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Manu’s Grab Bag: Embarrasment

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We talk inside man Arthur, Juventus’ current state and a reminder that things will eventually be better.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-JUVENTUS-BENEVENTO Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

I did not have fun watching Juventus on Sunday morning.

It was not an enjoyable experience, and there were a number of things I would have rather done during those 90-odd minutes. Exercising would have been a better use of my time, for example. Watching a good movie or reading a good book were worthy alternatives. Hell, just sleeping in would have resulted in a better, more positive effect on my day than watching Juventus lose against Benevento by a 1-0 scoreline.

This is the worst possible place to be as a fan. This team is not going anywhere this season and they find themselves in a position that they have rarely been in during the last decade. They’re playing out the string. They’ve played out the string with the title on hand like last year, for example, but now they are doing so with no hope of achieving the league title by the end of the season.

Realistically, the team only has one game to look forward to the rest of the 2020-21 season. We are in March. That game is the Coppa Italia final in May.

This is going to be rough.

Let’s cook.

LVP: Arthur

After singing his praises during his injury layaway, Arthur has crashed down to earth in his comeback.

He was as ineffective as anyone else on the team in Sunday’s game, but he earns this distinction because it was his ghastly mistake at the back that led to the lone goal of the afternoon for the visiting side. What he was trying to do with that pass is beyond me, and I’m assuming it wasn’t assisting Adolfo Gaich, but who knows. Maybe he is secretly leading the #PirloOut movement from the inside and trying to get the beleaguered rookie coach fired?

Maybe he is a commenter on this very site stoking the flames. Are you, Arthur? ARE YOU?!

If so, come on the pod and I will rescind this LVP award. If not, here is your much-deserved trophy, my man. It will arrive late and to your neighbor three doors down the street in honor of your performance on Sunday.

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (12 Points)

Loser: Andrea Pirlo

I’ve been as staunch of a supporter of Juventus’ manager as anyone.

I firmly believe he should be given time at the helm of the team and that the awful combination of squad building, COVID, injuries and just poor luck have played huge roles in the lackadaisical season he is currently helming.

With that being said, he is a big culprit for the loss in this one. His initial setup — while an interesting one — was clearly not working from the get-go, and while he currently doesn’t have the deepest bench in the world that game was screaming for a shakeup way earlier than when he finally decided to bring in his subs.

The entire team was playing a particular brand of nonchalant, passive, bloated football for a solid 75% of the game, only coming to life after going down in the scoreboard. There was no movement, no dynamism, no one willing to take a guy on, do a give-and-go or bring any type of creative flair to the proceedings. If you didn’t have a score bug, you could have sworn Juventus was winning the game handily and running down the clock.

Like I said before, having a decent chunk of your Under-23 team on the bench doesn’t allow for a whole lot of options but I would have liked to see him shake things up just to try and wake these dudes up. Bring on Alessandro di Pardo, give Nicolo Fagioli a chance and send a message to the main guys that they are not untouchable and that they are not up to snuff right now.

I’m still not advocating for Pirlo to be sacked — especially with very few attractive options out there to replace him — but these are the types of games when you can tell he is a rookie coach and that, while he has had flashes, he still has a long way to go to become a top one.

The Bad Place

It’s hard to pinpoint who’s most to blame for this. Is it a conceited squad that has had stints like this for parts of three seasons and three managers? A team that believes that just by putting on the jersey, they are entitled to win games against the minnows of Serie A?

Is it a manager that can’t instill a sense of urgency on its squad until they are losing? Or a board that has coddled and protected the players while holding them unaccountable? A sporting director that has made a number of transfer blunders while prioritizing the commercial success over the sporting one?

Was it just bad luck and a weird, fluky pandemic year in which the team was shorthanded from the get go and never really managed to stay healthy, fit and in form at any one point?

There will be many a postmortems done once Juventus inevitably stops being the reigning Italian champs but the reality is that the team finds itself as the worst type of team you can be.

