In theory, I really like the idea of Super Cups — both domestic and international.
It’s a one-game winner takes all for bragging rights between the winners of cup and league competitions. Technically speaking, it should be the ultimate trophy to win, right? The one everyone wants, the one that crowns the winning team as the apex squad in their country. Or Europe, if we are talking about the UEFA Super Cup.
(Or the World, if we are talking about the Club World Cup? Isn’t that a super-sized Super Cup, after all?)
Yet, maybe because they are a relatively new invention and don't have the history of older competitions or because for a long time they were played in either a break or before the season started and therefore had a feel of a glorified friendly, Super Cups just don’t have the weight and prestige you would think.
It's a competition that derives its entire value on whether your team won it or not. If they did, it’s a meaningful trophy. If they didn’t, it’s kind of a bummer but you can easily talk yourself into feeling like it doesn’t really matter and who the hell cares about Super Cups anyway. When people talk about winning a treble, they sure as hell don’t mean the league, the league cup and the Super Cup, you know?
So, with that sentiment in mind and after Juventus’ deflating and bumbling last-second 2-1 loss against Inter in the Supercoppa final of Wednesday, it;s with great pleasure I congratulate all Inter fans for their Mickey Mouse made-up trophy win. May it gracefully rest in your shockingly empty trophy cabinets.
(Sour grapes over, let’s say one nice thing about Inter: their snake skin kits are cool. When the first mockups leaked I thought they’d look really cheesy and crappy, but credit where credit’s due, they are really sharp. Kudos.)
LVP: Alex Sandro
You know how they say it’s always best to let players go one year early than one year too late? Well, Juventus is at least a couple of years late in letting go of the artist formerly known as Alex Sandro.
Obviously, his defensive howler that gift-wrapped the winning goal to Alexis — also incredibly washed — Sanchez is going to get the headlines, and it should! It was an absolutely egregious decision to make. It's the last minute of extra time AKA not the time to get cute with it. So why on earth would you decide to try making a goddamned chest pass in your own box? Also, isn’t the entire point of playing veterans in big matches that they don't make silly, rookie, day one mistakes like that?
Either way, even if he hadn’t made that mistake, Sandro was at best a non-factor and at worst detrimental to his team. His days as a marauding offensive left back — a guy who compared to guys like Marcelo quite favorably back in his prime — were over a few years ago already, but at least he was always dependable defensively. If he’s not even going to give you that anymore, what are we doing here? What’s the upside?
I hope this performance was enough for Max Allegri to finally give the full-time reins of the left back position to youngster Luca Pellegrini. He’s already shown more than Sandro in his comparatively limited minutes, and even if he struggles some, well, it’s not like the veteran presence is looking like the most enticing player right now.
We had some good times, Sandro. But he’s one of the many players in the team that should be leaving the club as soon as possible.
Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Manuel Locatelli (11 Points)
Winner: Shorthanded Juventus
HEAR ME OUT FIRST, OK?
Yes, it wasn’t a brilliant performance. Yes, they did not light the world on fire by any means. Juventus had maybe four or five chances in 120 minutes, for the most part were defending in their own half while hoping for a counterattack and, well, they lost the game.
Still, this was a team down their two best wide players in Juan Cuadrado and Federico Chiesa, one of their starting fullbacks in Danilo and their best center back in Matthijs de Ligt.
(Also, down their starting goalkeeper, too! But, to be fair, Mattia Perin was more than acceptable in his starting shift.)
Despite fielding a patchwork and makeshift team, they went toe-to-toe with the current league leaders at full strength and outside of two ghastly mistakes by two guys that should, in an ideal world, not be getting starts anytime soon, Juventus could have won the game.
And I know, I know, that if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be a merry Christmas indeed, but on paper this team had no business being in the game and in general I think they contained Inter’s attack pretty well.
Obviously, Juventus is not and should not be in the business of feel good losses. But in a matchup that had all the potential of being a complete blowout, I feel necessary to recognize that they were well on their way to either an ugly win or at least a PK shootout. Considering all their absences, that's not the worst.
Loser: Mattia De Sciglio
Didn’t I say so? Didn’t I warn you all?
Mattia De Sciglio is not a man to be trusted and he showed why, yet again, on Wednesday night.
In a very similar case that of Alex Sandro, the whole point of having De Sciglio around is, theoretically, he's a veteran presence that at worst is a dependable, reliable player that will be adequate and not make mistakes. So what does he do? He clumsily goes for a reckless tackle from behind on Edin Dzeko on a play in which he was nowhere near getting a shot off.
My guy barreled in there like Dzeko was a mere tap-in away from scoring. And, sure, maybe he got to the ball barely earlier, but every time you make that challenge the ref is going to call it a PK. Old friend, Merih Demiral was good for one of these plays every few games, a tackle so reckless and clumsy that even if you technically got to the ball, no ref on Earth was going to be able to see that.
And you'd live with it if it was Demiral because he was young and in theory was developing, but De Sciglio, a 29-year-old Italian, is not young and he is not developing and if his ceiling is “adequate squad player” well, there’s a bunch of guys out there that can be adequate so why do we even keep him?
