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Manu’s Grab Bag: New Beginnings

As far as early tests go, new look Juve pass with flying colors as they throttle Sampdoria.

Leonardo Bonucci (L) of Juventus FC celebrates with Giorgio... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

After all the previews, speculation and detailed analysis of his thesis we finally got a glimpse of the Andrea Pirlo’s new-look Juventus on the field.

It’s hard to imagine it going better, huh?

To be honest, I would have been happy with a tight, contested 1-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday night. If we had seen some flashes, a couple nice plays, a better idea of what we could expect that would have been a cherry on top, but I wasn’t expecting, well … what we got.

It was a thorough and complete domination from start to finish, with a team that looked more engaged and in the same page than we had seen at any point last season.

This is where we have to insert the whole disclaimer that it was against Sampdoria and they are not going to be very good and it’s just the first game and all those very valid and logical statements.

However, as someone who has staked his claim on the “Andrea Pirlo is going to be good despite having very little evidence to support that claim” train, I feel as happy as ever after that showcase on Sunday.

We finally have some football to discuss, so let’s get right to it.

MVP: Aaron Ramsey

Who was that dude in the No. 8 shirt and what did he do to Aaron Ramsey?

There is no bigger winner of the early Pirlo era than the Welshman, who had his best game as a Juventus player by far and was a key man on the pitch Sunday.

I could read you all the stats, but all you need to know is he led the team in tackles and key passes while tallying one assist which could/should have been more. This for a guy who was, for all intents and purposes, an afterthought in last season’s team and has been involved with rumors galore signaling his exit of the club.

There really is no other guy who had a bigger impact on the game and on the new-look Juventus than this guy, which if you were a betting man would not have been your first pick a week ago.

Also, as this is the first year we have the Grab Bag in its current format for the whole season, I’m going to start to track who wins more of these in the entire year. Considering we give a runner up mention too, we will make it simple, if you win the MVP you get two points, if you get runner up you get one point. Whichever player gets more points by the end of the year will be named the first ever BWRAO Grab Bag MVP.

I’m sure whoever ends up winning will display this make believe award proudly on their mantle along with all of their other, actual, but less important recognitions.

Runner Up: Weston McKennie

Season Leader: Aaron Ramsey (2)

Winner: The Youth

Speaking of long odds, who had new signee Weston McKennie and youngster Gianluca Frabotta lining up as starters Sunday?

In fact, hand up, I hadn’t even considered Frabotta as someone who might line up for Juventus senior team at all, let alone as a starter. And I think the general notion of the Juventus faithful was that Rodrigo Bentancur would be the partner to Adrien Rabiot as center midfielders, not McKennie.

It’s especially surprising because they both did a tremendous job — especially McKennie, as the young American was a straight-up bulldog in the middle of the pitch, bringing energy and pace the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while. If it wasn’t for Ramsey suddenly being the second coming of peak Zinedine Zidane he would have won the MVP of the match easily.

However, Frabotta was no slouch and despite some early nerves he settled himself nicely in the position rather quickly before being subbed out by the immortal Mattia De Sciglio late in the second half.

Hopes were relatively high for highly touted youngster Luca Pellegrini and the news of his possible loan to Genoa were met with audible groans as we expected a heavy dose of de Sciglio for Juventus, however it might be more due to the play of Frabotta than anything else, that Pellegrini might get loaned out.

Lastly, I can’t let the section end without a shout out to Dejan Kulusevski, who put forth a solid display as a makeshift second striker and came up with a beautiful goal with only his first shot on goal as a Juventus player.

Look at that, you can’t teach that touch. It reminded me of those “pass goals” peak Toni Kroos could score. You don’t have to hit it that hard when you can place it like that, good lesson in football and in life. HEY-OH.

Reality Check

Yes, it has all been smiles for the last 24 hours in Juventus world, but it has to be mentioned that for as good as Juventus looked for the majority of the game there were a couple stretches there where a better team would have made them pay.

Offensive, free-flowing football is fantastic, but whenever there was a misplaced pass or a poor dispossession in the midfield, Sampdoria had running lanes to mount counterstrikes. You can wash those mistakes as early season jitters and indeed, they have had barely 6 weeks or so to train under Pirlo, but couldn’t help to think that if they had done the same thing against the Inter, Lazio or Atalanta’s of the world they could have been in a bind.

Let’s not even talk about what a top team in the Champions League could have done with some of those chances.

Just a thing to keep on the lookout as this team continues to develop their chemistry under the new management.

Like Fine Wine

Another great sight for Juventus on Sunday?

Captain Giorgio Chiellini back, fit and ready to go.

On this space we like to sing the praises of young bucks like Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt who are great don’t get me wrong, but there was something about seeing Chiellini and Leo Bonucci do their thing again on the backline.

While with a heavy dose of Nostalgia, they don’t get the shout out just because of that, they were legitimately good snuffing out the few chances that Sampdoria could muster and Chiellini specially looked as solid as ever.

They have had injuries and lack of form and one of them left for AC Milan and had the whole soap opera but games like this one make you remember they were the best center back pairing in the world not that long ago for a reason.

If things break right — absolutely no pun intended — we could be a few weeks away of seeing those two with de Ligt in a three man backline. Good luck with that one, opposing offenses.

This is Your Marko Pjaca Update

Despite my heavy lobbying and him scoring twice in as many friendlies for Juventus, the Croat attacker was loaned out of the squad to Genoa a couple weeks ago, which all things considered was probably a positive development for his career.

Either way, I’m happy to report that I was right, yet again, as Pjaca scored on his Genoa debut after being subbed in midway through the second half.

By the way, that is Mattia Perin between the sticks as well as old, willy veteran Goran Pandev and fan favorite Stefano Sturaro. Genoa also have some sharp-looking kits this year and I’ve always had a soft spot for Genoa…

*Add to Cart*

Parting Shot of The Week

Before the season, I talked about what I wanted the most out of the Pirlo experiment was for Juve football to be interesting and fun again, that’s it.

So far, so good, I would say. had more fun watching these 90 minutes than I had during pretty much any other stretch of time during last season.

(Maybe the two Inter games? The first Napoli game? Can you think of any other moment that was as entertaining?)

The first game of a long season rarely means anything, but if this is any indication we are in for some fun, fun times under Il Maestro.

See you next week.