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Manu’s Grab Bag: Second Half is a Go

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We talk Chiellini — and the team — bouncing back, remembering some guys with Samp, midfield rankings and the gauntlet ahead.

UC Sampdoria v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Massimiliano Ferraro/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Build the entire league out of Sampdoria, if you ask me.

In a month that has been full of firsts for the Andrea Pirlo era, we saw yet another one on Saturday as they claimed their first clean sweep of the season, beating Samp 2-0 in a fairly controlled manner away from home.

That final scoreline is a tad deceiving as they could have easily scored a few more with the way they controlled the game — especially in the first half. They don’t give out style points, though, and despite the missed opportunities Juventus took another three points to keep pace in the Serie A title race.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Giorgio Chiellini

The captain is finally in the column for the most prestigious award in football, the Grab Bag MVP. After missing pretty much the entire season up until January, it was fair to assume his days as an everyday starter were pretty much done.

However, this month has seen Giorgione turn back the clock in a huge way. He has not only managed to stay healthy but has looked like the Chiellini of old. Quality and skill doesn’t age, and thankfully for Juventus, the captain has that in abundance. His sliding tackle to prevent old friend Fabio Quagliarella from getting a dangerous shot off was vintage Chiellini as well as his trademark fist bump to celebrate.

It was a team effort in denying Sampdoria for most of the game, but Chiellini was the leader of that effort.

Runner Up: Juan Cuadrado – The Square Man with another good game and yet another assist bringing his tally to 11 on the season in all competitions. That’s an insane number.

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (8 Points)

Unpopular Opinion Corner

I’ll say it, because it needs to be said, so let’s just go ahead and say it.

Federico Bernardeschi is not bad.

It’s become almost a meme to crap on Juventus’ No. 33 — and to be fair he was rather lackluster in the early goings of the season — but the way he’s been playing as of late has been nothing short of … fine.

Obviously, we expected a lot more from Bernardeschi when he was signed from Fiorentina for €40 million in 2017, and I think it’s that expectation that has soured his Juventus stint as a whole. But what they need from him at this point is decent production as a sub and a sometimes starter and I fail to see how he hasn’t done that this season.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s far from spectacular, he has all of one assist in all competitions to his name, and like I said, unless something truly out of the ordinary happens his Juventus move will always be considered something of a failure. But when he’s being subbed in or when he’s starting in Coppa Italia competition and what not I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread anymore.

I will stick my neck out there to defend Bernardeschi’s OK-ness any day of the week.

Midfield Ranking

  1. Weston McKennie — Unequivocally the most important player in the midfield. When he’s on the field the team is just better.
  2. Arthur — Finally looks like he’s settling in. In the current setup, his ability to keep the ball is being taken advantage of. This could be the beginning of his Juve career in earnest.
  3. Rodrigo Bentancur — Playing much better as of late. Not quite at peak form, in my opinion, but it’s night and day between what we are seeing from him now and who he was a couple of months back.
  4. Adrien Rabiot — For my money, he should be playing over Bentancur, but alas, that’s not my call. He’s still reliable whenever he’s pressed into action.
  5. Aaron Ramsey — Still, unclear if he’s good. Got a gimme score late in the game to seal the result but he’s clearly below McKennie in the pecking order and doesn’t have any other place in the lineup to play.
  6. Sami Khedira — He’s reportedly on the verge of signing for Hertha Berlin. If this is it for him, what a sad way to go for a dude who was a legit asset for a long time for this team.

Bouncing Back

I alluded to it at the beginning, about how this month had been one of a lot of first for the Juventus new era.

One of those first was their first legitimate, capital L loss when they were wiped around in Milan at the hands of Inter. They had lost before — against Fiorentina — but you could make the case that was fluky loss in which they were a man down for most of the game.

The Inter game was not that. It was an ass kicking and the first real setback of the Pirlo era. It was fair to wonder how the team would respond to being so unequivocally overrun.

Since then, though, the reigning champs have won four in a row, lifted the Supercoppa and kept a clean sheet in all of those games. They have arguably had one of their better streaks of form as they managed to win four games in a row for only the third time this season, but have done so by allowing no goals and playing a stout defense which they had failed to do so far.

It’s only fair that they get another crack at that same Inter team in a couple of days, let’s see if they can keep this up and get some measure of payback.

Remember That Guy

I love Sampdoria so much just because their team is a who’s who of remembering guys.

Hey, that’s Emil Audero — two-time Serie A winner Audero, please and thank you — once upon a time the future of Juventus goalkeeping! The always dangerous Quagliarella is there, too, playing out the string in a really good career.

Keita Balde — once a Juventus transfer target and an the object of desire for a lot of BWRAO members when he was with Lazio — is on a loan stint from AS Monaco where he has failed to make much of an impact. And then there’s Antonio Candreva, the former Juventus and Inter man and Italian international is on there, too.

However, the biggest guy to remember on that team is the manager and old Juve coach Claudio Ranieri. Most famous for pulling off the unbelievable Leicester City Premier League title in 2016, he came back to Italy and is now having Samp playing decently enough.

An all-around likable team.

Parting Shot of the Week.

This was the last “easy” game on the schedule for Juventus for the foreseeable future, with Inter Milan on deck for Coppa play, Roma and Napoli for the league and Porto in Champions League action.

This could truly be the month that decides a lot of the season for Juventus, they could find themselves in the Coppa final, nipping at the heels of the leaders in Serie A and with a good advantage to move to the Champions League quarterfinals. Or they could be eliminated from Coppa play, fighting for a Champions League spot in the league and in danger of being out of Europe in March.

Crunch time in Juventus land.

See you Tuesday.