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Manu’s Grab Bag: Three Points

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We talk about Rodrigo Bentancur’s future, Cristiano Ronaldo’s rabbit out of the hat moment and the end of the streak.

Udinese Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Let’s not get it twisted, despite the result, Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Udinese was bad. Just as bad a football game as we have seen this team play all year — it was a legitimately boring, frustrating watching experience for 80 percent of the match.

Given the choice of doing some awful chore like, I dunno, folding laundry or watching this snooze fest, I’ll let you all know that my room is indeed currently very tidy!

At this point in the season — a season the team looks thoroughly checked out of — we are in no position to get picky regarding how we get our wins. The team got the three points against a bad team in arguably their easiest game remaining on the schedule. They needed it, and they got it. That has to be good enough for now.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Cristiano Ronaldo

Much like the rest of the team, Ronaldo was objectively awful for most of the match. He was an absolute non-factor shooting, generating, passing, dribbling or defending. Just incredibly bad.

Then, a miracle happened. Ronaldo got something positive out of a free kick situation. He didn’t score, of course not, what are you, high? No, his usual shot to the wall was still there as dependable as ever, but this time friend of the club Rodrigo De Paul was there to deflect it with his arm to gift Juve a PK that Ronaldo easily converted.

(I give Ronaldo too much grief because of his free kicks, but I have to say he is extraordinary at taking PKs. This sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not, I think it’s a legit skill and he might be the best in the world at it.)

Shortly after, Adrien Rabiot lifted a point perfect cross to Ronaldo on the wing that he converted between two defenders and into the net. Unbelievable. This was vintage Ronaldo in the sense that despite being shut down for the majority of the game he will still find a way to make you pay in the end.

Runner Up: Adrien Rabiot – The rest of the team was really bad, so it says something Rabiot is the runner up solely because of his assist. To be fair it was a really good assist!

Season Leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (14 Points)

Winner: Stefano Sturaro

Do you know who just got bailed out from seeing his GIF where he loses the ball by himself? That’s right, it’s Stefano Sturaro because look at this:

Oh buddy, Fede. What the hell, man? He was as bad as anybody else on Sunday, but he was the only one who got himself on tape committing such a dumb blunder like this one and will now forever live in Juve Twitter infamy.

That’s rough for a guy who, despite his status as a flop in a Juve kit, has had his moments this season and might be carving a role for himself in a new position. Whether he succeeds or not in the long term is still to be seen, but this was not a good shift or look for him.

The Fall of Rodrigo Bentancur

Lots has been discussed and written about on this site and elsewhere about the inadequacies of the Juventus midfield. This is not a novel concept to discuss so I won’t get into much detail here, but I do want to highlight the midfielder that has bared a lot of the blame and of the playing time in that unit: Rodrigo Bentancur.

Back in the halcyon days of the late Maurizio Sarri era, Bentancur was seen as the on-the-come-up player in Juventus midfield. He had grown leaps and bounds from the gritty, ball winning, box-to-box midfielder that we thought he would develop in and was now showing legitimate strides as a true holding mid. With Miralem Pjanic badly fading in the second half of the season — as it became custom for him in his last couple of Juve seasons — Bentancur started to get more and more playing time in that position and was showing significant promise.

Once Pjanic was swapped with Brazilian midfielder Arthur in a straight up book cooking move rejuvenation of the squad, it looked like Bentancur was the heir to be of the regista position and a guy who was going to be a staple of the Juve mid for years to come.

We all now know that wasn’t the case. Maybe it was the managerial change, perhaps the burnout of the shortened off-season and the overall chaos of this year is to blame. Or he’s just the latest example in a long line of cases that show that progress is very much not lineal. Whatever it may be, Bentancur at this point is a broken player that simply does not work in the current Juve lineup.

I do mean at this point, because while he has been pretty bad as a holding mid that does not mean that he has no value. Even at his worst, Bentancur is still a fantastic high-energy midfielder that can defend and win back possession with the best of them. You pair him and Adrien Rabiot — or Weston McKennie if Rabiot is sacrificed at the Capital Gains altar — with a legitimate deep playing midfielder and this unit is not as far as we might think they are

Bentancur is a big part of why this team fell flat on its face this season, but this does not have to be the end of him as a productive member of the squad going forward.

Loser: The Streak

I really wanted to get it to 10.

Ten is a nice round number, a whole decade of dominance. Think about how awful the 10th Scudetto hashtag would have been? I’m so bummed we missed out on that, truly the world is a worse place without that engineered brand corniness.

Alas, what we knew for a while unofficially is now mathematically come to fruition with Inter being crowned Serie A champs and breaking the streak at an unsatisfactory non-round number of nine.

It tells you something how spoiled Juve fans have become when the gripe becomes that we won merely nine years in a row instead of making it a round decade of dominance. But credit where credit is due, Inter was a fantastic team all season long, in a lot of ways very similar to the first Juve team that started the streak. Not only at a managerial and administrative level as they were led by former Juve greats Beppe Marotta and Antonio Conte, but also in the way they were getting results.

(Also in the fact that it featured a super disappointing and deflating European exit, that’s the Conte trademark.)

Time and time again Inter looked flat and in danger of losing points against lower level opposition, but even when they were not at their best the figured out ways to get results, to grind that league table to dust and to come out on top. That’s vintage Juve and that’s exactly what was lacking for the current iteration of the Bianconeri.

We might have lost the streak, but there’s never been a better time to start a new one next season.

Parting Shot of the Week

The Serie A title race has been decided but the European qualification spots are still very much in the air. There’s five teams with a legit shot at European spots and only four spots remaining, someone is going to be left holding the bag.

With a gauntlet coming up with games against Milan, Inter and Sassuolo Juve’s destiny is very much in their hands. Win out and you’re in, however as we all now know, this Juve has been anything but certain the whole season.

We are still in for a jumpy road ahead fellas, sit tight.

See you Sunday.