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Manu’s Grab Bag: Drowning

We talk boats, old bars and the state of the club.

Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC reacts during the Serie A... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The tough thing about writing out these articles after every game is that sometimes it feels like you’re repeating yourself with the same points. That is even more noticeable when the point remains valid throughout an extended period of time.

As Juventus drew Venezia 1-1 on Saturday, the same point that has been made in this space before remains: Juventus is a mid-table team.

Because that’s how they look, that’s how they play and that’s how they react. As a mid-table team does. They might have a lot of flashy names and a lot of very expensive wages, but that fundamental truth remains and the more time passes on the season it becomes even clearer.

Let’s cook.

Offensive Player of the Week: Alvaro Morata

Morata’s performance was a refreshing change of pace to the way he had been playing lately. It wasn’t a virtuoso game from the Spanish international, but something much more akin to what was expected from him when the season started.

A well-taken goal to go along with 90 minutes of hard work. Given that none of the other strikers in this club have shown much yet, Juventus will have to continue to rely on Morata moving forward, which remains a dicey proposition.

But if he can maintain these sorts of performances as his base level instead of being objectively awful as the base had been lately, good things can happen for both Morata and Juventus.

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

Loser: Max Allegri

Due to the gifts of remote working, I’ve been able to visit my hometown a lot more than I used to. Those visits have also been able to be longer, a couple of weeks at a time for example instead of a quick weekend here and there.

In one of such visits, one of my best friends from my college days was also in town and we decided to have a couple of drinks to catch up. The idea was floated to visit one of our go-to spots when we were studying, a bar called “El Punto.”

Now, calling “El Punto” a bar is probably stretching it a bit. In reality, “El Punto” was a beer deposit that was a block away from the main bar scene in town, because of its proximity to clubs and their very cheap prices it became common practice for broke college students — me and my friends very much included — to go to “El Punto” have a few cheap beers on the sidewalk of the establishment and then head to the actual bars.

This led to the police frequenting the spot too, but for a very different reason as Mexico has very stringent open container laws in place and would arrest people for drinking in the street. The person who managed the deposit realized this and fearing to lose one of the biggest revenues for her business, started letting people onto the rooftop of the store to drink there instead of the sidewalk.

The rooftop was decidedly not fit for people to be in. It was cold and dark, with no paint on the walls and no tiling on the floors. You could only access it through a reinforced steel stairway and once you were in, there were only a few plastic tables and chairs to sit down.

Despite this less than ideal accommodation, people continued to frequent the place because — and I cannot stress this enough — beer was really, really cheap there. As more people found out about the — technically speaking — speakeasy bar on the rooftop of the beer deposit, it became more and more popular.

A speaker with one auxiliary cord was installed, meaning that whoever managed to be the first in the bar that day was essentially the DJ for the entire place. This was before Spotify so the selection was down to whatever music you had in your cellphone or MP3 player, which led to a very limited library being on loop for an entire evening.

More tables were added — all plastic of course — the only bathroom — with a showered still attached to one of the walls — was cleaned up a bit, the audio system improved slightly and they put a canvas roof over the place. It became common place for us to take friends there — even girls on occasion because we were idiots — and it became our go-to place throughout college. After we graduated, it resembled what you and I would call “a bar” a lot more, but it retained a lot of its initial dinginess and charm.

Really excited about to see how the place looked now that we hadn’t been there for years, my friend and I decided to meet each other there to relive old times. What we found instead was nearly unrecognizable. The entrance was still through the store and you still had to go through the steel stairway, but the place was completely changed. Comfy couches and lounge chairs filled a neon light lit room with multiple TVs showing UFC reruns. An additional lounge area had been added, there were men’s and women's bathrooms — the epitome of luxury! — with corporate beer branding all over the place and the ultimate sin, a hipster looking guy was mixing music in a corner.

It had become a dive bar. A normal, non-special, there’s-a-million-like-it-all-over-the-world dive bar. We had a couple beers and left, because what’s the point? Sometimes things are just better how you remember them and trying to recapture some of that old vibe is completely impossible in a place that has changed too much since the last time you were there. I figured that maybe we would have been better off never going back and just remembering our crappy, probably illegal, beloved spot the way it used to be and not what it became now.

Anyway, the Max Allegri 2.0 era is not going super great.

Winner: Luca Pellegrini

Count me in as one of the people that would rather just see Pellegrini start the rest of the season.

Alex Sandro will forever be a beloved Juventus player, he had some really good years for the club and was part of some extraordinary teams, but it’s clear that he is on the wrong side of his peak years and his level of play has deteriorated season after season.

At this point, Pellegrini has showed to be a more dynamic, aggressive and offensive player In a squad that continues to struggle to produce consistent offensive output, he gives you the better chance of succeeding. And who knows, maybe we end up looking back at the Pellegrini-Spinnazola trade as not so lopsided now.

Winner: Quirky Methods of Transportation

Look at how adorable this is! We are used to seeing players get transported to and from stadiums in huge, branded buses with all the bells and whistles, but because of the geographical quirks that a city like Venice has, this time they had to get transported to the stadium in a boat.

This is awesome.

Everything went downhill after this.

Can we get weirder modes of transportation for following games? Horse drawn carriages? Segways? Double decker buses?

The possibilities are endless, really.

Kit Ranking

Juventus was always going to have a tough time beating Venezia in terms of kits. The Leoni ałati were well known even before their promotion to Serie A for having some truly stunning kit designs, incorporating their relatively unusual colors to make some highly sought after uniforms.

Though, Juventus didn’t do themselves any favors by rolling out their yellow third kits.

Venezia FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Gianluca Ricci/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This was a blowout, frankly. I like the yellow kits more than most, I think they align well with Adidas’ — and sports brands in general — strategy to look at kits as not only for the pitch, but for casual wear, too. And to their credit, when paired with the blue shorts they look better than you would think.

Regardless, this was always going to end one way, with Venezia blowing Juventus out of the water. That black kit is freaking gorgeous.

Parting Shot of the Week

After a couple of promising games, we are right back to where we started. Perhaps we never moved at all.

Juventus is not good enough to consistently get results and until that changes we will be back in the same spot, with a couple of good games, sprinkled in with some bad.

Can Juventus on their best day compete against anyone? Absolutely.

Can Juventus be on their best for any sustained amount of time? No.

See you Saturday.