Well, that was rough.
In a game in which whatever team made the least amount of mistakes would win, Juventus managed to edge out Napoli in that department and gift their southern rivals a 2-1 victory in their visit to the newly-christened Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
As we discussed on the latest episode of The Old Lady Speaks, with all of the absences that the team was slated to have this was always going to be a tough game to get a decent result out of. But a tough task became an impossible one thanks to Juventus continuing to shoot themselves in the foot as Napoli ran over them in a second half to forget.
LVP: Wojciech Szczęsny
For the second time in three match days, Juventus’ starting keeper made a crucial mistake that cost the team points. After a decent bounce back performance against Empoli, everyone’s favorite Polish keeper was at it again, fumbling a relatively easy save from a Lorenzo Insigne curler — that had very little power behind it — that was quick and decisively nestled into the net by Matteo Politano on the rebound.
Look, the team is already undermanned and in the midst of one of their worst starts in at least 10 years. The last thing they need is their keeper making high school level blunders on a consistent basis.
(I don’t want to relitigate the Gianluigi Donnarumma situation — I’ve already done so in a previous Grab Bag, which you can find here if you feel so inclined — but the fact that Woj is in the midst of his worst stint as a Juventus player as the Italian national team’s keeper sits on the bench in France looks bad for everyone involved.)
At this point, the question really becomes this: How long of a leash does Szczęsny get? As much as a I like and root for Mattia Perin, he is far from a sure thing; we all like Carlo Pinsoglio a lot more as an affable fan favorite third-string keeper than as a starter, so what do you do if you are Max Allegri?
Do you bench Szczesny for next game and risk shattering whatever remains of his already fragile confidence? Do you gamble essentially your whole season on the prospect that Perin can go back to the form that made him one of the best keepers in Serie A? How many frantic midnight texts has Federico Cherubini sent PSG’s way already to try and broker a loan deal in January?
It’s all-around bad times brewing between the sticks for the Bianconeri. Just in case, however ...
Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Paulo Dybala (1 point)
Loser: Moise Kean
I'm buying all your Moise Kean stock, all of it, I'm hoarding it all. https://t.co/lWFSNXLW1T— Sergio - 2021 ALL COPPA CHAMPS - Romero (@manuc_bwrao) September 8, 2021
Look, I’m still bullish on Moise Kean, you can’t tell me what to do. I will die on this hill. On that note, may I interest you in some supper affordable Mario Lemina stock I’ve been holding?
But it’s undeniable that as far as anticlimactic fan favorite returns go, Keane’s on Saturday ranks pretty high up there. With the game tied 1-1, Allegri sent Keane on for an absolutely spent Alvaro Morata — who, lost amidst the debacle, had a pretty solid game — and for us Kean stans this look set to be a dream debut for the Juve youth prospect.
Score a goal on a counter, bust out the moves, get the three points — it would have been awesome. To his credit, he did put a header on goal ... but unfortunately it was the wrong goal as his horrendous “clearance” off a Napoli corner kick set up Kalidou Koulibaly’s eventual game winner on the deflection.
You know what? Upon further reflection, no, this was not on Kean. Why is Szczęsny not going up there and punching that ball away? That’s in the 6-yard box, that’s a keeper’s ball if I’ve ever seen one. Chalk another howler up for old Szczęsny.
(I’m only half joking with that take, by the way.)
The Fullback that was Promised
Two years after he was technically signed on as a Juventus player, Luca Pellegrini finally played meaningful Serie A minutes for the Bianconeri — and he was OK. This was a legitimate shock to me.
After acquiring him from Roma in a swap with Leonardo Spinazzola — who went on to become one of the best fullbacks in Italy, because sure, why not — Juventus seemed intent on never allowing the young Italian to suit up for them.
He went on loan stints at Cagliari and then Genoa and rumors surfaced that he might be loaned out yet again this transfer season. Bear in mind, the Juventus left flank is not being currently manned by prime Real Madrid era Marcelo or a peak level Roberto Carlos, either. The last few seasons, depth at the position has been a glaring need and with Alex Sandro producing diminishing returns it's not entirely unreasonable to suggest that a young player could break through and get decent minutes. Which happened! Last season Gianluca Frabotta — of all people — got plenty of time on the left flank and he is not even good!
We have seen Blaise Matuidi play there for a second, Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio got a shot there. Hell, Federico Bernardeschi was shoehorned in there as well. Was Pellegrini really that terrible that he couldn’t beat out those guys? Could he walk straight even? Was he aware of what football is and how to play it?
You can imagine my shock then when he finally started and was, well, he was fine. He played solid defense and put a couple dangerous crosses through. I’d day he was a rich man’s Frabotta. I was not upset at him at all.
Given that I would have rated him as a success if he could run without tripping over himself, I’d say this was a pretty successful outing from the young Italian all things considered.
One Shining Moment
I said up top that I would give you one good thing to come out of this game and I’m a man of my word so here it is.
Aaron Ramsey is back, baby! Championship back on!
I’m kidding. It’s actually that Juve paired their home kit with black shorts and it looks really good! I think it's a lot better than their usual white on white kit mix and I hope they keep using it because its very sharp looking.
I didn’t say it was going to be an important thing, I said it’d be good and you can’t tell me the boys didn’t look fly out there as they threw away yet another lead. Sure, they lost, but they did it with class and that’s not nothing.
Parting Shot of the Week
There’s a realistic scenario in which Juventus wakes up on Monday down 8 points to the Serie A leaders. Math has never been my strong suit, but that seems not great.
I know that the season is just starting and with so many absences it was always going to be hard to get a win from Naples, but this is going to be a super tight title race and I can't imagine that spotting your rivals eight points from the get go won't have an impact in the standings when it's all said and done.
After Morata scored the go-ahead goal and Juventus played a pragmatic, controlled, vintage Allegri first half, I legitimately thought they might pull this off. After yet another second-half collapse, I’m starting to wonder how many more they can have before it becomes just the type of team they are.
Up next we got the Champions League opener against Malmo, a team they have to beat to not make their European group stage destiny harder than it has to be. I’d be lying if I said I was confident.
See you Tuesday.