Boring, mediocre and expensive.

Not quite young enough to be thought of as rebuilding, not quite old enough to be considered on their way out and not good enough to be considered a contender.

After a flurry of expensive and flashy signings spearheaded by the Cristiano Ronaldo move three years ago, Juve faithful believed we were in The Good Place. As it turns out, we were in The Bad Place all along.

Winner: Benevento

Yes, I’m going to give them a shoutout. Say what you will about the current state of Juventus — and I just spent, like, a thousand words doing so! — but it still takes a certain amount of panache to come in to the house of the champs and convincingly beat them.

I quite like the Stregoni. I find it funny that their crest features a witch midflight, Benevento looks like a lovely place to visit in southern Italy and their kits are really solid. This win will go a long way for them to avoid relegation and I hope they stay up.

I also enjoy a good redemption story just as much as the next guy, and Filippo Inzaghi bouncing back as a manager after being sacked by AC Milan is a neat thing to watch.

What to Watch Instead: Drive to Survive

I’m a professional, OK? I will continue to watch this team through the rest of the year because you good people expect content and by God I will hold that end of the bargain.

(Also, because my multi-million contract with BWRAO allows me only a certain number of mulligans to not write after a game, and I’m running short of those allowances. Say what you will, but our EIC Danny runs a tight ship.)

With that being said, dear reader, you don’t need to do that. You can tune this team out until May and just check in to your friendly neighborhood blog to read all about what you missed. This is not something you have to put yourself through. With that in mind, welcome to the new recurring segment — hopefully just for the remainder of this season! — called “What to Watch Instead” where yours truly recommends something better to set your TV’s to, that is not Juventus football.

This week’s recommendation is Netflix documentary series Drive to Survive. They just released their newest season last Friday and it’s truly spectacular. If you are already an F1 fan the type of insider access you get to the entire paddock makes you look and think about the competition in a whole new way. This production might be one of the few sports documentaries that manage to get all drivers, all race principals and main players in the competition with relatively no holds barred access and the results speak for themselves.

And if you don’t know the first thing about racing the series makes it super approachable to the main things you need to know. Plus, the pettiness and drama that goes on off the track is enough to justify a watch.

They do take some liberties with the timeline of the races to build a story and you can tell they have favorite drivers and teams that they feature way too much despite sometimes their lack of relevancy on the actual standings. But those are nitpicks and it is very much worth a look ahead of next week’s start of the 2021 F1 season.

(As a Sergio Perez fan, the second to last episode of this season where they focus on his career, uncertain future in the sport and incredible come from behind win in the Sakhir GP made the room I was watching very dusty indeed. Only fair after Season 1, when they heavily imply he kept his seat over teammate Esteban Ocon exclusively due to the fact he has wealthier sponsors while completely ignoring the fact he outperformed Ocon in the standings, got the only podiums in team history and essentially helped SAVE THE FREAKIN TEAM. I’m still mad at that complete screw job, but that’s for another day)

Parting Shot of the Week

I have nothing, fellas.

It was bad, it was boring, hopefully the Derby della Mole will be better, but there are few guarantees. It’s going to suck to see Inter win the league but, hey, it had to happen at some point, I guess.

Do you want to go on a high note? May I lead you into the direction of a certain Liga MX instant classic?

That is my beloved Club Puebla coming back from a 2-0 hole and a red card to force 4-4 draw against Toluca FC. There is excitement, there are goals and there is good, fun football in that video.

(As well as at least two baffling goalkeeping mistakes, but its Liga MX cut them some slack!)

I’ve written a couple times about Puebla FC before on our sister SB Nation site and I can count on one hand the joyous moments they have given me during a lifetime of supporting them. But this year they are a surprisingly good, fun, resilient team that sometimes makes you forget about all the crappy times that came before.

It’s a reminder that it sucks now, but Juventus will bounce back and they will once again become an enjoyable team to root for. Mark my words.

See you in two weeks.