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Manu’s Grab Bag: Picking Up Steam

We recap the Genoa and Torino matches and talk everything that went down.

Juventus v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

While it is very important to keep reminding yourself that the competition is still decidedly below par, I will admit to getting a bit more exciting about the form that Juventus has been on the last couple of games.

And, again, it is Genoa and it is Torino — two teams that, t in the large scheme of things, neither you nor I will be telling our grandchildren abou. They are mediocre to bad teams and Juventus should be beating them any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Yet, seven goals in two games is easier said than done against any opponent. Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala are finally clicking together, Adrien Rabiot is starting to look like the guy with so much promise at Paris Saint-Germain, the defense is still solid as ever — despite allowing a couple of fluky goals — and there is reason for optimism in Juventus land.

It’s still far too early to be celebrating, but you are crazy if you think I’m not going to admit to being a little bit more bullish about this team now than I was after losing the Coppa Italia final against Napoli.

Let’s dive right into it.

MVP: Gianluigi Buffon

Sure, sure, he didn’t even play in one of the two games we are recapping and in the game he did play his performance – while solid – was nothing too remarkable. Still, he gets the nod here because with his appearance against Torino on Saturday he eclipsed the legendary Paolo Maldini as the record holder for most appearances in Serie A of all time with 648.

(Quick shoutout to the Juventus Social Media team who, as is customary, came up with a contrived hashtag to commemorate the occasion in #648uffon. See? The 8 is both the last digit of the record and it sort of looks like a B at the same time. Considering some of their other efforts, this is half decent all this considered, kudos to them.)

The length of Buffon’s career in Italy is so out of this world that the announcers on the ESPN Deportes call not only made mention of how many legendary players he has played with and against, but how many of those players now have sons that have also played against the legendary keeper. A list that includes Enrico and Federico Chiesa, Daniel and Paolo Maldini and Lilian and Marcus Thuram.

With the recent news of his renewal for another year, we are lucky to be able to continue appreciating the career of one of the all-time greats and a player that, despite not being at his peak anymore, is still capable of displaying great football.

Here’s to many more, Gigi.

Runner Up: Paulo Dybala

Kit Ranking

As the self-appointed uniform czar of the BWRAO blog, I’m going to do a quick ranking of the kits we saw during the stretch:

  1. Torino Granata Home Kit – I know they are our rivals, but I love Torino’s kit so much. The color is unique and the crest is classic.
  2. Genoa Home Kit – It’s a really sharp look in general, the blue and red are a dope look and they mesh so well in their uniforms.
  3. Juventus Home Kit – As always when it comes to the main kit for Juve this season. Good job, good effort, but when does the new one come out again?

The Replacement Level Player

There is an advanced stat on baseball called WAR or Wins Above Replacement. The idea for this number is that it shows how many extra wins any given player represented to his team in comparison with an imaginary “replacement level” player. Such a player doesn’t technically exist, it is described as “A player of common skills available for minimum cost to a major league baseball team.” AKA an Average Joe.

So, for example, last season the WAR leader was Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cory Bellinger, who finished the season with 9.1 WAR. So, following the logic here, the Dodgers in theory won nine more games than they would have if they had a replacement level player in the same position.

Its not a perfect stat, but I enjoy the idea of being able to distill how good a guy is in just one number and it works perfectly for a sport like baseball. For football it would be incredibly hard to come up with such a stat, mostly because system and positioning impact a player’s value so much.

Still, I couldn’t help to think about the mythical replacement level player as I saw Danilo in the last couple of games. He didn’t really do anything great, but for the most part he was not outright catastrophic, either. He was the perfect definition of a solidly average fullback.

As much as it sounds like it, this is no dissing of Danilo — that is who he has been after he starred at Porto earlier in his career. That is what was expected of him this season, and the only reason we have seen him feature so much lately is due to injuries and baffling squad building. If you still think I’m being too mean to Danilo, think back to WAR. As much as someone can be worth more wins for their team, there are players out there who end up with negative WAR.

Jeff Mathis, a catcher for the Texas Rangers, finished the season with -2.2 WAR, worst in the league. Meaning he was actively detrimental to his team, meaning that a theoretical replacement level player would have improved the Rangers chances on the season. With Juventus currently having little to no fullback depth and after the Blaise Matuidi experiment last week, sometimes its fine to have an average dude doing and average job as Danilo showed against Genoa and Torino.

(Hella ricochet shot at poor Jeff Mathis, I hope he doesn’t have Google alerts on his name or something. I bet it would be very weird to see this come out of nowhere in a Juventus blog of all places, while trying to make a point about a Brazilian fullback. Either way, my guy made almost 20 million dollars in a long fruitful 14-year career in the MLB. Good on you, Jeff.)

