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Manu’s Grab Back: Domination

We talk Federico Bernardeschi, how good Matthis de Ligt is and could a 60-year-old Gigi Buffon boss the Thai league?

Parma Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Talk about a happy Saturday.

We have seen Juventus score a lot of goals this season. They scored three against Sampdoria, three against FC Barcelona and four against Spezia. But we hadn’t seen the Bianconeri score a lot of goals and play the way they did when facing Parma on Saturday night.

This was as dominant a win as we have seen from Juve, not only in the Andrea Pirlo era, but I’d go as far to say that in the whole calendar year. The final scoreline read 4-0, and if you watch the game you can legit make the argument it should have been more.

There’s a lot to talk about. And, thankfully, it’s all good! So, let’s cook.

MVP: Matthijs de Ligt

If you wanted a peek at the true ceiling of Juventus’ No. 4 all you had to do was watch this game. He dominated every single sector of the pitch, stonewalling the Parma attacks and helping shut down Gervinho on the defensive side, playing high up in the midfield to distribute when Juventus had possession and even scored a goal on a corner kick.

(It was disallowed through legitimately no fault of his own, but still.)

Sometimes the hype around young players feels unwarranted or just the media kind of fabricating a myth or putting too much pressure on a guy to be more than they are — ie. Freddy Adu, Giovanni dos Santos, et al — but there is not enough hype to describe how good de Ligt can be, because he is already so freakin’ good.

Write the guy a blank check and sign him until 2035.

Runner Up: Cristiano Ronaldo – After a few below-par performances, Ronaldo bounced back with two really good scores. Good to see him score again, but with Paulo Dybala back next game, maybe give him a break?

Season Leader: Alvaro Morata (6 Points)

Winner: Andrea Pirlo

When you think of what the ideal Pirloball game looks like, this is probably what you would conjure on your mind. Lots of possession, lots of chances, high pressing and quick recoveries.

To say that Parma was overmatched would be an understatement. They are not a good team and we know this, but we have seen Juventus play against other bad teams and they haven’t performed like this like this. I’m not quite ready to call what we just saw a turning point or definitive proof that Juventus will finally take off, but outside of the Barcelona shocker in Champions League play I do think this is the best game we have seen from them.

There are still some kinks to iron out. They got dispossessed cheaply a couple times in the first half and gifted Parma good chances and Gianluigi Buffon had to make a couple more good saves than I would have liked but overall this was as solid as solid gets in the Pirlo era.

Winner: Gianluigi Buffon

How old do you think Buffon would have to be to stop being a professional keeper?

He’s currently 42 years old and still performing at a high level in Serie A — which, at worst, is the fourth-best league in the world. Could he start in Belgium in five years’ time? How about MLS or the Mexican League when he is 50?

Kazuyoshi Miura is the oldest active football player — he’s 52 years old and still kicks it in the Japanese J1 League. I guarantee you that Buffon could start in Japan when he’s 55 or in the Thai or Indian League at 60. Sure, we are approaching the true, legit hinterlands of world football and there is exactly 0% chance he actually does something like what I’m suggesting.

With that being said, the performances we are seeing from him as of late does make one wonder how much longer he could keep wowing us on the pitch.

Can the real Dejan Kulusevski please stand up?

Kulu is starting to be the guy I trust the most on the entire team to take a shot with his left leg, he’s so good from that spot. Over Ronaldo, over Dybala, over anybody.

So when he got his shot from an Alex Sandro cross in the first half, you knew he was going to score the opener, it was just a given. With that being said, I caught myself thinking, “Wait, where is Kulu on this play? Wait, how many touches has he had?”

Despite all his skill and obvious talent, he still has a tendency to disappear for large stretches of game time as he struggles to really put his stamp on the game. He’s obviously very young and very few — if any — players will come into a club like Juve and be a consistent starter from day one, so I’m being a bit too harsh on him.

Still, those flashes are so tantalizing that you can’t help but demand to see them more often and more consistently. He’ll come around, I’m sure.

Kit Ranking

Parma Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Parma usually comes up with pretty sharp looking joints.

Their colors and crest lend themselves to try to do good, fun designing options. Plus, a smaller kit maker like Errea can usually take bigger swings and they have generally delivered, so it’s not a shock necessarily that they could beat Juventus in this kit matchup.

However, as much as Juve dominated the proceedings in the football sense, they got equally bodied on the fashion sense as they continued their baffling decision to keep on using the alternate orange kit that literally nobody on the galaxy likes. Ask around, not one single person likes it. Even the person who designed it probably regrets it and concedes it wasn’t their finest work.

It looks like if Chester Cheetah was a coal miner and he’s coming home after a long day of work. It looks like a deeply rotten pumpkin that someone left on their porch until mid-March.

I don’t like it is what I’m getting at.

Midfield Ranking

  1. Weston McKennie — He had a lofted pass to Aaron Ramsey in the first half over the entire Parma backline that Ramsey just missed, but should have been a gorgeous goal. I’m assuming those after practice sessions with Pirlo are paying off.
  2. Adrien Rabiot — Didn’t play, and I wonder if it’s a rest thing or something else. He’s still second because of his body of work, but if he doesn’t play against Fiorentina this could change.
  3. Rodrigo Bentancur —After a perfect sliding tackle to disrupt a potential Parma counter, the Spanish announcers praised his performance as that of the “quintessential No. 5” and there is not much more I can say. This is the guy who we hoped could be.
  4. Aaron Ramsey — Has had success being that link between the midfield and the attack. Not always showy, not always making plays, but tactically was huge on Saturday.
  5. Arthur — My man got Wally Pippe’d like you hear about on these rankings. Through no real fault of his own he now finds himself in fifth place because of the performances of his teammates.
  6. Sami Khedira — Still a remarkably good looking man.

Parting Shot of the Week

The team performed so well that Federico Bernardeschi came on as a sub in the second half and proceeded to play really well and put a peach of a cross for Morata to score his goal and close out the evening.

I kid, of course, since Bernardeschi has been encouragingly decent the last couple months or so, but it was one of those games where seemingly every single thing goes right and that’s not nothing.

As I said earlier, I still don’t want to start screaming from the rooftops that “JUVE IS BACK,” but it’s been a second since we’ve seen such a dismantling and the results have been pretty favorable as of late.

Midweek action sees the defending champions face off against another team that is currently not having a good time in Fiorentina. If we see something like what we saw on Saturday, I’m still not going to shout from the rooftops, but I will start to get my ladder.

See you Tuesday.