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Manu’s Grab Bag: Nadir

We talk institutionalized problems, being who you are and who even cares at this point.

Hellas Verona FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

At the beginning of the year I really had only one request from this team:

Just make it fun to watch Juventus football again.

As we stand in late-October, that is currently very much not the case. And it sure wasn’t on Saturday as Juventus lost 2-1 against Hellas Verona to drop back-to-back games against mid-table opposition. And, at this point, are we that shocked? Because, as things currently stand, that’s exactly what Juventus is — a mid-table team.

We can have all the fancy stadiums and big-time names — and wages to match — that we want, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies. Juventus is sitting where it’s sitting in the table because that’s exactly where they deserve to be.

That’s a sobering realization to have on a Saturday.

Let’s cook.

LVP: Arthur

You could have made the case for a number of players here, but I want to highlight Arthur because of two reasons. One that is big picture, and one that is small picture.

First off, he’s almost entirely to blame for Verona’s opener, as only God knows what he was trying to accomplish on that play. Did he get confused as to where on the pitch he was? Did he think they were on the attack and saw a great opportunity for a through pass? It boggles the mind really.

That was his only highlight reel-worthy play — bad highlight, but a highlight nevertheless — as he was just kind of there for the remainder of this game. Not really doing a whole bunch offensively or defensively, just happy to be out there on a nice Saturday evening getting a nice workout.

Now, for the big picture take.

Arthur is, in a lot of ways, a symptom of the underlying reason that this team has struggled the last few years, because when you really think about it, just objectively, in a “Yes or No” type of way.

Is Arthur an elite football player? Does Arthur have the quality and the skills to be considered among the best in his profession?

The answer is no. And that’s for a guy that technically cost Juventus €72 million. For a guy that the vast majority of the people reading this here blog will not be able to just say that he is a good player. That feels like a problem to me.

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

The Nuts and Bolts

On the Arthur note, just as an exercise, let me describe a player to you in the current squad and then you, dear reader, tell me who I’m describing;

“He can show flashes, when used differently. He’s not talentless, but he is a bad fit. He’s inconsistent, but has potential. On the right day and the right system, he can be great”

Ready? Who was I thinking of?

Was it Adrien Rabiot? Rodrigo Bentancur? Weston McKennie? Alvaro Morata?

Perhaps you thought of Federico Bernardeschi or Danilo? The aforementioned Arthur? Dejan Kulusevski?

Isn’t that the problem in a nutshell? A non-insignificant part of this team can be accurately described in the manner above and when you have a team filled to the brim with imperfect players that need everything to go right for them to play well, then you have a mid-table team, which is exactly what Juventus is.

And, listen, this is not to say that these guys are without value. Having a guy like Alvaro Morata on your team is a good thing, he already has — and will continue to — win many millions of euros being the striker that he is. A hot and cold player that is very inconsistent but that works his tail off and that when you catch him on a hot streak will score a lot of goals. That’s a valuable player to have, but it’s — unfortunately — not a guy that you want to have as you main, go-to striker day-in and day-out which is the role he’s expected to fulfill at Juventus.

Same goes for almost every player on this team. They are not at the level where they can be expected to perform consistently, they are not at the level where they can survive poor management or a bad supporting cast. They are rotational guys that are being paid wages of starters and superstars and are being held to that standard. A standard that they have consistently shown they are unable to uphold.

Blame it on the previous regime, blame it on misplaced trust on young guys that failed to develop, blame it on chasing names rather than chasing cohesion. Fact is that despite the name recognition, the actual quality of this team is such that getting outplayed by mid-table opposition is not a freak occurrence anymore.

That’s a grim place to be as an organization.

Winner; Paulo Dybala

I know some of you jokesters will try to peg him in the above group. And granted, he has his positional quirks and he has underperformed on occasions as well. But excuse me if I hesitate to crucify the only guy on the field on Saturday that was at least trying something and that looked like he gave a damn.

La Joya outshot the entire team and was consistently one of the only threats on goal for the Bianconeri. It was a testament to his skill — and how well-coached the Hellas Verona players were — that every time the Argentinian touched the ball it seemed that three gold and blue clad players converged unto him.

On a luckier day he could have easily had a brace — he hit the post once, was denied on a great save by Lorenzo Montipò and had a number of shots just barely miss the goal.

In what should be a purge of players — economics allowing it, of course — in the next summer transfer window, Dybala is one of the ones that you should be trying to keep.

Winner: Giovanni Simeone

The man just cannot keep scoring, it’s unbelievable.

First off, I just want to say that I admire the hell out of Giovanni Simeone not playing the Coaches Son card and forging his own path in professional football. I guarantee you that in many cases he would for sure be playing with Atletico Madrid for his dad being a substitute striker and what not.

Second, that was a gorgeous goal that ended up burying Juventus. I’m not as critical of Leo Bonucci on that play, because, come on. That one was hit from so so far away, if you can bend it like that and slot it in the upper corner then by all means, go ahead and do so.

Third, I’d trade Simeone for Kulusevski tomorrow. Straight up. Fine, we’ll give you a couple million, but that’s it.

Loser: Max Allegri

When Max Allegri returned to Juventus earlier this year, the implication seemed to be clear:

“We tried playing pretty and lost. So let’s get back to playing ugly and win.”

Because even at their peak, it would be very hard to call an Allegri led team fun to watch. The best teams of his Juve era were not flashy squads. If I were to compare them to an animal they were a lot like a boa constrictor. It was a slow, boring, almost uninterested death they would give their opponents. Playing a tough, expertly drilled defensive style that would generate results but would a lot of times end up being dull.

Put it this way, Juventus football was not necessarily appointment viewing. And after the failed Sarriball experiment and the free flowing position less disaster of the Andrea Pirlo era. We made the deal with the devil of going back to boring, but successful football.

And sure, we have gotten the boring, but the successful part hasn’t quite arrived yet and that was very much not part of the deal.

Parting Shot of the Week

Juventus had a golden opportunity to cut distances in the Serie A table with three games in a row. After a hard-fought draw with Inter last week, seven out of nine points would have been a very positive result.

What Juventus did instead was pick up only one out of those nine and are in a 16-point hole after Napoli’s latest win. I struggle to say that the season is effectively over so early in the year, but then again, 16 points is a lot of points.

Up next is another midweek fixture, this time against Russian side Zenit at home. A win can sow up qualification to the Champions League Round of 16 and could be an injection of confidence that this team desperately needs. I don’t hold a ton of hope, but hey, at this point wouldn’t it be a very Juve thing to continue to be terrible in domestic competition and somehow excel in Europe?

See you Tuesday.