I’ll drive both De Sciglio and Sandro to the airport myself. Make the call, Allegri, because I’m your guy.
The Star+ Difference
As I’ve mentioned in previous Grab Bags, the Serie A broadcasting rights in Latin America are held by ESPN. Their coverage has always been pretty good. They had good, knowledgeable announcers and usually scheduled a pretty healthy mix of games featuring big and small clubs.
However, with the recent boom of streaming services, ESPN Latin America decided to put all the Serie A coverage on their nascent streaming platform Star+. I tried for months to not sign up for it, because I already pay for too many freaking streaming services and I already had the ESPN+ app — which was their previous streaming platform that came free with a cable subscription — and that worked fine and why the hell try to create something new and flashier and more cumbersome when the thing you already had worked, OK?
(It’s money, I know that, but I’m venting.)
Alas, they axed ESPN+ and there’s only so many games a man can watch on sketchy illegal streams before you start thinking that, in the large scheme of things, 7.99 bucks a month ain’t that big of a fee. Whatever ... what’s one more streaming service after all?
(You know what would be a great idea? If you could bundle up all the streaming services and maybe get a bunch of more stuff thrown in there and then you’d only pay one larger fee but get some extra content aaaaand I just came up with the concept of cable, didn’t I?)
Since their move to streaming, everything is mostly the same except for two big changes. With the app, unless you have a really good internet connection, it can get kinda laggy — which I don't love, but I can live with. The other change was that they started introducing a new set of announcers, Jorge Pietrasanta and Paco de Anda. Pietrasanta is an established play by play guy poached from big Mexican TV Broadcaster Televisa and de Anda is a former player that does color commentary.
The fun thing about listening to their broadcasts is nothing. They have that rare quality of being neither funny, interesting, captivating nor insightful. To accomplish all of that would be pretty impressive in and of itself but the fact they do it while also displaying a shocking lack of chemistry is really what sets them apart. Every time is like if these two dudes met approximately five minutes before the game started and are figuring it out as they go.
Pietrasanta specializes in consistently getting the names of the players with the ball wrong and by being at least a few seconds behind the developments on the field. He also loves to come up with nicknames and catchphrases that are either dumb, annoying or make no sense. Sometimes all three! All of this is happening while de Anda makes the least insightful analysis possible.
(Sample comment, “Juventus is defending a whole lot because Inter is attacking a lot. Simple as that.” Simple as that, indeed, my friend.)
So, why am I telling you all this to you fine folks that most likely don't know about these characters and will never know about them? First off, like I said above, venting. Second of all, I wanted to give some context as to why I was watching the game on mute. I can take 90 minutes of the equivalent of sonic waterboarding but taking their announcing into overtime was too rich for my taste.
This would be a non-story — it might already be! — but it’s important because as the game went into extra time, I also had to sign back into my office job after my lunch break. So, I was mostly glancing sporadically to the TV while working on Excel spreadsheets and having the time of my life.
You can imagine my surprise then, when in the 119th minute I looked up only to find an old timey TV like screen saying that the feed had gone out. Against my wishes, I unmuted the TV and heard Pietrasanta and de Anda, bumble their way into a makeshift explanation as of why the feed had gone out and how it was probably going to PK’s anyway and we will definitely have the feed back on for that and it was definitely not Star+ fault, no sir.
As both of them openly speculated about which team had the upper hand in a potential penalty shootout a push notification alerted me that the game was over and Juventus had lost in the final minute. This was bad enough, but out of morbid curiosity I left the stream on to see how long it would take Mexican Beavis and Butthead to realize that the game was over and acknowledge it. And, readers, it was way longer than it had any right of being. There is absolutely no reason why yours truly — for all intents and purposes, a schmuck with a cellphone — was significantly ahead of the curve in terms of knowing the end result than the two paid broadcast professionals. When they finally realized that the game was over and that their hypothetical super exciting penalty shootout was not taking place, they meekly apologized and the transmission ended.
Also, and this is neither here nor there, the feed didn’t cut for the rest of the BWRAO staff watching in the United States on CBS Sports Network or Paramount+, so it was very much a uniquely Star+ problem so they were lying about that too.
I demand accountability, Star+, and this is a public request to own up to your failures. I demand the resignation of both Pietrasanta and de Anda effective immediately as atonement for your sins. If you don’t comply, the consequences will be harsh or a few strongly worded tweets. Either or.
Parting Shot of the Week
Because much like life, the Juventus schedule is not giving anybody any break whatsoever, the Bianconeri have a game against Udinese only three days after playing 120 minutes with a remarkably shorthanded squad.
At least the guys serving their suspensions will be back and with any luck they can present a more complete team forth on Saturday.
Juventus mounted an inspiring comeback last Sunday and lost in a deflating last minute game on Wednesday. I’d be more than OK with a boring inconsequential win on Saturday to be honest. At least not a loss, I think I can live with that.
See you Saturday.