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Manu’s Grab Bag: Madness at the Olimpico

We talk crazy comebacks, club mentality and small redemptions.

AS Roma v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Allow me to be the umpteenth person to make this joke on the internet ...

Continuing their make-or-break January, Juventus managed to find themselves down 3-1 against Roma early in the second half while watching one of their best offensive players limp off with a non-contact injury and was looking very much like a team that is, for all intents and purposes, cooked.

Despite the lucky nature of one of Roma’s early goals, the scoreline was everything but a fluke. Roma had been the better, hungrier, sharper team for almost the whole game and there was not a lot of indication that Juventus had any shot of getting back into the game.

And then, because this team is absolutely, maddeningly, amazingly, impossible to figure out, the Bianconeri scored three times in less than 10 minutes to flip the score deliver their best moment of the domestic season and manage to leave Rome with the invaluable three points in the bag.

Oh yeah, there was a red card to Matthijs de Ligt and a Roma PK attempt saved by Wojciech Szczesny before everything was all said and done too. This team will be the end of me.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Manuel Locatelli

Welcome back to the Grab Bag points, Manuel Locatelli!

As one of the few decent performers in Juve’s first-half performance, Locatelli continued to look a lot more like the guy from the first few months of the season in 2022. However, he gets the nod here because of his key role in the Bianconeri furious comeback as he headed in the goal that started the run of goals that would ultimately give the team the win.

He was also huge in managing the game once de Ligt was red carded, as despite Roma having a man advantage, they were never able to fully press Juve in the final third in large part thanks to the play of Locatelli.

With a number of Juve’s key players out, Locatelli will have to keep being a big presence in midfield for the foreseeable future and truly emerge as one of the guys to build around moving forward.

Tough ask for a first-year guy, but, hey, you got it kid.

Runner Up: Wojciech Szczęsny - Talk about the law of the ex, huh? Despite bearing responsibility for Roma’s first goal by not being as assertive in his box as he should have, he completely redeemed himself by saving his second PK in as many chances against his former club to give his team the win. Slowly but surely, Woj is turning into a fairly decent PK stopper, which is as a whole a pretty good thing.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Manuel Locatelli (11 Points)

Redemption Story

Mattia De Sciglio, Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur are, without a doubt, amongst the most maligned players on the current Juventus roster.

Arthur came in via swap and a massive price tag that, despite being more about book cooking than his actual potential value to the club, gave him some expectations amongst the fanbase. To a lesser extent, Kulusevski also came in with a very high price tag and has failed to deliver given the hopes that the board had on him and continues to be the subject of transfer rumors galore. And De Sciglio is an injury prone, mediocre player that has managed to hang on to a spot on the team for far longer than he has any right of doing.

Yet, all three of them had key roles in Juve’s biggest comeback of the season because sometimes football is funny like that. De Sciglio and Kulusevski both got on the scoresheet and Arthur was shockingly competent as a complement to Locatelli and helped see the game through.

I’m still bullish on sending De Sciglio packing as fast as possible and Arthur and Kulusevski are as good as gone if a decent offer arrives as far as I’m concerned. However, it’s impossible to not at least give them their dues in helping the team on this one.

Will this game be a sign of things to come? No, if history tells us anything, but who knows, weirder things have happened.

Winner: Alvaro Morata

After being the subject of many transfer rumors throughout the last couple of weeks, Morata came on in the second half and almost immediately served up a gorgeous assist to Locatelli to get the comeback started.

We know a lot of things now about Morata as a player. He is streaky, he is often caught offsides perhaps more than a top tier striker should, his form can be disrupted by off-the-field situations and he enjoys wearing hair product in copious amounts. This is all known.

Maybe it has something to do with all of those known facts that, according to numerous reports, Max Allegri had a meeting with him to assure his spot for the rest of the year and as soon as the transfer rumors died down he had one of his better performances as of late?

I’m not a student of the human condition, but if we are getting more of this Morata moving forward, assure him as much as it is needed, Max.

Loser: Federico Chiesa

In general, you never want to see a player being helped off the field in that kind of manner.

But you definitely not want to see a guy going off the field after a non-contact play in which they just crumple to the floor after turning too quick.

When first writing this, we still didn’t know the severity of Chiesa’s first-half injury with some outlets reporting the injury as a knee sprain and others as an ACL tear that would guarantee that Chiesa’s season is over and would perhaps even put in risk his participation for the beginning of next season. We know now that Chiesa will be out for the rest of the season after scans revealed that the Italian winger suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.

As Juve fans, we know how devastating an ACL injury can be. Beloved Juve favorite Claudio Marchisio was never quite the same after his own ACL tear, and while Chiesa is a lot younger than Marchisio was when he sustained his injury, one can’t help but be concerned about his future.

Juve’s season was already looking complicated, but losing a guy like Chiesa for a long period of time is definitely not helping matters.

Parting Shot of the Week

We’ve been talking about the fabled “turnaround game” in this space for what feels like two solid seasons. You know the concept, the game that is so momentous that completely shifts the narrative of the whole season and we can easily split the year between what happened before and after that match.

The biggest example I can come up with was that mythical win over Torino in the 2015-16 season that sparked one of the biggest comebacks that Juventus has ever had as they blitzed the league to win the title from way back in the table.

I will still remain confident in my take that this team is too broken, too inconsistent and unfortunately now too hurt to mount a comeback like that. One exciting match does not change that. With all that being said, if there was ever a blueprint of a turnaround game, you can do a whole worse that what we just witnessed on Rome.

See you Wednesday.