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Manu’s Grab Bag: By the skin of their teeth

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We talk about Aaron Ramsey, the most underappreciated player on the team and whether Juventus has a blue kit curse.

Juventus v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

A win is a win is a win.

Repeat that to yourself three times and never think again about the game we just saw on Sunday against Sassuolo.

This game reeked of the drab draw Juventus had against Benevento earlier in the season — a game where the opposite side goes down a man and, while the Bianconeri hold control of the game and possession, they never manage to break through. Thankfully, that was not the case, and the reigning champs found two late goals to pull ahead and win a game that they had no right at winning.

If you want to be positive, you could point out at how the result speaks to the team being different and better than the iteration that drew against the Stregoni. Championship teams win games even when they are not at their best, and I feel comfortable saying that Juventus was not at their best.

A win is a win is a win. Not much else to say.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Danilo

He, of course, had the flashiest play of the game when he unleashed an outside-of-the-box rocket to open the score while adding an assist in the dying minutes of the game with a beautiful long pass to Cristiano Ronaldo for the third and ultimately meaningless score.

For that alone he should be the MVP, but I also wanted to give him the award as a sort of lifetime achievement award — if not lifetime at least for this season — as he had never been named as an MVP nor a runner-up, up until now.

That’s not because he hasn’t been good — far from it — but he hadn’t been spectacular. While other players were gathering all the praise, Danilo was being the most reliable player on the squad, putting good shifts day in and day out. We always knew he had talent, you don’t play for Real Madrid, Manchester City and Juventus out of luck, but it seems that we are seeing his best form since his halcyon days at Porto FC as a young prospect.

Runner Up: Aaron Ramsey – Look, everyone played badly, even Ramsey himself. But he scored the go ahead goal and that has to count for something, right? More on him in a second.

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (7 Points)

The Aaron Ramsey Enigma

Is Aaron Ramsey good?

Because, in my mind, I have this idea of him being a good player. He obviously has talent, but his long story with injuries have zapped him of any continued playing time for a while so when Juventus signed him and during his first season as a Bianconero we saw pretty much what you would expect.

Some flashes of talent with long layoffs in the injury list. Whenever he’s healthy became this weird prefix to his name. Luckily for him, this season it appears that he is healthy and has been playing regular minutes without missing tons of time at J Medical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that he is fully fit and can contribute, but now that we are seeing more and more from him, I have to ask the question: Is he good?

After being subbed in for Weston McKennie the team was noticeably worse, Ramsey got dispossessed often, made the wrong pass in numerous situations and remains a dreadful finisher.

(Honestly, the goal he did score he was trying his very best to get that stopped by the keeper.)

However, he remains one of the few players on this squad with the smarts and footballing IQ to always be in the right place and to space the pitch properly. He has excelled in linking the midfield with the attackers and when he has had good performances the whole team looks noticeably better.

McKennie has made massive strides filling in a similar role and at this point, with his knock being diagnosed as day to day, I hope he can return as soon as possible and be the everyday starter on that position, because lining Ramsey up is an exercise in hoping you get good Aaron Ramsey instead of whatever we saw against Sassuolo.

How many times is that coin flip going to go well for Juve?

Kit Ranking

Juventus v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images

I’ve made my love for the royal blue away kit well known in this space before.

(Away in name only anyways, as they use it very sparingly and they have favored their third orange kit much more.)

However, it is worth pointing out that the two times they have worn it — away at Lazio and this Sunday against Sassuolo — the results have been far from ideal. They gave away a sure win in the dying minutes in the Italian capital against Lazio and, while they did come out with the three points at home, the on-pitch product Sunday night was far from spectacular.

I’m not quite ready to call it a bad omen, two games don’t make a trend after all, but if they have a couple more clunkers while looking sharp as hell with those kits? I don’t know, I might have to swallow my pride — and good taste — and endure watching Juve with those godawful pumpkin spiced kits.

What I do for the sake of this team, I tell you.

(Neither here nor there, but while making sure that the blue kits were indeed the away ones at the Juventus Official Store I found their Essential Collection. In their words “A collection of easy to wear clothes made with high-quality fabrics. Elegant and minimalist design are the key features to create your unique style.” This is just a long way of saying that, yes, you can buy that coat that Andrea Pirlo uses on the sidelines. For the low, low price of $305 plus shipping you too can acquire the suave style of Juventus’s coach. A steal, imo.)

A Humble Proposal

With the current state of the calendar, it seems like every game is a must-win for a Juventus team starved for points. Even with a break in European competition the midweek fixtures have kept coming, this time it’s against Juventus B ... I mean Genoa in Coppa Italia play.

Look, even in a normal season Coppa Italia fixtures, at least early ones, are always considered a chance for squad rotation and not much else. Even when Juventus have been eliminated in early knockout rounds no one acts like it’s a big deal because the Coppa as a whole is not considered as a big deal. Its fun when you can win it, but ultimately no one has lost their job for not doing so, you know?

With that in mind, I would like to propose on this humble forum to give rest to anybody who could use it, play a couple of the U-23 kids and most importantly … give Sami Khedira some playing time. Yes, I’m dead serious — the dude is fit, hasn’t played one single minute this season and I adamantly refuse to believe he’s so washed that he can’t suit up for some good ole’ midweek Coppa action.

If he’s terrible, then you can continue not playing him and that’s that. If he’s better than you thought, there’s suddenly a new depth piece available for the crazy calendar crunch and if he’s actually good? Well now, maybe that changes everything for the depth of the midfield, maybe that puts some impetus on some Premier League team to make a January acquisition and you don’t have to write off his book value.

The point is you don’t know until you try. Try, Pirlo, try one time for me.

Parting Shot of the Week

Not much else to talk about this game, it was a bad performance, they got bailed out by a red card and some late goals and they got the win.

Like I said up top, this was strikingly similar to those early season draws but they had better luck this time. After the AC Milan breakthrough last week it was normal to think a letdown game would be on deck and at least that letdown didn’t cost them any key points as they continue to put pressure on the league leaders.

The biggest problem right now for Juventus is the mounting injuries and COVID-19 cases that have besieged the squad. The latest news is that Paulo Dybala — he who was finally getting it together this season — will be out for 15 to 20 days with a knee problem. Weston McKennie and Federico Chiesa who also had some injury concerns after the Sassuolo game are day to day, so hopefully that means they’ll be good to go for the all-important matchup against Inter Milan next Sunday.

(For what it’s worth, I once sprained my knee and couldn’t run for a month, then again my recovery plan consisted of little more than pain killers, good wishes and a cheap brace. Let’s just say I didn’t have the full J Medical staff at my disposal, so 15 to 20 days for Dybala seems right.)

As far as the COVID cases, we unfortunately know how it goes now, it could be a few more days, it could be a few more weeks. There is just no way of accurately guessing a timeline with that godforsaken disease.

See you Sunday.