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Manu’s Grab Bag: Breathing Room

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Juventus throttle Spezia 4-1 and get themselves three very necessary points in Serie A.

Spezia Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Waking up early on a Sunday morning is never my favorite thing in the world to do. But, for Juventus games, I make the exception. The only thing worse than waking up early to watch a game, however, is when said game ends up as a massive disappointment. And considering the form Juventus was showing in the last few matches, I seriously considered just sleeping in.

I ended up hedging, waking up early, but stayed in bed while turning on the game on the TV on mute. Despite a frustrating first half, at least Juventus didn’t make me regret the decision overall as they trounced Serie A newcomers Spezia by a 4-1 scoreline.

It was a much-needed result for a squad that felt like it was reeling a bit after a string of disappointing results both in domestic and European competition. Luckily, the result we got is the one we have grown accustomed to from the last decade or so of Juventus football: the Bianconeri beating a low-table team handily.

Let’s get right to it.

MVP: Alvaro Morata

MORATA GOT A GOAL THAT WASN’T DISALLOWED BY VAR!

That should honestly be all the explanation for him winning the MVP of the game considering the historically bad luck he was having when it came to getting goals disallowed after the fact. Regardless, he did have a marvelous game outside of his goal.

(It was high comedy to see the entire team explode once VAR ruled the goal onside as every player on the pitch rushed Morata to celebrate.)

He continued leading the line in great fashion, consistently being a dangerous presence on the Spezia box and had a superb assist to Cristiano Ronaldo to break the deadlock. I was quietly optimistic about the Morata signing when it happened, but not even a fan like myself thought he would hit the ground running like he has.

Runner Up: Cristiano Ronaldo – After testing negative for COVID-19, Ronaldo saw his first action in over three weeks and picked up right where he left off. He calmly scored off Morata’s feed and then chipped in a PK to get an easy brace.

Season Leader: Alvaro Morata (4 points)

The Confounding Federico Chiesa

Chiesa looks to have quickly taken the mantle of Douglas Costa as the most maddening player on the Juventus squad.

To say that he had been a complete ghost for the majority of the game would be an understatement, as Juventus struggled to score and Chiesa did very little to make something happen for the entire first half and a large stretch of the second one.

Then, out of nowhere, he lifts a pinpoint pass to a streaking Adrien Rabiot for Juve’s third goal and has a marvelous run into the box where he wins the PK for the fourth and final goal of the night for the reigning champions.

Young players are always going to have ups and downs, that’s understandable. But, for the life of me, Chiesa manages to have up and downs within minutes of each other — and it’s baffling. He’s still playing on the “wrong” wing, so that might have something to do with some of the lackluster moments, but I still can’t quite figure out what to expect from him.

Loser: Paulo Dybala

Another letdown of a performance from La Joya.

He’s pushing like crazy to get something done, but so far his displays have been pretty disappointing. I said it in the Barcelona Grab Bag and I’ll say it again here: If he truly is what a lot of us expect him to be as a player — and what he himself thinks he is considering his reported wage demands that would make Dybala the second highest earner on the team — these are the type of games he needs to control and be the difference maker.

There’s plenty of uncertainty regarding his fitness, match readiness and what not, and it’s not like Juventus as a whole is humming. But Dybala is not like Federico Chiesa or Dejan Kulusevski where he’s a really young guy and a newcomer to the team, so I can cut those dudes some slack. Dybala is supposed to be the guy — especially when Ronaldo is out.

So far, we are not seeing that and it’s pretty disappointing.

Winner: Andrea Pirlo

Hey, look at coach making moves!

If this sounds slightly condescending, I swear it’s not. It’s the coach’s job to make adjustments to improve the team, he did it, that’s his literal job. But then again, we are talking about a dude who was given one of the top teams in Europe as his very first coaching job ever.

That’d be like instead of getting an entry level position right out of college and then they named you CEO. It’s going to be a miracle if you don’t royally screw up and whenever you do something good it’s going to be a goodamn parade.

So, yeah, he nailed his subs and that proved to be the difference maker. I’m going to give him an attaboy for that one.

Midfield Rankings

Considering the constant state of shuffling in Juventus’ midfield, I thought to try and make a ranking of what the best guys to trot out there might be on a game to game basis. This will of course change, all the time I’m pretty sure, but let’s give it a shot:

  1. Adrien Rabiot — Not only because he scored, but because it feels like on a game-to-game basis he has been the most consistent performer.
  2. Weston McKennie — Outside of the Roma game, he has been pretty good overall. He had a smart run to set up the first goal and was his usual ball-winning self. Very pleasant surprise to see him contribute this quick.
  3. Arthur — He’s been OK at holding the ball and distributing, but I can’t really say he has impressed me all that much. I do think he has another gear, though.
  4. Rodrigo Bentancur — Disappointing in general and not outright atrocious, but we all thought he would take the next step after a good season last year. Needs to improve.
  5. Aaron Ramsey — MIA against Spezia and has not been getting a lot of playing time since his MVP performance against Sampdoria to start the season. Maybe it’s a fitness thing ... again?
  6. Sami Khedira — Arguably should be No. 1 because he keeps cashing dem checks. In all seriousness, I’d be interested to see if Pirlo at least gives him a shot at some point. With a bunch of games in quick succession, couldn’t he help out against a Serie A minnow?

Parting Shot of the Week

I cannot stress enough how much Juventus needed this game.

For as much patience as we have been preaching, after the frustrating draws against Crotone and Hellas Verona and the Champions League meltdown against Barcelona, not beating Spezia would have been really disappointing.

Thankfully, the Bianconeri came through and are now in third place in the Serie A table, only four points off leaders AC Milan. Since a lot of us writers here at BWRAO do a piece after every game, it’s only logical that we sometimes give in to the small sample size hysteria, but I gotta say, despite the collective mood of Juventus Nation the team is still in line to at least accomplish the very first objectives of the season.

Achieve qualification to the knockout round in Europe and be top of the table or very close to it in Italy. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s still very far from a panic situation.

Now if we drop points against Ferencvaros? Hit all the panic buttons you’d like.

(Kidding, sorta, kind of.)

See you Wednesday.