Things I Google’d During These Games

  • Genoa Cricket?
  • Juventus new anthem jacket
  • 89.95 euros to Mexican pesos
  • How to aggressively ask for a raise
  • Andre Pinamonti FIFA 19
  • Raul Jimenez Juventus Rumors
  • Stefano Sturaro Transfer Fees
  • Cristiano Ronalo free kick attempts
  • Can you appeal a yellow card suspension Serie A

Don’t Stop Believing

1 out of 22.

1 out of 43.

One, is the amount of time Torino have defeated Juventus in the last 22 official matches.

One, is the amount of goals Cristiano Ronaldo has scored from free kicks in his last 43 Juventus attempts.

Let this all be a lesson to kids out there who want to give up. Despite astounding numerical evidence you just never know, keep trying, keep believing in yourself, if you work hard enough your day will come. Torino’s day definitely didn’t come on Saturday, but Ronaldo’s did after lofting a beautiful shot over the wall and into the net that Salvatore Sirigu had no chance of stopping.

Just for the record, before Ronaldo’s historic free kick on Saturday, his previous 42 attempts had gone thusly:

  • 11 were stopped by the keeper
  • 26 (!!) shot at the wall
  • 4 went out of bounds
  • 1 hit the post

We give Ronaldo a bit of a hard time here and there on this blog, but it’s also worth noting that with his goal on Saturday, he cracked 25 goals in Serie A for the season, a feat that no Juventus player had achieved since Omar Sivori in the 1960-61 season. Think about how many great, all time strikers wore the Bianconeri in that period. Hell, think about all the great goal scorers Juventus has had in the last 20 years, David Trezeguet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Alessandro Del Piero. None of them scored as many in a season as Ronaldo just did, truly an impressive feat.

The Goals Scored Against Genoa and Torino, Ranked

Because Juventus suddenly decided to score astonishing goals exclusively, let’s rank them from least to most impressive. With the obvious caveat they were all actually pretty impressive in their own right.

7. Koffi Djidji Own Goal – Was tempted to put this one even higher because it was the rare own goal in which it would have been better had Djidji literally done nothing and allowed the ball to bounce away. High comedy thoroughly enjoyed it.

6. Juan Cuadrado’s Counterattack Finish against Torino – A worthy goal from a guy who’s been playing some excellent football. The Great Johnny Square experiment at fullback had some early hiccups but he has developed greatly under Maurizio Sarri and has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the season.

5. Paulo Dybala’s opener against Torino – La Joya gets docked a couple of style points for being the beneficiary of a friendly bounce to get the game started on the Derby Della Mole. The fact this goal ranks so “low” is a testament to the quality of scores we saw the last couple of games.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Laser Guided Missile against Genoa – This shot was clocked at 105 km/h, how in the hell are you supposed to even attempt to stop something like this?

3. Paulo Dybala’s Short-Range Curler against Genoa – We don’t talk enough about how good Dybala is weaving and dancing around defenders in close range. An absolute beauty to open up the score against a feisty Genoa side.

2. Douglas Costa Coup de Grace against Genoa – I’m an absolute sucker for two things, whenever a player unleashes a long range, curled shot that looks upon first glance that is destined to hit a fan in the stands but ends up almost miraculously bending towards the goal. And whenever a keeper doesn’t even attempt to save a shot because he knows there is nothing on God’s green earth, he can do to stop it. This goal checked those two boxes. Tough break for former Juve player, Mattia Perin who accomplished the rare feat of having an excellent game between the sticks while still allowing three goals.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Free Kick Miracle – You are goddamn right this was the highlight of the week, are you kidding me? My guy took 43 tries to get it! Some of us thought it was never going to happen! Truly one of those moments you will always remember where you were when it happened.

Parting Shot of the Week

The one true downside of this week was Matthijs de Ligt and Paulo Dybala accumulating enough yellow cards to be suspended for the AC Milan game on Tuesday

For a squad that is not precisely brimming with depth right now, losing arguably two of your best three players is not ideal. It’s especially frustrating because both of the calls that triggered the suspension where iffy and soft, respectively.

De Ligt got carded for a handball in the box in one of those ticky-tacky calls that have been going for and against Juventus all season. If I knew these types of calls were going to be the primary use of VAR in world football, I would have probably sided with all the folks that hated the decision at the time.

Dybala’s was even worst as he attempted to over sell a foul late in a game they had well in hand. That is unnecessary from Dybala and way too harsh from the ref because even if the foul was called, it wasn’t even a PK.

So, even more shorthanded than usual, it will be interesting to see how Juve line up against a Milan side that has been tricky for the men led by Maurizio Sarri. Let’s hope forever prospect Daniele Rugani and Gonzalo Higuain are fresh and ready to step in and deliver.

See you on Tuesday.