediately changed the game once he was subbed in. The only scorer for Juve on Sunday, his ability to unleash those bottom-corner shots is already deadly and you can only imagine how it will continue to improve.

He is a must-start for Juve at the moment.

Also, I know this is not the serious journalist you all have come to expect from your correspondent, but I kinda dug the little confrontation he had with Davide Faraoni as the Verona players engaged in time wasting shenanigans. This is a 20-year-old kid that has the grinta of a seasoned veteran that would not let himself get punked, and that’s not nothing.

Loser: Juventus’ defense

We went from having too many center backs to having exactly one healthy center back in the span of a month or so. That’s not ideal.

People know I was far from a Daniele Rugani defender, but even as someone who didn’t like him so much as a player, it was risky to loan him out after loaning Cristian Romero in the same transfer window. We all knew Matthijs de Ligt was going to be out for the beginning of the season and that Giorgio Chiellini is not a very safe bet to be a steady presence on the field at this point in his career.

That left us with Merih Demiral — who himself was coming back from an ACL injury — and Leonardo Bonucci as the players to bear the heaviest brunt of minutes early on this season. Well, with Bonucci having to be subbed off early Sunday night, Juve are now staring at the prospect of facing their biggest game of the season so far against FC Barcelona with literally one healthy center back.

Danilo has filled in as a quasi-center back this season and has been admirable at that job, but I legitimately don’t know what Andrea Pirlo does without Bonucci, who has been a key player in his lineup so far. So far, Pirlo has been pretty bold with trying new things with this lineup, to mixed results, so he’s going to have to get extra creative to field a lineup for the midweek fixture.

Loser: Andrea Favilli

One time, back when I was in college, we were at a backyard party with a ton of beer pong tables. It was one of those things where you kind of just call your turn to play and winner stays on, because we were all broke college kids. Instead of playing with beer, we were playing with a riff on cheap Jungle Juice that was stored in large water jugs, and I remember it tasted a lot like guava and crappy booze.

Anyway, one of my best friends and I get a table and we can’t buy a make. We are missing shots left and right as we chug the guava/brake fluid mix. We are down to our last cup and, for whatever reason, that’s where it clicks for us. We run the table, come back to win the game and stay on. Same thing happens against the next team — we start losing badly, but come back and win. We stay on and on and on, but it’s never easy, so we keep drinking tons because the other teams are making shots as well.

After a while, we are in a dead heat against the other team — next make wins and at this point I could take or leave the win as I’m starting to feel pretty blitzed, my friend is struggling even more as he started doing that thing where you have to close one eye in order to stop things from being blurry. The other team takes the shot and misses, my friend conjures up the last of his cerebral capacity to throw a long, loopy shot that somehow, unlikely, inexplicably, splashes in. As we rejoice in the celebration that only drunk college kids can provide my friend starts running around as he had just scored the winning goal of the World Cup, that’s when he finally lost the battle to the Devil’s concoction and threw up all over the backyard.

Sometimes, even while doing something objectively good, you can still end up as the loser. With that in mind, Andrea Favilli came on against his former club as a sub, scored Hellas Verona’s lone goal and then was immediately subbed out due to injury — all in the span of seven minutes.

It’s a cold world out there.

Loser: Federico Bernardeschi

If you wanted to, you could still talk yourself into Federico Bernardeschi at Juventus. Between some unlucky breaks on the injury front, lack of continuity formation wise, tons of competition for spots in the starting lineup and the overall revolving door of formations and concepts, it’s not a stretch to say that in more favorable conditions he might have done better.

Still, even with all the caveats mentioned above, I think it’s over for Fede in a Juve kit. He won’t beat out Juan Cuadrado nor Kulusevski on the right wing, he has shown he can’t play in the hole behind the strikers and, if Sunday night’s game was any indication, he can’t play on the left wing, either.

He was again anonymous for large parts of the game. He had a chance in the first half after a nice run that left him 1-on-1 against the keeper, but he missed and it was his awful pass in the second half that led to the easy counter where Verona scored their goal.

The team immediately looked better when Kulusevski came on — another position where the Swede is better than him apparently — and even with Gianluca Frabotta once the formation switched.

When Federico Chiesa and Alex Sandro come back from suspension and injury, respectively ,where does that leave Bernardeschi? As the third choice on both wings at best?

Nobody likes selling low on a guy and you can never have too much depth, but the best thing for everyone involved at this junction is to part ways.

VAR Controversy of the Week

I could almost copy and paste my rant in Crotone Grab Bag, because the very same thing happened against Verona.

It’s a technically correct call that goes against the spirit of the rule. Whether or not you think this is a good thing depends entirely on what type of person you are and how you feel about football/technology/life.

As for me, I still think it’s absolutely ridiculous to call an offside because the guy’s armpit is a millimeter off the line after you watch the video replay on a frame by frame basis. But, considering VAR seems like it’s here to stay, I think we all have to start getting used to these types of calls.

(Even though it didn’t count Morata’s chip to beat the keeper was sublime, and that’s the type of definition only a top tier, confident, in form striker makes. So far, the Morata signing looks more and more like a steal.)

Kit Ranking

I alluded to it up top, but after first viscerally hating the Humanform edition kits for Juventus, upon further inspection I think they are fine.

Not fantastic by any sort of stretch, but not awful. I think the main problem with them is that the handmade, tie — dye concept doesn’t work as well with a relatively solid colored kit. From the same collection, the Manchester United and Arsenal versions look so much cooler exactly because they have more colors to kind of blur together which is the entire point of a tie-dye shirt.

Also, I have a huge soft spot for the kits that Adidas made in their first year with the club, the original pink kit is one of the better ones they’ve made and the black and gold alternate of that same year is the best one.

Also, this:

That’s just emotional blackmail.

Parting Shot of the Week

With Barcelona looming, this is most definitely not the confidence-building result Juventus were expecting. And losing Bonucci is just the cherry on top of the uncertainty sundae.

Still, it’s not like the Blaugrana are coming in the best of form, either — they’re a team that in their last four matches have drawn Sevilla, beaten Ferencavros and lost to Getafe and in El Clasico against Real Madrid. The same Real Madrid that just lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, which currently sits in third place in the Ukrainian league below … Dynamo Kiev, who Juventus just beat last week.

So, following the transitive property that is always 100% accurate:

Juventus > Dynamo Kiev > Shakhtar Donetsk > Real Madrid > FC Barcelona

Ergo, Juventus should easily beat the Spanish squad this Wednesday, it’s a wrap, book it.

See you all Wednesday.