clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Manu’s Grab Bag: Closing Strong

We talk the Moise Kean revival, a suddenly fun Juve team and the midfield renaissance.

Italian Football Serie A - Juventus v Lazio Photo by Isabella BONOTTO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A month ago, as Juventus was getting blown out of the water against AC Milan at the San Siro, nobody could have predicted that the very same team would end the first half of the season as one of the most in form teams in Italy.

And make no mistake, that’s exactly what Juve currently is after they signed, sealed and delivered a dominant 3-0 victory over Lazio on Sunday night in their last game before the World Cup break. With the win, Juve’s sixth in a row, they are alone in third place in the league and will enter 2023 nipping at the heels of the aforementioned AC Milan and might even have hopes of chasing down Napoli in the second half of the season.

What a change for a squad that not even 30 days ago looked as directionless as any Juventus team in years.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Moise Kean

Speaking of turnarounds!

It’s not crazy to suggest that Kean had been one of the biggest letdowns of the Max Allegri 2.0 era. The young Italian was making his triumphant return to the team that developed him as a youngster after a pretty successful loan stint at Paris Saint-Germain and a not as great time with Everton.

However, gone was the swaggering, explosive young striker. Instead, what we got was mostly a wasteful, ineffective, insecure player who was a shell of the player that he once looked capable of being. It remained so for the entirety of the 2021-22 campaign and the first 2 12 months of this season as Kean remained part of the problem and not the solution of the Bianconeri’s mostly anemic attack.

Yet, that very same Moise Kean is now on a tear with five goals in as many matches and suddenly looking like his old self. His timing as well as his finishing look so much better, both attributes that were in display for his brace on Sunday at the Allianz Stadium.

There was zero chance Kean could finish the way he did to open the scoring against Lazio if he gets that chance in September. November Kean, however? Chipped the keeper with remarkable skill. Two months ago, Kean is probably offsides on his second goal, but November Kean was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the rebound.

Without Dusan Vlahovic, Moise Kean found just the right time to get his form back.

Runner Up: Adrien Rabiot - It took a few years, but Rabiot is finally playing like the guy they thought they were getting when Juventus signed him as a free player. He’s been arguably their most consistently good performer this season. Suddenly talks about a contract renewal are not only looking reasonable, but almost necessary.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Dusan Vlahovic (10 Points)

Winner: Max Allegri

Max Allegri should have probably been fired a month ago.

Juventus was a mid-table team and in the middle of a historically awful performance in the Champions League. There was no argument to stick with a manager with those results other than financial reasons. It was almost impossible to envision a scenario in which things could improve considering the situation that the team was marred in.

And to his credit, Allegri did the only thing he could to turn the tide: win football games. Not all of them have been pretty, but there’s no arguing with winning football, and that’s exactly what Juventus has been doing during this little run.

The defense has come alive as they’ve allowed zero goals in a month of domestic competition and they showed it once again as they shut the door on Lazio’s version of Sarriball and maintained their spot as the best unit in the league.

(Seven goals allowed in 15 games! Pretty wild when you think about it.)

With the win, Juve get another victory over a team in the top four — which is something that had been a legitimate criticism of Allegri in his second stint. They not only won, but Allegri won the coaching battle in a pretty comprehensive manner as his tactical setup was perfectly deployed to take way what Lazio does well.

This run of results by no means erases the failures that have preceded it — especially the embarrassment of their Champions League campaign — but this is probably the best run of results that the team has had under Allegri’s second stint. If the man is going to continue to lead Juventus forward, these are the type of games that he is going to need to turn the tide.

The midfield that was promised

For four or five years now, the weakest link for Juventus has been the midfield. Players came and went, but the center of the pitch remained a dark hole of incompetence that doomed every project that tried to get off the ground.

While the current unit is still far from the halcyon days of the MVPP lineup, this is as good as they have looked in a while. Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot and Nicolo Fagioli have found something that has eluded many different configurations of players before them.


The type of performance we saw from the aforementioned trio was as complete as we have seen. They neutralized the Lazio attack and were proactive and decisive at the point of attack and at getting the ball back. Juventus won this game in large part to the work of their midfield and that’s not something that we have been able to say whole lot recently.

If Juventus is to continue with the positive momentum, they are going to need these core to maintain this level of play. And for once, I have some measure of confidence that they can do so.

Parting Shot of the Week

Allow me to be the umpteenth person to say this, but goddamn, I hate these winter World Cup shenanigans.

But, hey, when you have a shot to do a World Cup in the middle of the desert in a country with a laundry list of human rights violations, you have to do it, no? Unfortunately for us, this means that we now have to wait for over 50 days to watch the suddenly rejuvenated Juventus. A month ago, I would have welcomed a break from having to follow this team, now, I’m legitimately bummed out that we don’t get to see more from them.

(Related, though not entirely so, I’m also at the lowest ever moment that I can recall regarding the Mexican national team. I have zero hope for this team. A three loss performance is not out of the question.)

Nevertheless, this is a team that now has hope. With Federico Chiesa already back — and getting assists already! — and Paul Pogba on the way as well, there is a chance that we are in for a pretty fun second half of the season. Count that as something that I did not expect to write, but here we are.

See you in January.