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Manu’s Grab Bag: Home Cookin’

Juventus bounced back after their away woes, besting Dynamo Kiev in the Juventus Stadium.

Juventus v Dynamo Kyiv: Group G - UEFA Champions League Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

This Juventus team is maddening.

For the life of me, I can never guess how they are going to look any single time out. There is no rhyme or reason — they can look pretty good one game, to a shocking level of uselessness the next one to another decent performance all in a matter of days.

I guess that’s to be expected with the new coach, no preseason, new signings … yadda yadda, you know the drill. That doesn’t make it any less baffling.

Don’t get me wrong, I will take a 3-0 win like the one we saw Wednesday night against Dynamo Kyiv any day of the week, especially after last weekend’s performance against Benevento that saw them drop points against a weaker opponent yet again.

(Due to me having to move from one city to another, I couldn’t file a Grab Bag for that game. But as I know everyone was holding their breath for my take on the proceedings, here it is. It sucked.)

There were a couple iffy moments here and there, but overall Juventus looked competent yet again in dispatching Dynamo Kiev — this time in Turin — and still hold on to a tiny chance at the top of the group in the closing match of the Champions League group stage.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Federico Chiesa

A goal and an assist in his best game for Juventus so far. Crazy what playing a guy in his natural position can do for his performances, huh?

Experimenting and an honestly worrisome lack of depth on the left wing had forced young Chiesa to have the majority of his minutes be played on a flank that is not his best — and it had shown. While not awful, he had hardly shown the quality that made Juventus shell out the big euros for him the summer transfer window. With this recent showcase let’s hope the Italian international can find most of his minutes on that side of the pitch.

Runner Up: Alex Sandro –— Had an assist, but overall his play was excellent. We’ve been saying that his return would be big for this team and the move to wingback might be the shot in the arm he needed to shine his brightest again.

Season Leader: Alvaro Morata (6 points)

Winner: Alvaro Morata

There is a fascination with Erling Haaland on this here blog as of late and, look, I get it.

The guy is a 20-year-old Norwegian robot put on this earth with the sole purpose of scoring goals. He’s the Ivan Drago of the football pitch. It’s not shocking to see that people wonder if we could bring him in to Juventus. Add to that the litany of rumors and statements that seem to confirm that at some point Juventus could have very well signed the wunderkind plus the idea that after Cristiano Ronaldo moves on, there is a sizable chunk of change to be invested. I understand the frenzy.

However, I would like to invite everyone to put some goddamn respect on Alvaro Morata’s name who as of this moment is tied with the goal lead in Champions League with the aforementioned Haaland.

Despite not having his best game, Morata came through with a goal again and has now scored six times in Europe’s top competition in five games with nine goals overall in all competitions.

At his current pace, he’d be in line to have the most productive goal scoring season of his career. He’s still young and has a number of options to remain in bianconero for the foreseeable future at a relatively affordable cost.

Like I said, I get the Haaland fascination and it’d be really awesome for him to be a Juventus player, but maybe they don’t need to shell out the massive bucks to get him when they might already have a solution right under their noses.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

That is a staggering amount of goals.

It’s unfathomable to me for something like this to be achievable while playing at the highest levels of completion there is.

The Ronaldo signing overall is still and will probably always be a heated topic of conversation, but what is undeniable is that we are witnessing one of the greatest players to ever lace them up. And that he is currently lacing them up as a Juventus player only adds to the marvel.

Loser: Juventus’ defense

Chalk up another injury to the pile for Juventus center backs.

Giorgio Chiellini is at this point in his career more of a talisman for the club than a player that can actually come and make a difference, and now it’s Merih Demiral who will be out for the next three games for the Bianconeri, according to reports that have later been confirmed by the club. Putting the team down to two healthy central defenders and I do use the term healthy here rather loosely as Leo Bonucci is himself coming back from muscle injury and Matthijs de Ligt from shoulder surgery.

It’s a shame as the team looked good against Dynamo Kyiv with three natural center backs, but it’s a look we won’t get to see for a while now. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, Daniele Rugani, where are you?

(In all seriousness, it would have been nice to keep at least one more center back, if not Rugani then definitely Cristian Romero, who has 10 appearances for Atalanta at the moment.)

Don’t Retire No. 10

After the passing of Argentinian legend Diego Maradona last week, a proposal to retire the No. 10 from all football jerseys worldwide was kind of thrown out into the ether by Marseille’s manager Andre Villas-Boas.

The idea has gained a bit of steam with other players voicing support for such a measure and I get that emotions are high and that Maradona was a true icon that surpassed what he did on the field for Argentina. But that idea is unimaginably dumb.

The number was already retired by Napoli, as it should be, but anything other than that is asinine to even suggest. If a club like Juventus has not retired the number after the retirement of actual club legends like Alessandro del Piero, why would they do it after a player who never even suited up with the club?

Not even taking into account that retiring numbers in and of itself is kind of a rare practice in football in general and how it would disrespect the legacy of other legendary players who also played with the No. 10.

I don’t think this proposal will go anywhere, but nevertheless, it was important for me a random internet man to throw my two cents into the debate. It’s dumb, don’t do it.

I do think the practice of retiring a number in sports is kind of cool, though, mostly reserved for American sports. However, if Juventus decided to adopt something like that, who would get their number retired? Would they retire the No. 10 shirt? Probably not because so many great players have worn it and it’s kind of a talismanic thing for the club, plus if they didn’t do it after del Piero left it’d be weird to do it now. My favorite proposal — that they will never do — it’d be to retire Gianluigi Buffon’s No. 1, that’d be cool for several reasons.

First, it would lead to Juve having a quirky thing in which no keeper can wear that number, which would lead to creative numbering and making players opt for other options. Think Buffon wearing No. 77 this season, but, always. That’s kind of cool in my opinion. Also, if you want to talk about club legends, it doesn’t get bigger than Buffon, a club stalwart for over 20 years and arguably the GOAT not only for club but ever in that position.

Like I said, they won’t do it, but I would enjoy it. Isn’t that reason enough, Juventus?

Parting Shot of the Week

As listeners of the Old Lady Speaks Podcast know, I have a standing wager with my girlfriend — and avid FC Barcelona fan — about which team would top the group.

I have little hope of winning that bet at this junction, but thanks to this win Juventus now go into Camp Nou for the final match of the group stage with a sliver of a hope. How thin of a sliver? Well ,they would need to win by a 3-0 scoreline to get to the potential tiebreaker. So, yeah, I’m not extremely ecstatic about the chances of that happening.

Still with how uneven Juventus has been all season, don’t discount them suddenly having a massive performance when you least expect it. Hope dies last.

See you Saturday.