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Manu’s Grab Bag: Allegriball

We talk winning ugly, rebirths, defense and Max Allegri’s deep, dark covered secrets.

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images

This was a third straight 1-0 win for Juventus and you know Max Allegri wouldn’t have it another way.

It was a war of attrition on Sunday against Roma in Turin where Juventus proved to be the more resilient side as they gutted out a win to extend — yes, extend! — their clean sheet streak and slowly but surely start to make up ground in the Serie A table.

It was a methodical and calculated performance from the Bianconeri in which they soaked up pressure for large stretches of time, but a composed, well-drilled defense managed to deal with said pressure fairly easily.

And sure, it was a bit boring, but I’ll take boring and three points any day of the week, and given all that has transpired for Juventus in the last few years, it’s always good to remember that.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Wojciech Szczęsny

It’s mid-October and not only is Szczęsny not out of a job but he is out here making key saves and winning the game for Juventus. Very few could have predicted this turnaround for the Polish international after his early-season struggles — and who could blame you. “Struggles” feels like too nice of a term for what Woj was doing out on the field as he was a big reason why Juventus had a historically bad start in league play.

It was fair to wonder if we could be seeing the end for Szczęsny as the No. 1 keeper for Juventus, but credit where its due, the guy who is much-maligned as someone who lacks confidence turned it around and has been putting forth superb performances as of late and Sunday was no exception.

He did well with the few shots Roma had on goal, but it’s his penalty kick save that gets him the MVP of the game nod and that eventually ended up giving Juventus the win.

Keep shutting those haters up, Woj.

(It’s me, I’m haters.)

Runner Up: Danilo - Sunday’s clean sheet was a group effort, but Danilo is one of the standouts as he covered an immense amount of ground and was basically everywhere it was needed. A banner game from Juve’s resident Swiss army knife.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Manuel Locatelli (8 Points)

Loser: Federico Chiesa

Allegri has a — warranted — reputation for being a bit of an outside-the-box thinker when it comes to deploying players in usual spots. And to his credit he has found success while doing such moves more often than not. After all, we are talking about the guy that managed to turn Mario Mandzukic — the textbook definition of a central striker — into a more than serviceable left winger hybrid and Miralem Pjanic into a top central midfielder as well.

So, with that in mind and given Juve’s sudden lack of depth at the striker position, I was willing to give a lot of slack to the man when he tried to make Federico Chiesa a forward in these last few games. However, I think we can safely say this is an experiment that I hope ends quickly.

We’ve talked ad naseum about how putting a player in the best position to succeed is key for managers and this feels like another instance of trying to put a round peg in a square hole. Deployed as a forward in a pairing with Moise Kean, Chiesa finished the evening with 21 total touches and arguably one of his worst outings as a Juve player. Playing as a forward, you end up losing a lot of what makes Chiesa great — which is his pace, speed and ability to take on opponents.

I get that the team is in a bind right now depth wise and ideally you want to put as many of your good players on the pitch at the same time as possible, but I hope this is one experiment that ends up forgotten sooner rather than later.

The Strange Case of Dr. Fede and Mr. Dejan

Something weird is happening in the wings for Juventus lately.

Federico Bernardeschi, the folk hero of the Euros and subject of much derision on this here blog, has suddenly found new life this season as he’s quietly in the middle of a string of decent to good performances and playing with a renewed confidence that we hadn't seen in a few years.

Honestly, he’s playing with too much confidence — my guy is out here trying scissor kicks and outside-of-the-box screamers with careless abandon. But, hey, he is playing well, go for it, why not.

In the other side of the spectrum we have Dejan Kulusevski, who is currently struggling — with a capital “S” — amidst new rumors of his imminent departure from the club. The guy seems like a picture-perfect copy of the struggling Bernardeschi we saw in the last two years. Forcing things when the easy move is to pass, passing when he needs to be more aggressive and in general just looks like ha can't put one foot right.

We have seen flashes of the tantalizing talent Kulusevski possesses, but it's just been that — flashes, and currently even the flashes are few and far between.

Bernardeschi has somehow inserted himself into a conversation for a contract renewal with his recent performances, so we know it's not all lost when a young, expensive winger fails to impress in his Juve career. Kulusevski might do well to see to his teammate for some inspiration because the clock seems to be ticking for him.

The Curious Case of Mattia De Sciglio

Mattia De Sciglio is not a good football player.

(And I mean that in the sense of the super-high bar related to playing on one of the best football clubs in the world. Obviously the guy is very talented, because you have to be obscenely talented to even make it as a pro at any level of sports, so there, caveat done.)

He has constantly shown to be an adequate player at best when he is not injured and/or out of form. One of his main traits is his supposed tactical flexibility as he can play either fullback position, but is that really helpful when he’s mostly mediocre at them? Why he’s still a Juventus player four seasons after his acquisition from AC Milan is honestly baffling to me. Why he’s starting games at this point is stunning. The fact he’s getting those starts over a young prospect like Luca Pellegrini — who, in case we forgot, Juventus traded one of the best fullbacks in Italy for — is downright infuriating.

So, of course he had the best game he’s had in a couple of years. Sure, what the hell. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut on occasion, but the point remains! I understand that De Sciglio is still here mostly because of economic reasons since they couldn’t unload him to a willing buyer and much like my other nemesis Daniele Rugani, we are stuck with him for better or worse.

Given injuries and a not stellar amount of depth at the position De Sciglio will surely get more chances to play this season, I’ve made my peace with that, but having him getting heavy minutes while we still don’t freaking know if Luca Pellegrini is worth a damn because they refuse to play him is baffling.

Parting Shot of The Week

Don’t look now, but if a couple results break their way and Juventus beats Inter in their next game, the much-maligned Bianconeri could be sitting pretty in a Top 4 spot with plenty of football left to be played.

This team is still not blowing the doors of anybody, but they look a lot more solid than they did a month ago and the defense is finally playing to the level that was expected of them when Max Allegri took the job. After authoring their best win of the season in domestic competition, there’s a lot more reasons to believe in this team today than there were a few weeks ago.

See you Wednesday.