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Manu’s Grab Bag: Two Steps Back

Juventus squander a big chance to gain ground on the table as they share the spoils with feisty Atalanta.

Matthijs de Ligt (R) of Juventus FC is challenged by Duvan... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Another day, another draw for Juventus in Serie A.

Fine, that might be a bit unfair considering how the game developed and the opponent they were facing. But that does not refute the fact that it was another draw that, should have, could have, and might have been a win if a couple things break right.

As one of the unofficial leaders of the “Atalanta Fans While Not Really Rooting For Atalanta Club” here at BWRAO, this was a good game to show why we have that affinity. This is a team that does not give one damn who they are playing against or where. They’ll go for broke and play you tit for that as they did on Wednesday at the Allianz Stadium in what was pretty entertaining match overall.

And while — in a vacuum — this is not a horrendous result for Juventus, I’m sure they’ll rue that they couldn’t pull a win in a match day that would have seen them cut the lead to the top of the table to one point.

Let’s cook.

Winner: Wojnieck Szczesny

In what at times seemed like a battle of the two goalkeepers, Woj more than held his own against La Dea’s Pierluigi Gollini — more on him later — making a number of good saves to keep the charging Atalanta from finding a late winner.

I know we were all really happy to see the living legend, Giangluigi Buffon, keep a clean sheet against FC Barcelona last week in the Champions League shocker ... but, come on. Not even all the warm, fuzzy, nostalgia-laden feelings of that performance can deny that the rightful starter has to be Szczesny.

Loser: Juventus’ attack … again

Like last time I had them as losers, I’m going to say something that I hope is not too controversial.

Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo are good players. But boy, they did not look too good Wednesday night.

To be fair to Morata, he very much grew into the game and was his usual reliable self when it came to leading the line, holding the ball and making good runs when he had space. However, he was especially bad at the beginning, having a number of bad touches and shots that killed potentially dangerous opportunities for Juve. He also had that back heel attempt, which even if you think it’s an offside and it’s not going to count, you have to put forth a better effort than that. Just for the sake of not getting clowned online which he deservedly did.

Morata also grew increasingly agitated throughout the game and got himself a yellow card for his troubles. Personally, I like fiery players who show they actually give a damn, but maybe reign it in a little, Alvaro? The last thing this team needs is to have him suspended again for mouthing off to the refs.

As for Ronaldo, to say he was non-existent against Atalanta would be an understatement. Possessions died at his feet way too many times to count and he failed to make an impact during the entire game. Oh, and he missed the potential game-winning penalty kick. I was honestly shocked he wasn’t subbed off. I get that he is Ronaldo and you can never quite count him out for a moment of brilliance even if he’s having a lousy game, but if that performance doesn’t get you subbed out ... what will?

Winner/Loser: Federico Chiesa

Chiesa had a pretty bad game — an argument can be made he was one of the worst players on the pitch — except from two shining moments. Luckily for him, one shining moment was a screamer into the top-right corner that put Juventus momentarily ahead and ended up being the Bianconeri only score of the evening. The other moment being a won penalty kick that could have made the difference in the game.

I still don’t really see whatever it is Andrea Pirlo sees in him playing on the left wing. I wouldn’t call it catastrophic necessarily, but he looks ... average? His performances are consistently underwhelming and I honestly don’t see him as a massive upgrade over, say, a Gianluca Frabotta who has been the definition of average during his minutes on the field. Hell, the much-maligned Federico Bernardeschi has looked better on that wing at times!

I just don’t get paying so much for this dude who is clearly talented and then not give him any time on the wing he likes the most and the wing he had his better showings on the season. Juan Cuadrado desperately needs a break. Give it to him and start Chiesa where he belongs.

Stefano Sorrentino Memorial Award — Pierluigi Gollini

A performance like the one Gollini had is more than worthy to dust off the old Sorrentino Memorial.

For those of you who are new to the Grab Bag — or BWRAO — Stefano Sorrentino is a recently retired keeper who had a solid, if unspectacular career playing for mid to low table teams in Spain, Italy and Greece. However, and for whatever reason, during his last few seasons with Chievo he would turn into a Golden Glove winner and play out of his mind whenever he faced Juventus, usually in a losing effort for his team. To honor his performances we started doling out the award to keepers playing in mid to low table teams that had fantastic performances against Juventus.

I’m bending the rules here a little, though, because while Atalanta is currently sitting eighth in Serie A they are also in the Round of 16 in the freaking Champions League. Still, it’s undeniable that Gollini had a massive performance and was a large reason the Bergamo club managed to escape Torino with a hard fought point.

Stopping a penalty kick from Ronaldo — who is arguably one of the best penalty takers alive — should be reason enough, but his second half save on Alvaro Morata’s potential game winning shot really takes him over the top. That was as sure a goal as any shot a keeper can face, Morata came in streaking in the middle of the box, he unleashed a good shot that was deflected by a defender changing its trajectory, so Gollini was diving the wrong way and he still managed to palm it out mid-dive.

Truly impressive, so congrats, Pierluigi we will have your award send to your home shortly.

The award is essentially this picture, but huge and framed. I’m sure he will enjoy it.

Winner: Matthijs de Ligt

The only chances Duvan Zapata had on the day where the select few opportunities in which he managed to get himself marked by Leo Bonucci instead of de Ligt. That’s all you really need to know to understand how good the Dutch superstar was.

Zapata is the stereotypical battering ram type of striker that had given Juventus so much trouble in the past seasons as they had no real defender who could stick with him and do it effectively. Enter de Ligt, who gave Zapata absolutely no chance to make an impact of the game. Matching him physically and man marking him the hell out of the match.

Zapata is a hell of a striker — even a rumored Juve striker at some point — so to see him be a complete non-factor was the latest treat that Juventus’ No. 4 gave the fans.

Midfield Ranking

  1. Weston McKennie — Yup, I legit think he’s the best midfielder in the squad right now. We knew he would bring energy and ball recovering skills to the table, but he has added legitimately good spacing and play making ability, must start for Juve at the moment.
  2. Adrien Rabiot — The team suffered at first when he came on after the injury to Arthur, but they adapted in the second half and had a solid game. Still reliable, still good.
  3. Arthur — This was his type of game and he played well up until his injury. The biggest testament to his talent was how the team looked in those early minutes without his ability to hold on to the ball and distribute.
  4. Rodrigo Bentancur — Legitimately good game against Atalanta, snf if he keeps this up he might start to finally warrant all the preseason love from this blog and Juventus fans everywhere.
  5. Aaron Ramsey — Didn’t play, but maybe should have?
  6. Sami Khedira — Remember when he scored a brace against Sassuolo?

Parting Shot of the Week

Not much changed standings wise with this result.

Juventus are still four points off the table and with AC Milan stumbling as of late and Inter being Inter, they still have a pretty good chance of catching up to them.

Still, it’s got to hurt to know that you could have been only one point off the top if your superstar player makes a freaking PK.

Up next, Juventus face a Parma squad that’s in 14th place and should beat. Scratch that, have to beat. You are not going to keep getting golden chances week-in and week-out, and with AC Milan playing a feisty Sassuolo this is as good chance as any to keep gaining ground back.

See you Saturday.