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Manu’s Grab Bag: Dead Cat Bounce

We talk a decent result, uncommon stats and a free kick renaissance.

US Salernitana v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

After back-to-back horrid performances, the bar was set pretty low for some improvement from Juventus heading into Tuesday night’s trip to Salerno.

Really, anything other than a loss would have technically been considered an improvement, and grading on that particular curve, Juventus came out with a passing grade as it dispatched newly-promoted side Salernitana 2-0 in an un-exciting but complete enough performance to deserve the win.

It had its shaky moments here and there because that's what Juventus is all about these days, but a win is a win — no matter if it comes against a team that features a seahorse prominently on their chest.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Paulo Dybala

Say hello, to the new Grab Bag MVP leader!

With Manuel Locatelli’s form cooling off after his blazing start to the season, Dybala is now topping the charts for the prestigious award, as he once again was the player that made a difference in a Juve win.

His international break injuries are starting to get a bit on my nerves, but pretty much every time he’s been on the pitch he continues to show a knack for influencing the game and keeps being a difference maker. The shot to open the scoring was vintage Dybala — a frozen rope of a shot that no keeper in the world was going to save.

Despite missing out on a 1-on-1 with the keeper and the field playing some shenanigans on his missed PK, I think he still showed enough to be named the MVP. A lot of things are going wrong at Juve right now, but as long as Dybala is fit and firing, he’s not one of those things.

Runner Up: Giorgio Chiellini - A goal would have been nice — for reasons we will discuss in a bit — but even if he got screwed by the VAR gods, he still had a pretty nice shift. The man’s talent is never in question, is just about seeing if his body allows him to see the pitch as much as possible.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Paulo Dybala (10 Points)

Loser: Obscure Stats

One of the — many — reasons why the Chielini disallowed goal sucked is that it precluded the old captain of securing the coveted title of only defender to ever score in every possible day of the week in Serie A competition.

Yes, you read that right. Throughout his illustrious career, Chiellini has scored goals on every single day of the week ... but Tuesday. And by missing out Tuesday night, that goddamned day continues to elude him.

The thing that really intrigues me is, who is doing this research? Who is out here sifting through the databases of Italian football history to find out not only is a player has ever scored in every day of the week, but if that player is a defender? Are there other position groups that have scored in every day of the week? Who knows, I will very much not be doing said research but it's interesting to think that someone’s job actually is just that.

Oh, the weird, fascinatingly boring days you must have my friend. Best of luck wherever you are.

Loser: Stadio Arechi

Even the toughest home grounds must fall eventually. We are seeing it right in front of our eyes — no home field advantage lasts forever and now a former stronghold has been breached.

No, I’m not talking about the artist formerly known as Juventus Stadium, but about the Stadio Arechi, the home of Salernitana and previously a place where Juventus had never managed to win a game.

Granted, that’s mainly because Salernitana had hosted Juventus only twice before. Once in the 1947-48 season in which both teams drew 0-0 and in 1998-99 season — the last season Salernitana was in Serie A at the same time as Juve — in which the hosts won 1-0.

Still, in all of its storied years, Juventus had never won there so last night was a legit breakthrough. Will this historical result be the mythical “turnaround” game? No, probably not, but one can dream!

Loser: Moise Kean

I think I speak for most — if not all — of the BWRAO staff when I say that we all want Moise Kean to be successful. He’s a Juve youth prospect that burst onto the scene as very few young players have managed to do in recent years and was a fan favorite before being unceremoniously shipped out to Everton.

Call it homerism if you will, but when his comeback was announced I was perhaps overly enthused. Nobody expected him to take a starting spot from Day 1, but it made sense in my mind that he would develop enough throughout the year, enough that Juve would feel confident enough in letting Alvaro Morata’s loan expire by the end of the year and hand the reigns full time to the Italian international.

So, yeah, like I said, overly enthused! Because Kean has looked a few levels of quality below Morata — who himself hasn’t been anything to write home about, either — in his second stint as a Juve player.

Kean remains a dazzling player when he has room to operate, but he struggles mightily still against teams that force him to play with his back to the goal. When you play for Juve, most teams are going to force you to play like that, so the fact that he still struggles a lot with it is not great news for the Kean believers amongst us.

Winner: Juventus Scoring a Free Kick

Between Dybala’s agonic last-minute free kick hitting the crossbar against Atalanta and Juan Cuadrado’s rope that also went into the post on Tuesday, Juventus is slowly but surely getting near an objective that has eluded them for the better part of three years.

Scoring a free kick goal.

Not to beat a dead GOAT into the ground, but Cristiano Ronaldo took the majority — if not all — free kicks for Juventus for the last three years in which he was remarkably ineffective. Free kicks in Juventus Land became an exercise in hoping that a stray rebound might fall to a Bianconeri player in scoring position, because it sure as hell wasn’t going to end up in the back of the net.

With Ronaldo’s departure, Juventus have already gotten more close calls in a few months than in all last year. Free kicks are lower probability shots that you’d might expect, but they are not impossible to convert and with some better luck and some legit good shooters in Cuadrado and Dybala we might be seeing the evasive FK goal come out.

Parting Shot of the Week

Forgive me if I’m not throwing Juventus a parade for beating the literal worst team in the league, but after the week they just had, anything is an improvement and a professional, decently controlled win as the visiting team is not the worst thing in the world.

We saw a change in formation that could have better results for Juventus and a couple of bright passages of play, but until Juventus show that they can put together anything resembling consistency, the long term outlook of the team will remain the same.

Good one day, bad the next.

See you next week.