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Manu’s Grab Bag: Lukewarm

We talk coming out flat, more wasted chances and the injury crisis.

Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus Fc looks on during the Serie A... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: In a game that Juventus needed to win badly, the Bianconeri came out flat and uninspired and dropped points to a team they should probably beat.

It seems like we have been hearing a similar story for a couple of seasons now, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating as Juventus drew the second Derby della Mole of the season against Torino 1-1 on Sunday night.

Granted a rash of injuries happening to some key players before and during the matchup didn't help matters but even so, this wasn’t a game that you could write home about in any way shape or form.

Let’s cook.

Defensive Player of the Week: Matthijs de Ligt

It’s back-to-back points for the Dutch international as he authored another masterful performance for Juventus and was one of the few Juventus bright spots in this game,

De Ligt has always been good, but ever since the calendar turned to 2022 he has bared more and more of the defensive responsibility and has blossomed into what many people expected from his since Day 1. He’s truly an elite center back.

Against Torino — and after the pre-game injury to Daniele Rugani — he was the only healthy natural center back left on the team and he held that position with aplomb. He scored the only goal of the match for Juventus with a towering header and he very much remains one of those players that leaves you in awe when he’s on and he was very much on Saturday.

For the love of everything that matters, do not sell this man.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Paulo Dybala (15 Points)

Full Capacity at J Medical

Sure, why not get a ton of injuries with the Champions League Round of 16 right around the corner?

Rugani, Luca Pellegrini and Paulo Dybala all left the game with injuries at one point in time. Add to that the already-injured Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi, and Juventus will struggle to field anything close to a full-strength lineup on Tuesday.

It truly is bizarre that we are sitting here mourning an injury to Rugani. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. But like we've mentioned before, Rugani has been more than adequate when he’s been asked to play heavy minutes and the fact that he’s out means that de Ligt will continue to be the lone healthy center back for Juventus.

(Reports indicate that Danilo will pair with de Ligt against Villarreal, and while Danilo has shown to be pretty decent in that position, you only need to look at what Alex Sandro did on Saturday to be kind of queasy about the Juve defense come Tuesday. Sandro was good for most of the time ... except when he lost track of Andrea Belotti to give up the goal. That’s what you get when you have a fullback playing as center back.)

Dybala’s injury is a non-serious one, but he will still miss the match and given how Juventus has struggled to operate offensively, I can’t imagine losing one of your most talented offensive players is going to help matters.

All in all, Juventus lost a whole lot more than just two points this weekend.

Loser: Dusan Vlahovic

Well, that was a short honeymoon period, huh?

I’m kidding — mostly — since Vlahovic is still a great signing and he will undoubtedly continue to grow and score goals for Juventus. One bad game does not change that.

But since this Grab Bag is about that one game, we have to talk about how completely erased from the game Juve’s new No. 7 was.

Gleison Bremer — Torino’s center back extraordinaire — man marked the hell out of the big Serbian during his entire time on the pitch. He completely disappeared as he was without much service and whenever he did get the ball he could do very little with it.

It was a display that reminded me of peak Chiellini making the likes of Romelu Lukaku or Zlatan Ibrahimovic non-factors whenever he was assigned to defend them. A truly great display from the Brazilian defender and a disappointing showing for Vlahovic in his first Derby.

He’ll bounce back, I’m sure, but this is one of those games that I’m sure he will try to forget as soon as possible.

Loser: Max Allegri

Remember when Miralem Pjanic was signed back in the day?

The former Roma player was coming off a 10-goal, 12-assist campaign and was a someone that many people expected would play a more offensively-inclined role to continue his goal scoring ways.

Yet, almost immediately, Allegri turned him into a full-time holding midfielder and in time that season he was part of a double pivot with Sami Khedira that worked great until it didn't.

To Allegri’s credit, Panic was a supremely gifted passer who had the vision and skills to adequately perform in that role. With no other player in the squad that could reasonably do that work, it made sense to take advantage of Pjanic’s skills in that matter.

A similar situation has happened with Manuel Locatelli ever since he signed with Juventus this past summer. Locatelli is also a very gifted passer and can surely play in front of the defense, but some of his best performances have come when he has the space and freedom to play a more offensively inclined role, not unlike Pjanic.

Yet, just as with Pjanic, there was nobody else who could play that role when the season started and to his credit Locatelli performed pretty admirably.

However, with the recent signing of Denis Zakaria, a true-to-form defensive midfielder it was expected that Locatelli could finally start playing higher up the pitch, yet that transition hasn’t happened as Zakaria is the one who’s playing the more advanced role with Locatelli still manning the traditional No. 5 spot.

Neither of them are bad in their current positions — they are talented players and they are making it work. But it feels like a disservice to both of them to have them play in a role that is not the one that suits them the absolute best. I defend Allegri more than most people, but this feels to me like a natural change to make in the squad and one that I cannot for the life of me understand why it's not being made.

Parting Shot of the Week

Thanks to results elsewhere in the league, this draw wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be and it surely depends on your outlook in life if this is a good or a bad thing.

It’s bad because it’s a wasted chance to catch up to the top of the table and put some distance between them and Atalanta for the Champions League spots. It’s good because at the end of the day it didn’t come back to bite them in the ass and given all the injuries its not a horrible result after all.

Either way, Juventus now face a Villarreal side on Tuesday who I’m sure is licking their chops looking at the severely undermanned Juve backline and who has to feel confident about getting a positive result at home.

Here we go again, fellas.

See you Tuesday.