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Manu’s Grab Bag: Easy Does It

It’s a drama-free win for Juventus as they trounce Ferencvaros in Budapest.

Ferencvaros Budapest v Juventus: Group G - UEFA Champions League Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

Juventus has now scored eight goals in the last two games — that’s pretty good!

Sure, it was against a relegation battler and probably one of the worst teams playing in the Champions League, but eight goals are eight goals and I’d rather see Juventus trounce crappy teams than struggle and draw against them in the way we saw them do in October.

With Wednesday night’s 4-1 win over Ferencvaros, Juventus solidified themselves in second place in their group and, as we all expected, they are now sitting pretty and almost assuredly qualifying to the round of 16 with little problem.

That tends to happen when you get the lucky draw and face off against the powerhouse that is Ferencvaros and Dynamo Kyiv, which doesn’t always happen in Champions League. Kind of a good year to get that luck to be honest.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Alvaro Morata

I loved Alvaro Morata during his first stint at Juve and was legitimately bummed out when his loan deal ended and he returned to Real Madrid. So, when he was announced as the solution to Juventus striker problem for this season, I was excited, although more for nostalgic reasons than what I actually thought he could bring to the team. My expectation was for him to be a solid attacker that could compliment Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala and start whenever the main guys needed some rest.

Even as one of his biggest defenders, in a million years I did not see this torrid start. With his brace against Ferencvaros, Morata has scored six goals and has two assists in only seven official matches — and that’s obviously not taking into account all the goals that were disallowed upon VAR review.

This is a dude that is feeling it, plain and simple. He’s not only getting the typical poacher tap-ins, but his second goal on Wednesday — a one-timed rocket from the edge of the box that the poor keeper had no shot at — shows a complete attacker in fantastic form.

Runner Up: Paulo Dybala — Look, no one on the team played particularly well to merit mention and the dude came in and scored a brace. Was it the easiest brace in his career given the circumstances of the goals? Yes, but I was happy either way to see him score, let’s see if this performance is a signal of things turning around for La Joya.

(Also, yes I know the second goal went into the stats as an own goal but it’s a brace to me damn it.)

Season Leader: Alvaro Morata (6 Points)

Loser: Dénes Dibusz

(Shoutout to whoever names these videos, because the title in Spanish translates to “They didn’t disallow them this time, Morata!”)

It’s always a rough day as a keeper when they put four past you, no way around it.

To be fair to poor Dibusz, there was not much he could to stop Juve’s first two goals — he had no chance on the first one and not even peak Gianluigi Buffon could have kept the second Morata strike from nestling in.

It’s the last two goals that really have to sting, in the third one he gets left out to dry on a misplaced pass by his backline and handles the ball clumsily to gift Dybala a score. In the second one he straight up passes to the rushing Argentinian, it’s laughably terrible.

Bad day in the office for my guy, Dénes.

Father Time is Undefeated

Here in Latin America — or at least in Mexico — the TV rights for the Champions League are divided between Fox Sports and ESPN Deportes. Some games will be on one network, some on the other and you just pick and choose which one you want to watch. It’s pretty nice since there is a lot of easy access to whatever Champions League game you feel in the mood for.

The only downside to this is that because they broadcast the entire match day, there are way too many games and the networks are stretched thin when it comes to the announcers so they end up trotting out there sort of a motley crew of guys to cover some of the least popular games.

So, for Juventus-Ferencvaros we got the trio of Roberto Gomez Junco, Alvaro Morales and Jose Ramon Fernandez. Those names don’t mean too much for American audiences probably — Gomez Junco and Morales are like B level sports guys in my opinion, so not much reason for you to know them — however, Fernandez is a true legend of the game.

The guy has been covering sports for 40 years. He started the first big-time sports TV show in Mexican TV, he’s covered 10 World Cups and when ESPN started to get serious about the Latin American market, Fernandez was one of their first signings as he was immediately named the main host of several football shows for the network and the No. 1 guy for Cronometro, which is essentially the Mexican version of America’s Pardon the Interruption. Plus, the dude is from my hometown Puebla, so whenever the hometown team is slightly relevant — admittedly not often — we had one of the top sports personalities in the country repping us.

I’ve always been a fan of the guy and it was watching those debates in Cronometro that I started refining and learning the HOT TAKE game and getting interested in sports writing in general. So it was a bit of a bummer to see these dudes kind of half pay attention to the match, half kind of shoot the shit when it came to their commentary. Granted, the game wasn’t the most interesting game ever but come on. You have to be able to muster more than just halfheartedly mention that, like, Ronaldo is good and spend the large majority of the game running down your top 10 Italian players ever.

It was when they were mentioning the Arthur signing and poorly explaining how it went down that it clicked to me, this is not a bummer, this is the student surpassing the teacher. I objectively know more about that signing, I know more about why it was done, I know more about Juventus than any of these jokers including one of the most important sports journalists in Mexican history.

There is only one thing to do now: I’m throwing down the gauntlet, it is time. I demand to debate the announcers of this game about the Arthur signing, it wasn’t done because they thought super highly of him and paid €70 million for the Brazilian midfielder. It was a swap with slightly more cash thrown in to inflate the value of two players in order to balance the books, it was almost assuredly not on the up and up. Its borderline financial fair play doping, it’s a significantly more interesting topic than freaking whatever it is you did the whole game!

Let’s go, and I’m ready for the challenge. Let’s throw some takes.

Kit Ranking

Ferencvaros Budapest v Juventus: Group G - UEFA Champions League Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

What’s the deal, Juventus?

Are we seriously going to keep doing this? What’s the purpose of this unabashed push of the orange kit? Is it like a contract thing, do we have to use it a certain amount of times and we want to get it over with? Halloween is done, put that thing in the closet and never look back.

It’s awful, its baffling that they manufactured it in the first place, but it’s even worse that they are using it so often. Especially having a perfectly serviceable home kit this year and an objectively great away kit, that oh by the way, they haven’t used once.

Obviously, Ferencvaros wins. Pretty much any team Juventus faces when they wear that rotten pumpkin-two-weeks-past-Halloween ass looking uniform will win by default.

Midfield Rankings

  1. Adrien Rabiot — Good game from him. It wasn’t too flashy, but did his job. I still think he’s the most solid guy so far.
  2. Weston McKennie — Came on as a sub, but was his usual lively self. The young American is coming along faster than expected. The next step is to do it against better competition.
  3. Rodrigo Bentancur — Was a shot in the arm after Arthur was subbed off at half due to injury. He was stout on defense and recovered balls all over the place. That’s better from him.
  4. Arthur — What does he do well? Like, he holds the ball and dribbles a lot, but what’s the purpose of that? If he can somehow harness that into actually dangerous passes he might start looking better, but so far, not a ton.
  5. Aaron Ramsey — Another letdown shift, his early season form — really the Sampdoria game, but let’s give him some more credit — is looking more and more like a mirage.
  6. Sami Khedira — He’s training! That’s not nothing.

Parting Shot of the Week

Like I said up top, Juve scoring eight goals in two games is pretty good, and I don’t care against what team you’re playing.

Juventus has continued to show baby steps of improvement every game. Not a ton, but at this point in the season you get what you can. With only one more game remaining against Lazio on Sunday before yet another International break another win would be nice.

However, and if you believe reports, the biggest thing for Juve will be the return of Wunderking Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro after said break. Sandro will stabilize the revolving door of players that have failed to solidify the left flank and de Ligt is a tank that will surely reinforce what has been at times a leaky defense.

In the meantime, see you Sunday.