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Manu’s Grab Bag: Just end it

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We talk about benching Miralem Pjanic, the passing of the bandage and the no good, very dumb idea of a three-year plan for Juventus.

Olympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images

Juventus is now the literal description of the saying “hoping against hope.”

This is a team that has looked mediocre at best for the better part of the last three months and objectively bad at its worst. Yet, at least I, was clinging to some hope that they would eventually wake up at some point soon, especially with the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Lyon right in front of them.

I was clinging to hope hat “Sarriball” would show up, that the players were going to start playing with some hunger, with some sense of urgency, that we were finally going to see that Juventus team that was supposed to be on the shortlist to lift the big eared trophy once and for all.

After Wednesday’s dispiriting loss 1-0 against Lyon in France, it’s getting to be almost impossible to believe that it will still happen.

There’s a lot to talk about, most of it bad, so let’s get to it.

LVP: Miralem Pjanic … again

BENCH PJANIC.

This is not even an overreaction. What’s the point of trotting out a guy who is clearly experiencing a total lack of form, is recovering from a recent injury and has had little to no rest of the better part of four months? Nobody benefits from it; the player keeps slumping and getting tired for no reason and the team plays poorly. Am I missing something here?

Pjanic is a good player, we know this, and we have seen it from most of his stint as a Juve player. However, he is not a good player right now and an already suspect midfield cannot afford to have its supposed lynchpin play this badly and expect to come out on top. I understand Maurizio Sarri doesn’t exactly have a full cupboard to work with, but to keep trotting out Pjanic and hoping he will magically return to his early season form is foolish at best and stubborn at worst.

It is not a coincidence this team has looked better with Rodrigo Bentancur playing in the Pjanic spot. It is the right move for the team right now.

Runner Up: Take your pick, tbh.

Trending Down: The Brazilian Fullback Brigade

If you go back to the year if our Lord 2016, Juventus boasted two Brazilians at the fullback position and, as they trounced most teams that year, you could make an honest case that they had the best fullback pair in the world with Dani Alves and Alex Sandro.

Fast forward to 2020, where Dani Alves has been replaced by Danilo, who shares a nationality and a position with the former Barcelona star but tragically none of the skill. I’m ready to ship Danilo to the moon, by the way. I’ll take a bag of balls and Cristiano Ronaldo gets 10 free new dumb hairstyles in exchange for the rights to the guy. He flamed out at Real Madrid, flamed out at Manchester City and is now flaming out at Juventus. Looks like a trend! Then again, the immortal Mattia Se Sciglio is waiting in the wings, so you know, maybe don’t play a right back? Spot the other team a guy, maybe that does the trick.

Alex Sandro, to be fair, has been solid although not spectacular this year, providing a steady presence in the lineup and playing good football for most of the year. However, he had a brutal game against Lyon and was far from his 2016 peak.

Winner: Mathijs de Ligt

I have never been so happy to see a player on my team suffer a severe head laceration.

De Ligt gets the only praise in this Grab Bag and it’s not even for his play that much. (Although he played OK against Lyon.)

The rest of you bums get nothing. Them’s the breaks.

Oh, so that’s the problem …

For a living, I do something repetitive and boring that really bears no mentioning in any article that claims to have as its main purpose “to be entertaining,”

However, it is a job that handles a lot of moving parts. One cannot function without the other, for us to complete our tasks we need the simultaneous work of a number of different people and departments all doing their job correctly, much like a well-oiled machine or a clock. It would be kind of beautiful in a way if it wasn’t because more often than not, we are much more like a barely functioning computer that is constantly in need of rejiggering and updates only to barely get the job done on time.

It is a common occurrence to find something wrong and then work backwards to figure out at what point in the chain did it go wrong and how much of a pain in the ass its going to be to fix it. So, whenever we do find the mistake you can always see it in everyone’s faces, the realization not only of the mistake, but exactly whose fault it was.

“Oh, so that’s the problem …”

Well, dear reader, I had that exact face as I read Sarri’s pregame conference on Tuesday and then saw whatever we saw develop on Wednesday. Because if the statement is true and Juventus President Andrea Agnelli really did give Maurizio Sarri a three-year window then we now know who messed up.

It is unconscionable dumb to suggest this team is on a three-year window since this is a team with an average age of 29 years old — and that is a decidedly old 29. The majority of the squad is either at their “prime” right now or are now in a post-prime moment, and only three plsyers that started against Lyon are under 25. Your superstar player is 35 years old; your captain is 35 years old, too; and your vice-captain is 32. It is conceivable, if not likely, that those three players will not be around whenever this grand three-year plan is finally done.

That would be fine and well if you were a mid-table team working towards a sustainable project. It is not when you have one of the most expensive teams in Europe.

Think of it this way: Only 10 players on this current roster were around three years ago. You know what that means? That of this current roster, at best, only 10 players will be around three years from now. Of course, Sarri says Juve should not be favorites to win! Of course, he tinkers with rotations and formations, he knows this season is a wash. We are working towards the future here, people! This is, of course, not to say they are losing on purpose, but the lack or urgency sure feels a lot more understandable now.

Parting Shot of the Week

You know what is a great balm for a wounded soul? A closed-door match against your biggest rival on the very next weekend after a deflating European loss. Especially when it’s because of a potential worldwide coronavirus pandemic!

Oh, boy, can’t wait.

See you all, unfortunately, on the weekend.