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Manu’s Grab Bag: (Supercoppa) CHAMPIONS!

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We talk Woj the hero, goal scoring tallies, Instagram clout and whether there’s still hope.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Italian PS5 Supercup Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Imagine supporting a team that is not the reigning Supercoppa champions? Couldn’t be me, I tell you.

We can sit here and debate the “importance” of the Supercoppa. Some people consider it a glorified friendly, others a legitimate trophy, most are somewhere in between. But, honestly, regardless of circumstance, it will never get old to see Juventus lift a new piece of silverware. And thanks to their solid performance in their 2-0 win over Napoli on Wednesday night, we got to see that sight yet again.

After Sunday’s debacle in Milan, a trophy and a solid win against one of the top teams in Italy was just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Wojciech Szczesny

As a general rule, you don’t want your keeper to be the MVP on any given match. The logic being that your defense was soft or you were generally overrun and you needed some heroics in net to get the result.

However, it is worth pointing out that this was not necessarily the case in this match. Napoli was mostly contained the entire match and ended with only three shots on goal. So, why is Woj the MVP? Because of those three, two should have been goals. I’m sure that against 90% of the keepers in the world those are goals, but not this time. Szczesny was massive all game long, parrying away a point-blank header by Hirving Lozano in the first half and when Lozano had another crack late in the second half he stopped that one too, despite a deflection in defense that made his job harder than it had to be.

Without much fanfare or recognition, Szczesny is among the top keepers in Europe — and performances like this one show why.

Runner Up: Juan Cuadrado – My guy just recovered from COVID-19, was a late addition to the squad and ended up putting 90 minutes of great football. Redemption after his bonkers red card against Fiorentina for our favorite Colombian.

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (7 Points)

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

Good bounce back game for the Portuguese star after his ghastly showing against Inter — though, to be fair, the entire team was ghastly — chipping in the winning goal by being at the right place at the right time on a deflected corner kick.

However, what I really liked watching was his defensive chops on set plays, especially at the end of the game. Slowly but surely, Ronaldo has been tracking back and defending as games go on. This is completely different than what we were seeing from him last year when his defensive effort was, lets say, lackadaisical.

Despite not being a captain per se, you can tell that Ronaldo commands a certain gravitas in the locker room, and if he’s buying in I think it’s a good sign for the entire team buying in.

(He also might have broken the all-time scoring record? He might have not? It’s bonkers to me that in a sport that has significantly less stats to keep track of we are not 100% sure of who has the most amount of goals in history. How do we not know? It’s literally the most important stat you can keep track of! Anyways, I choose to give him that title anyways, so congrats!)

Winner: Nicolo Fagioli

Fagioli is a 19-year-old attacking midfielder in Juve’s Under-23 team playing in Serie C. He was called up to the traveling senior squad for the Supercoppa to provide depth due to the many inactives Juve currently has.

I’m not going to sit here and say if this kid is going to be any good or not. I’ve never seen one minute of him playing and he didn’t feature in the final. With that being said, he is a winner for this alone:

Talk about Instagram clout — what a moment. Come up for one game, get a new shiny medal, a couple of pics with your extremely wealthy and famous teammates and back to Serie C you go. If Fagioli’s career never quite pans out he will always have the Supercoppa and those pictures. People wash out of football with a lot less.

On that note.

Footballers, they are just like us!

It’s one of those things you don’t really think about until you see it, but yeah, all those Instagram pics that footballers post on their social media are taken by other footballers who want the same picture for their own social media.

They have the exact same process you and your friends have whenever you go to a tourist trap. Here I was thinking that they had a dedicated Instagram photo taker person at Juve HQ, but no, it’s just friends doing each other a solid.

Good stuff.

Loser: Hirving Lozano

I alluded to it at the top, but yeah, he should have had a score on this game.

As a Mexican national I’m obviously always interested in Mexican players doing well in foreign leagues and when Lozano landed with Napoli last year I was pretty pumped. I thought it was a good step in his career, a move to a more competitive league with a team that is pretty good but that he would definitely see the field often.

If you didn’t know, last season he was horrendous as he was named one of the most disappointing signings of the year and was in danger of being loaned out of the club. He only scored 5 goals in all competitions and was the subject of biting criticism by Genaro Gatusso.

Still, the guy is too good to not pan out eventually. He’s been a consistent starter this year, already doubling his goal tally of last year and seems to have corrected course on his Napoli career. Yeah, he should have probably scored today, but I’m not going to complain too much he’ll have more opportunities against other teams that are not Juve.

Parting Shot of the Week

I’m still firmly on the “We are cooked, the league is gone” train. One victory in the Supercoppa does not change that one bit.

*Extremely Stephen A. Smith Voice*

HOWEVAH!

If, you were going to imagine a scenario in which such comeback is at all feasible, something like this win would be a good place to start, especially after the low point of the Inter matchup. They beat a direct rival for the title, they did it — if not quite impressively — in a solid fashion and proved they can bounce back from adversity.

This trophy is the very first senior win for some of the young guys on the team and a shot of confidence for the whole squad.

AC Milan is too good and too consistent and way ahead in the standings at this point, but there’s a little part of myself that still believes and that little, dumb part of myself looks at a win like Wednesday’s and has a bit of hope.

See you Sunday.