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Manu’s Grab Bag: Another One

We talk about the party, Federico Chiesa’s season and another rendition of What to Watch Instead.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus Fc (R) shake hands with... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

It finally happened.

I really never thought Juve would be in this place, not this Juve, not a Juventus with Cristiano Ronaldo in its ranks. But it happened, and the fact that it coincided with the Derby della Mole was the last detail in something that I never thought I would see.

(Granted the Derby della Molle is probably the least important Derby that Juve has for non-Torino based fans, but still ... It’s a Derby!)

But in Saturday’s 2-2 draw, Juventus got bounced from the TV schedule and their game was only broadcast on the ESPN app for Latin America. The horror, the ignominy! For those of you not in the know, ESPN Deportes owns the broadcasting rights for Serie A in Latin America. They usually broadcast the two or three best games of the week in the main ESPN broadcast, while showing other less attractive matchups on the app. Since the season started, every Juve game was shown on the main channel, even if they were playing the minnows, you could bet on the Bianconeri having the prime spot on the TV.

(Usually accompanied by either the best matchup of the week, a Napoli game because of the Hirving Lozano bump or a game featuring the Milan/Roma clubs.)

But this weekend, the featured games were Inter-Bolonia and Napoli-Crotone. Weirdly enough, though, because of this bump the game was announced by Andres Agulla and Ricky Ortiz, far and away the two best Latin American announcers of Italian football that for whatever reason got bounced from the main games to only feature on games on the streaming app and for the US broadcast. It was a pleasant surprise as their announcing work is easily the thing I enjoyed the most about the game on Saturday.

(Agulla, especially, is a knowledgeable, engaging personality and a must follow on Twitter if you happen to speak Spanish. He usually tweets about whatever game he’s watching at all times, so it’s a neat surprise when you happen to be watching the same game he is. It’s a nicer surprise when that game is a Puebla FC game and an even better one when he throws praise our way for their style of play. Come on the pod to discuss, Andres.)

To be honest, I’m just doing my best to not talk about the actual game, it was bad. We don’t have to get too much into it, but I guess we shall do it anyway.

Let’s cook.

Winner: Federico Chiesa

If you force me into having a take I would argue he’s been the best player for Juventus this season. My own MVP rankings have Cristiano Ronaldo as the leader in the clubhouse and since we don’t give away points for draws or losses that will remain so despite Chiesa’s performance on Saturday.

Still, I’m almost sure that if I went back and reread all the articles when Juve had bad results, Chiesa is always the lone bright spot for the team. At times it seems like he’s the only one who cares and has the skills to match up the desire.

We might argue about the current board’s history on transfer successes, but Chiesa seems like one that we will be talking about as a massive hit in the coming years.

Loser: Dejan Kulusevski

On the other side of the good-bad transfer spectrum, we have to talk about Dejan.

It’s no secret to anyone that has watched Juventus with any sort of regularity that the young Swede has struggled mightily in his first season with the champions. Saturday was just another notch on the old belt for Kulu in regards to bad performances.

We can talk all we want about how he’s being played out of position and he’s young and all the usual caveats. They are not without merit, he’s been put in a position to fail, no doubt about it. But he’s moved past just merely being kind of bad to being a downright detriment to the team as it was his botched backwards pass that led to Torino’s go-ahead score. And, at some point, you either sink or you swim — and he has most definitely sank.

It’s also worth mentioning that out of all the incoming transfers for this season, only Kulu and Arthur were made before the Andrea Pirlo appointment. Meaning that they were made with Maurizio Sarri as the manager in mind. That’s not nothing, in my opinion, because if we are being 100% honest with ourselves, Kulusevski kinda doesn’t make sense in Pirlo’s system.

His failure this season is only compiled by the fact that the other three transfers that were made after the Pirlo appointment — Chiesa, Alvaro Morata and Weston McKennie — have at one point or another in the season been key to the team.

It’s way too early to call Kulu’s Juve stint a failure or to imply he might not have a spot on the team at all for next year. But I feel confident that when the end of the year list of biggest disappointments comes out Kulu will be right there as the right winger … or second striker or wingback or wherever they field him next.

It’s Party Time!

In the Bingo card of “Disastrous Seasons” Juventus were still lacking the “Weird Off the Field Incident” square, so I was very amused when they finally ticked that one off during the buildup of Saturday’s game thanks to the shenanigans of the aforementioned McKennie, Arthur and Paulo Dybala.

It’s a dumb story that only gets dumber as more details emerge. Was it a party? Was it a low-key dinner as it was alleged by Dybala’s girlfriend? How many people were there? Who were the other three rumored players that were also there but left before police were called to break the party up?

The best thing to come out of this whole thing are probably the quotes of the neighbor who called the cops on McKennie’s property.

“I support Juventus, that’s why I am sorry, but maybe they should attend fewer parties and focus more on the pitch.”

Oof, that’s cold.

“I don’t think a famous footballer is above the law. I went out at 22.30 to walk the dog, and I saw a queue of cars inside the gates [of McKennie’s property],”

At 10:30 p.m.! These dudes got in trouble for having a party that ended before midnight! I know that probably none of those guys had a normal college experience because of their professional footballing endeavors, but this whole party reeks of when you got busted for drinking in the dorms and not respecting quiet hours.

Look, we can call it what it is. They are guys in their mid- to late-20s, McKennie and Dybala already had COVID-19 and Arthur is not what you would call an example of level headedness decision making. It was a short-sighted idea and they got busted for doing something that was probably irresponsible.

If the club wants to give them a one-game ban as some sort of face-saving measure in a lost season, I’m fine with that. But let’s not act as if they are the only ones breaking COVID-19 protocol. How was Dubai, my guy?

The only reason this became such a big story is because the team is losing and when a team is losing everything gets magnified. They will get their flogging in the media, face no real consequences and be on their way. Just another bad moment in a season filled with them.

Loser: Wojciech Szczesny

Tweets that precede unfortunate events.

What to Watch Instead: Ted Lasso

Allow me to be the latest to heap praise on the little show that could.

(As much of an underdog a show can be when backed by a multibillion dollar company but still.)

Based upon a series of commercials for NBC to promote their acquisition of the rights to broadcast the Premier League in the US. In the commercials Jason Sudeikis plays Ted Lasso an American football coach hired to manage Tottenham Hotspur.

The commercial itself was pretty funny, but when the show was announced the general opinion was that it was a thin premise to sustain an entire season of television. However, the end result is pretty damn great, Lasso is hired by the fictional AFC Richmond, a struggling Premier League club led by Rebecca Welton the spurned ex-wife of Rupert Mannion, former owner of the club. She hires Lasso to sink the club into getting relegated to get back at her ex-husband, which is a neat way to resolve the whole “Why would you hire an American football coach to lead your team?”

If you’re a hardcore football fan some of the things in the show won’t make too much sense but it quickly wins you over with sharp, witty writing and a great performance from the entire cast. I guarantee that you will derive more joy from watching one episode of Ted Lasso than any given Juve match for the rest of the year.

Parting Shot of the Week

There really isn’t a whole lot more to say about this.

Torino’s a bad team that has struggled in the relegation zone for most of the year. Juve should beat them, but outside of one shining stretch in early January this team has consistently been underwhelming and dropping points to relegation battlers seems to be a common occurrence.

The much anticipated game in hand against Napoli looms for next Wednesday. While some of us hoped that game would be important to fight for the top of the table now it seems like it will be important for staying in top 4 contention alone. Boy, is that depressing.

Forty-five days to go until the Coppa Italia final!

See you Wednesday.