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Manu’s Grab Bag: All flash, no substance

We talk about fourth kits, the makeshift midfield and , yet another, ref show.

Juventus v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/vi/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

It’s never great when the best moment of the day happened before the game even started, right?

Despite all the good vibes generated by the return of one of Juventus’ all-time greats, the current Juventus squad barely managed to get a 1-1 draw against a Bologna side that has fought in the lower part of the table for pretty much the entire 2021-22 season.

It was more of the same of what we’ve seen from this Juventus team. Depleted by injuries, they were frustratingly ineffective and in general a bore to watch. You can put them in any colors or designer kits — they are still the same team.

Let’s cook.

Offensive/Defensive Player of the Week: Adrien Rabiot

Shocking, I know, but nobody played great and, all things considered, I want to give a small shoutout to a guy that has quietly but surely been playing better as of late.

He lined up as the only true midfielder as he paired up with Juan Cuadrado and Danilo, and while he didn't necessarily lift the whole unit up, it was noticeable that he was indeed the only guy playing his natural formation.

At this point, it is almost a meme to make fun of Rabiot, but when lining up as a box-to-box midfielder he has rarely been disastrous this season. I know that is not the highest bar to clear but he has been healthy and mostly not awful. Given Juve’s current midfield — and overall — situation that is not nothing.

Rabiot is going to present an interesting case come the summer. He is, at worst, a useful player that can sometimes play pretty well, and that’s a valuable player to have on the squad, but not at his current wages. Given all the rumored potential reinforcements in the midfield, I wouldn’t be shocked if the guy is sold for funds, but out of all the guys making a case for his Juve career, I’d argue he’s one of the ones making a better case than anyone.

Grab Bag Season MVP Leader: Paulo Dybala (17 Points)

The Fourth Kit Curse

I don't particularly dislike special edition kits. Once you accept that clubs need to squeeze every single available penny out of their fans, fourth kits are only the logical endgame. Hell, outside of having home and away kits, you can argue that everything else is completely unnecessary and only created with the sole purpose of selling more merchandise.

(Perhaps the biggest culprit is not even the fourth kits but the anthem jackets. They wear them for no more than 10 minutes and then they sell them for something like a 100 bucks. Do I own one? Of course I do, but that’s not the point.)

And I didn't even hate this particular fourth kit! Sure, they had nothing to do with the colors of the club, but isn't that kind of the point of a “special edition”? They brought in Brazilian designer Eduardo Kobra and he pulled off a cool-looking design in his trademark geometric patterns. It was a first-round draft pick in the “this was designed more for casual wear than on the field look” category.

I understand that as with everything that relates to fashion, people’s taste differ. I thought it was sharp, some might think it was awful, its all part of the game. But what truly worries me is the less than ideal record of Juventus while wearing their recent special edition kits.

Going back to the time they wore their 120th anniversary joints — by far the best ones of the bunch — these is their record:

  • 2017 - 120th Anniversary Kit: A comeback win over Benevento at home in which they just got tired of missing chances. The best performance and the best kit, it was all downhill from here.
  • 2019 - Palace Collaboration: Squeaked by over Genoa with an extremely shaky PK goal going their way late in the game.
  • 2020 - Humanrace Collaboration: Ugly draw against Hellas Verona in which the dearly departed Dejan Kulusevski was the sole bright spot.
  • 2022 - Kobra Collaboration: This Saturday, extremely ugly draw against Bologna.

All in all, they haven't pulled off a convincing performance in every single match they’ve used their one off kits and while the kits themselves vary in terms of design, I think overall the results on the pitch have been discouraging.

(We now have a Stadium Name Curse and a Fourth Kit Curse. This is me coping with having to root for this team the last few years.)

VAR Controversy of the Week

We had another massive REF SHOW on display this week. This time it was courtesy of Juan Luca Saachi, as after having a relatively composed game he absolutely lost it in the last few moments of the match.

After a clear foul on Alvaro Morata by Adama Soumaoro, Saachi went to VAR seemingly to determine whether the foul was inside the box — which it was — this would have turned it into a pretty straightforward PK being awarded to Juve and a yellow for Soumaoro.

What Sacchi determined was some sort of split the difference decision as he red carded Soumaoro but couldn’t award the PK because of the double jeopardy rule in which you can only call either a PK or a red card but not both. This was dumb enough, until noted calm and collected veteran Gary Medel lost every single one of available marbles and went at Sacchi.

Reports claim that it was because he thought that Sacchi had called for both a PK and a red card. Can’t confirm this for sure but what I can confirm is that I had never before seen a guy get double yellow carded as quickly as Medel was. I cannot stress enough how ready to throw hands with Saachi that Medel was, it was truly something to behold.

In the end, Medel’s hot-headedness arguably cost Bologna the game as Juventus took advantage of having two more players on the field and scored the equalizer. The best refs are the ones that you don't even notice are there and I have unfortunately done a whole lot of googling late to figure out the name of these guys.

Parting Shot of the Week

Juve have a quick turnaround against Fiorentina midweek in their second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. At this point, I don’t think Juventus should be favored against anybody and it wouldn’t shock me to see them either come out and put forth a convincing performance to get the ticket to the final or to get blasted by an in form Viola.

I joke a lot about the Coppa Italia, but in a year in which Juventus looks dangerously close to having more special edition kits than trophies, this game suddenly is looking mighty important.

See you Wednesday.