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Manu’s Grab Bag: New Year, New Me?

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We talk Serie A odds, is Paulo Dybala back and the big showdown next week,

Juventus v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

I appreciate sticking to the bit as much as anybody.

So, I do have to give Juventus props when it comes to being the most inconsistent team I have seen in years. In fact, they upped the ante on Sunday’s win against Udinese by being inconsistent in the very same game!

We saw two completely different teams in the first half and then the second half. As the first half went on, Juve seemed only mildly interested in playing . But, the team that came out on the second half was sharper, more decisive and put three goals in the scoreboard.

You can say a lot about this season so far but one thing you can’t say is that it’s been predictable.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Cristiano Ronaldo

A brace and an assist will more often than not get you the very coveted MVP award from the Grab Bag. The stats on their own are impressive, but it’s the way he got them that I think made them even more meaningful. He had the only spark of offensive competency in the first half with the opener and helped put the game away with an absolutely bonkers assist to Federico Chiesa for the second goal of the evening and a well-taken third and defining score.

Relying on Ronaldo to have flashes of brilliance to win you games is not the type of game plan that will work every time. But it was enough on Sunday when things were just not working for Juve. And, all things considered, there sure are worse plans out there, too.

Runner Up: Federico Chiesa – Bombed up and down his preferred right flank, had a hell of a goal and should have had an assist if Aaron Ramsey was a slightly more competent finisher.

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (7 Points)

Winner: Paulo Dybala

I’ve explained before why I like and root for Dybala, so you will excuse me if the goal I actually celebrated the loudest was that last –— and objectively meaningless — one Juve scored in the game that La Joya slotted in in the dying seconds of the match.

He didn’t light the world on fire with his performance against Udinese, but it was one of the better performances of the season for him. He was decidedly more proactive on the ball and was generally trying to generate opportunities — it’s worth noting Udinese players were teeing off of him, which probably speaks to the fact he was actually putting himself in good positions — so that last goal felt like a reward for a good game.

This was definitely something he can build on.

(Plus, he scored it with his right leg! You don’t see that all the time.)

VAR Controversy of the Week

On Sunday, we truly witnessed something rare.

We saw two goals being disallowed for the same reason, and both of them ended up being … right? Like, they were handballs, right? Both Rodrigo De Paul and Aaron Ramsey used their arms to control the ball in plays that directly let to scores.

Is … is VAR good?

Probably not, but it was kind of funny that both teams got goals disallowed in some sort of correct make-up call. It didn’t end up making a ton of difference but seeing VAR applied to two tight plays with resounding logic was a nice thing to see.

Reality Check

The final scoreline tells a story that might not be everything that meets the eye.

We already mentioned that the first half was a slough saved by a moment of brilliance by Ronaldo in what was an eminently even game. Even the second half in which Juve looked much better could have been an entirely different story if Udinese had been a bit more lucky on the couple of shots of theirs that hit the cross bar.

Transitioning defensively is something that the team still has to improve on significantly. The disallowed goal by De Paul was yet another example of how teams are always one or two good through passes away from having clear cut chances against the Juventus backline.

Leo Bonucci was better than his horror show against Fiorentina and Matthijs de Ligt was his usually solid self. With that being said, this is not an isolated problem and it’s something that will most likely continue being a problem.

Whether that ends up being a fatal one is yet to be decided.

Manu’s Betting Corner

The old section is getting a comeback because I found something interesting.

For the last few years Juventus has always been the favorite to win the league title, with good reason considering the fact that they’ve won it 9 straight times. However, as of Sunday, there is a new odds leader in the clubhouse:

All odds from Bwin.

Yes, that is known frauds Inter as the odds-on favorites to lift the trophyat the end of the season, with Juventus and AC Milan behind and Napoli, Atalanta and Roma as the only long shots with some chance.

Inter is hot on Milan’s heels and with them being out of any European competition — yes, not even Europa League. Isn’t that funny? I concur! — I sort of understand why they would be favored.

With that out of the way, I do urge you to invest some smackers on Juventus and even AC Milan as some sort of emotional hedge because we all know the story with Inter. They will huff and puff and look like might threaten, but in the end they will fail. Because they are Inter and that is their lot in life.

Parting Shot of the Week

It feels weird to say it when technically we are not even halfway through the season, but at this point it’s almost like every game is a must-win game for Juventus.

With the win on Sunday they managed to remain … 10 points behind league leaders AC Milan. That’s, well, a lot of points, you guys.

(I got to give props to the Rossoneri — it wasn’t their sharpest display against Benevento and they went a man down but they still managed to pull of the win. That’s the type of win that championship level teams pull off.)

Up next they have their first big showdown with the aforementioned league leaders and after that game we will have a much clearer picture of where the defending champs stand in regards to the league title. Win and you cut that double-digit lead to seven points with a game in hand. Lose or draw, though? Well, we’ll have to start doing a lot of mental gymnastics to come up with scenarios in which Juventus can feasibly be a threat to lift their historical 10th straight Scudetto.

See you Wednesday.