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Manu’s Grab Bag: Derby Delight

We talk late wins, quick triggers, football brothers and young guns.

Torino FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

It was almost a jinx on poor Torino as the Spanish announcers were openly wondering if the latest edition of the Derby della Mole would end up as so many have before — with a late Juventus goal to steal the win right from under the beleaguered Granata.

Surely enough, only a few minutes after that statement, Manuel Locatelli slotted in a shot right next to the right post to give Juventus a 1-0 lead, one that they wouldn’t relinquish on their way to a win against their cross-town rivals.

Much like we have seen before this season, it was a game of two halves. Juventus allowed Torino most of the possession in the first half, only to blitz them in the second and control the game in pretty resounding fashion. Thankfully — and unlike other times we have seen seemingly two different Juve teams this year — good Juve showed up to close the match and give the suddenly streaking Bianconeri their third straight win in Serie A and fourth overall. It was no doubt a positive ending before the international break.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Manuel Locatelli

I waxed poetic about Locatelli after he scored his first Juve goal in a previous Grab Bag.

The guy is a lifelong Juve fan and wanted so badly to come to the club that he ruined Sassuolo’s chances at any sort of leverage in the transfer window by refusing any other move. It’s hard not to be slightly romantic about the whole thing.

Well, how many times do you think that a young Locatelli dreamt of a similar scenario than the one that played out on Saturday?

Game-winning goal in the city’s derby. What a great moment.

The goal will get the headlines, but it's his overall performance that gets him the Grab Bag points. Locatelli is just so far above every other midfielder in this team its not even funny.

He is an easy guy to like and Juve fans are definitely in the honeymoon period with their newest signing but he has settled in so quickly that it feels like he’s been playing for Juventus forever. Whatever it is that Juve end up paying Sassuolo will not be enough if this is the type of performances we are going to be getting week-in and week-out.

I shiver to think what Juve will do when Locatelli has to rest or gets injured. Luckily that’s not a scenario that we have to think about just yet, but it speaks to his ability how quickly he seems to have become a key player for this side.

Runner Up: Giorgio Chiellini - After resting during midweek’s upset, Chiellini showed he can also bring it when it's needed. Very composed performance along with Mathijs de Ligt in defense, especially in the first half when Juve mostly soaked up pressure from Torino.

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

Winner: Wojciech Szczęsny

Hey, hand up, I didn’t think my guy Woj was making it to October, but here we are in the first game of the month and he is still the starter between the sticks.

He didn’t have a particularly remarkable game on Saturday, and despite Torino seeing a lot of the ball early on they never forced Szczęsny into a lot of saves. This is more of quick shoutout to the Polish international who has bounced back from his early season funk and is at the very least dependable once again.

Who knows if more blunders await us but with him steadying the ship and Mattia Perin looking pretty average in his one start, the starting spot for Juventus is still very much Woj’s.

Loser(s): Moise Kean and Weston McKennie

This was a rough showing for both youngsters who, despite playing equally poorly, were treated significantly different when it came to playing time.

From the start, I’ve been a big Kean supporter. I legitimately think he has all the right tools to succeed at Juventus and I was looking forward to him starting this game. However, he faceplanted hard during his time on the pitch. To be fair, it was a first half strategy that asked him to do a lot of the thing he’s not particularly good at — namely, playing as a traditional, back-to-the-goal striker and holding the ball.

He struggled mightily with that assignment as a number of attempted outlet passes went to die on his boots. He still had flashes, mainly when he found space to run and take on guys as he is still a supremely explosive player, but it was overall a bad performance. With all that being said, I still think Max Allegri gave him a very short leash as he was substituted immediately at the half for Juan Cuadrado.

It’s hard to complain about the actual move, since Cuadrado was key in the second half and the team played a lot better with the Colombian international on the pitch. But if Kean is going to be a guy you rely on moving forward you either need to give him a bit more time to play out of his funk or put him in better positions to succeed altogether.

The opposite happened with McKennie, who also struggled mightily trying to break Torino’s press in the first half and was shaky in his distribution and runs forward. He could have also been subbed out early, but instead he played the full 90 minutes. It was maybe the fact that Rodrigo Bentancur played midweek, but it was hard to see what McKennie was bringing to the table as he continues to struggle to find the initial form he showed in in his Juventus career.

I’m not implying that Allegri is giving preferential treatment to one guy or another, but they were different approaches in dealing with two similar underperforming showings.

Sibling Rivalry

It always tickles me when I find out that a footballer has a brother that is also a footballer. It especially tickles me when one of the brothers is significantly less successful than the other in their chosen profession.

I was aware of the last name Milinkovic-Savic exclusively because of Sergej, the midfielder extraordinaire currently plying his trade for Lazio and whom Juventus has been trying to sign for what feels like forever. On Saturday, I became aware of Vanja, his younger brother and starting keeper for Torino who has finally given him a chance after bouncing around a bunch of low table Italian clubs.

To Vanja’s credit, he played decently enough today and had really no shot at stopping the goal that doomed his team. He is also the youngest one so he might still end up being the superior Milinkovic-Savic brother. Though that looks unlikely as his estimated market value is currently €800 thousand while Sergej’s is about €70 million.

There’s tons of examples, did you know of Felix Kroos, brother of Toni? Or all of the Hazards? Mexico once rested their hopes on the development of the dos Santos brothers, who went on to disappoint an entire nation in differently unique ways.

Imagine how hard it is to make it to the professional level in football? Now imagine that two people in the same family go on to make it. Sure, some with more success than other, but that doesn’t stop it from being remarkable, nevertheless.

Parting Shot of the Week

You thought I forgot? Of course, I didn’t.

JUVENTUS FINALLY RECORDED A CLEAN SHEET IN SERIE A. THE LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE IS OVER. HIT IT.

After 20 (!!!) tries spanning two different seasons, Juventus managed to hold their rivals to a zero on the scoresheet, barely managing to not beat their worst mark ever which they accomplished in 1955. The doom and gloom that accompanied this team heading into their last international break has been turned upside down and while this team is still currently in the mid-table it seems like it has finally awakened from the early season slump.

See you after the break.