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Manu’s Grab Bag: French Dispatch

We talk rebirths, a good take that ages well and European wins at last.

Juventus v Maccabi Haifa - UEFA Champions League Photo by Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


After starting their Champions League campaign with back-to-back deflating losses, the Bianconeri have finally noticed their first W of the continental season in Wednesday’s midweek action as they beat Israeli side Maccabi Haifa 3-1 at Allianz Stadium.

In what was truly a do-or-die game, Juventus played as good of a game as they seem capable of these days and got themselves some points for the first time this year in the most prestigious club competition in the world.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Adrien Rabiot

You all called me mad, crazy! But I was right! Adrien Rabiot is the best midfielder alive!

Alright, maybe not quite the best, but this was a game that showcased everything we hoped and wanted Rabiot to be when he signed for Juventus three years ago. The two goals will get all the headlines — and they were really well-taken goals, don't get me wrong — but it was his overall performance that gets him the nod here.

We have always known of Rabiot’s talent, but the problem with him has always been consistency. But, to be fair to the much-maligned Frenchman, this has been his most consistent season to date.

Granted, not every performance has been quite the highs of what we saw against Maccabi, but it’s not a stretch to suggest he’s been the most consistent performer in the midfield. Unsurprisingly, this comes in the one season that he has been deployed mostly in his preferred position as a box-to-box midfielder

The cynic in all of us probably attributes this to his pending free agency, but there’s a very reasonable argument to be made that he’s playing better just because he’s finally playing in the place that he was always meant to.

Runner Up: Angel Di Maria - Three assists! He had a game of up and downs but three assists are undeniable. Chose a pretty decent spot to have his best game as a Juve player. Pretty good example of how having quality players more often than not are going to make the difference.

Grab Bag MVP: Dusan Vlahovic (7 Points)

Absentee Fans

For what feels like a few games in a row now, the Allianz Stadium looked noticeably empty in what was a pretty meaningful game.

It’s hard to blame the faithful for their recent absences as the team has given them very little to root for in what was a literally winless month of September. But you always sort of hope that people will show up for the Champions games ... and that has not been the case against Benfica and now Maccabi.

(Is €86 too much to pay for a ticket to a Champions League matchup? That’s what I saw some tickets going for online on the secondary market, and I dunno if that is too expensive for a local to attend. Considering tickets for the upcoming matchup against AC Milan were going for over €150, I guess it’s a good deal, but hard to say if you’re not a local and/or making euro-based paychecks.)

Juventus has been uninspiring for almost a year running now, but even in that stretch the fans had remained by their side at the stadium. They better hope that recent performances reignite the missing crowds because a home field advantage only exists when there are actual people cheering you on.

Keeper Controversy...?

Bring back Mattia Perin?

Wojciech Szczesny has always been a pretty reliable keeper for the most part, but he had a pretty big role in Maccabi’s only goal of the game. Granted, getting beat so easily is not the greatest of looks for the Juve backline, but it felt to me like Woj charged of his line in a pretty reckless manner to allow a goal.

Let’s just say that when you are charging up the field and end up trying to make a save outside of your box, it’s fair to say that was a reckless challenge.

And, hey, the team won, so who cares, right? But when you have a guy that is so in-form like Perin is, it’s hard not to think if Max Allegri shouldn’t run with the hot hand, regardless of wether Woj is the entrenched starter or not.

Waste of Resources

Despite the win, a worrying trend continued for Juventus as they managed to remain a remarkably ineffective team with their chances on goal. You are never going to convert 100% of the shots you take, but this was a game that could have easily been put out of reach earlier if they had been marginally better at finishing.

Dusan Vlahovic is probably the biggest culprit as he could have had himself a brace after wasting a couple clear chances in the first half alone. But he is not alone, Moise Kean had himself a howler as well with his limited minutes.

Juventus is not generating chances galore in the best of cases and being ineffective in the few chances that they do get only accentuates the problem. This feels like a weird point to make when Juventus has just scored six goals in two games, but even with those positive results this ailment continues for the Bianconeri.

Parting Shot of the Week

Despite not getting help from the other matchup in the group, Juventus is finally on the board. The qualification still looks pretty hard — some might say impossible — at this point but they had to start somewhere.

(At worst, the three points helps them to pad the total if Juve ends up in Europa League for the first time in years.)

So far, it’s been all positive results for the beleaguered side after the International break but the relative good vibes will be tested immediately as Juventus visits Milan on Saturday to match up against the Rossoneri.

As tough of a game as they’ve had in domestic competition should be a good test to see if this team is turning a corner or if it's more of the same.

See you Saturday.