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Manu’s Grab Bag: Highs & Lows

We talk late winners, old friends getting new chances and another valley after a peak.

Players of Juventus FC celebrate the victory at the end of... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

We kind of all knew this was coming, didn’t we?

This just has been who this team is at this moment in time. Just mere couple of days after putting on a clinical performance against Zenit in the Champions League, Juventus sleepwalked through most of their Saturday night clash against Fiorentina, only to get bailed out by a red card and a flash of brilliance from Juan Cuadrado to get a narrow 1-0 win.

And, look, I’m not going to complain about getting the three points — especially right now when they desperately need everything they can get. It’s just a bit disappointing to see this team just be unable to put forth consistent performances. I guess this is who they are at this point and that is that.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Juan Cuadrado

Another MVP performance from a substitute — which is usually not the norm, but who else are you going to give it to? Cuadrado was exactly what this team needed to break the deadlock and it was a good reminder of the pure skills the guy can sometimes show.

With a rumored contract extension in the works, it is always good to remember that not that long ago Cuadrado was a Premier League castoff trying to find his form back with Juventus and for a few seasons there I don’t think many people would have been upset to see him leave as his form was rather inconsistent.

It’s been quite a turnaround for him, as he is comfortably one of the most impactful players for Juventus and someone who quite definitely deserves his extension.

Runner Up: Federico Chiesa - Solid shift for the former Fiorentina man. Was unlucky to not score a goal but his usual pace and work rate was in full display despite looking burnt out - like many players in this team - at times.

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

Redemption?

As we mentioned in a previous Grab Bag, this moment was going to happen sooner or later. My biggest hope was that it was later, but it was not meant to be. Given Juventus’ shocking lack of depth and mismanagement of the position the last few years and given that the age of their starting center backs was going to show up eventually, Daniele Rugani was going to get a start.

Yes, the very same Rugani that once showed a lot of promise but could never quite get it all together. Yes, the same Rugani that was loaned out TWICE last year. Somehow, someway, he found himself a Juve player again and his first start was against an attack led by one of the top strikers in Serie A in Dusan Vlahovic.

What could possibly go wrong?

To his credit — and to Matthijs de Ligt’s credit — they managed to keep a clean sheet, which is honestly more than you could have possibly asked of the defense when the starting sheet was announced. Rugani had a couple of shaky moments — as he does — but overall anything other that a complete meltdown was going to be a success in my book.

Do I think this signals some kind of career revival for Juventus’ No. 24? No, probably not, but this is not the last time either Leo Bonucci or Giorgio Chiellini can’t play due to some injury or what not, so if he can at least be average while filling in for the veteran duo, things look a lot less bleak.

(For a team that at one point employed three young defenders in Matthijs de Ligt, Cristian Romero and Merih Demiral, it's insane to me that its Daniele Rugani that is getting minutes now.)

Winner: Luca Pellegrini

I’m going to keep on banging the drum on this one, but, why is it that Luca Pellegrini doesn’t play more?

I understand that now three different coaching staffs have taken a look at the guy and for whatever reason have decided not to give him a shot, loaning him out for two straight seasons until finally managing to stick around under Max Allegri.

But, am I crazy, or is he good? At worst he has looked slightly above average in his limited minutes and given the immense workload that entrenched starter Alex Sandro is under, I think he should be getting more chances on that left flank.

It’s unlikely he develops into a guy who can reach the heights Sandro once did, but that doesn’t mean he is without use. Gotta give the kid a chance to shine so that at the very least you know for sure what he is.

Midfield Ranking

  1. Manuel Locatelli - Still the best player in the unit. His form has dipped from the initial highs of his Juventus career, but it’s hard for me to say any other player has leapfrogged him.
  2. Weston McKennie - Trending in the right direction after a disappointing 2021 calendar year. He seems to be finding rhythm in his partnership with Locatelli and could be the key to making a two man pivot work. Still have to see him do this for longer, but all things considered he’s. trending upwards.
  3. Rodrigo Bentancur - This guy is a living embodiment of Juventus. Catch him on the right day and he looks great, but he can just as easily be terrible the next one.
  4. Adrien Rabiot - The left wing experiment is not working. He looked decent there against Chelsea, but outside of that game it’s really been a letdown. Have to take him off there.
  5. Arthur - This piece went live without Arthur on it, honest mistake by your boy, but isn’t that everything you need to know about Arthur’s Juventus stint?
  6. Aaron Ramsey - I hear Newcastle is lovely in January.

Parting Shot of the Week

A win is a win is a win.

Keep saying that to yourself as you completely forget this game ever happened during the international break. This was another lackadaisical effort from a team that seems perpetually stuck in second gear.

Between the burnout of playing way too many games and the hot and cold form of pretty much every member of this team, it’s hard to imagine this team breaking out of this perpetual seesaw in their football.

But, hey, I’d rather win ugly than lose ugly, so there’s that.

See you after the break.