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Manu’s Grab Bag: It’s a Young Man’s Game

We talk Fabio Miretti, the surprisingly competitive state of Serie A and the crawl to the finish.

Juventus v Venezia FC - Serie A Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

I did not wake up to watch this game.

It was happening at 5:30 a.m. and I was going to be damned if I woke up at the exact same time on a Sunday that I usually do to go to work. It just wasn’t happening. It was especially not happening because I had very little interest in watching yet another sleepwalking Juventus performance against a lower-table team. I’ve had my fill of those, I can watch a replay and highlights at a reasonable hour, thank you very much.

And for the most part, I was right, as a depleted and tired Juve managed to scrape by an almost-certainly relegated Venezia side with a 2-1 win. There really was only two bright spots in this game and we will talk about them in our awards section.

LEt’s cook.

MVP: Leo Bonucci

Sometimes things just kind of work out, huh?

Bonucci, much like Juve as a whole, has had a challenging season. Plagued by injuries, he hasn’t been able to see the pitch as much as he would like, and even when he has, the 35-year-old defender hasn’t looked all that impressive.

I didn’t want to say the W word, but he definitely looked like a washed player at times this year, and nobody could blame him if that was the case to be quite honest given how many miles he has put in the odometer during his Juventus career.

So, regardless of the fate of Bonucci in the coming months, it was nice to see him turn back the clock for a vintage performance. He had a good game defensively and, most importantly, scored twice on his birthday to secure Juve’s win.

Bonucci has been a bit of a controversial figure amongst Juve fans after his one-year affair with AC Milan, and outside of a few spells here and there, he never quite got back to the level he had before that transfer. Age certainly played a role, the revolving door of tacticians in charge of Juve probably did, too, and he was never as defensively dominant as his longtime partner in crime Giorgio Chiellini, but on this day he managed to look like his old self one more time.

Runner Up: Fabio Miretti - I mean, who else? You know what, let’s talk about the man — child? — of the hour.

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

The Kids Are Alright

Miretti has all of one (1) senior start to his name and he already has Juve fans on Twitter making detailed video analysis of his best plays on the day. The guy already has pretty much all of the Bianconeri faithful in his pocket and he hasn’t even played 90 minutes yet.

(Shoutout @NycJuventus for the actually pretty good video above.)

After having everyone clamoring for the coveted prospect to get some playing time, Max Allegri played Miretti from the jump against Venezia on Sunday afternoon — and the kid delivered a surprisingly good game. It’s always going to be tough for a young player to break into a a senior level squad, but you can usually tell when a guy is more ready than not.

Is he playing at his own speed or is he just treading water? Does he look at ease on the ball? Is he playing it safe as to minimize risk or actually trying to make something happen?

Of recent Bianconeri prospects, you can see who had something special and who didn’t almost from the get-go. Moise Kean looked like the real deal when he debuted for Juventus, not only standing his ground and handling the physicality of top flight football but showing a knack of flair and showmanship to go with it. Allegri trusted him with minutes almost immediately and he came through when given those opportunities.

(Despite him looking better as of late, the current Kean is far from that swagger-filled youngster that had every Juve fan ready to anoint him the next great thing. You never know with young guys.)

Gianluca Frabotta on the other hand? Not so much, even at his best there was not a ton more than to call him average. Almost every time he went with the safe pass and almost never imposed his will on the game.

After his display on Sunday, Miretti is a lot more on the teenaged Kean side of things than in the Frabotta one. He was never rushed and he played the smart and correct pass — not the safe one and yes, there’s a difference — almost at every turn. His background as an offensive player shone through as he delivered a number of great wighted passes and almost always looked to attack rather than just hold the ball for the sake of holding the ball or recycling possession.

(The Arthur Melo special as we call it in the biz.)

What impressed me the most was that he felt comfortable enough to take set pieces and do a pretty damn good job at it, too. Sure, this team is not currently fielding some of the better set piece takers that they have to offer, but there were still guys with seniority over Miretti. That tells me not only that the kid is talented, but he definitely feels that he belongs in the same pitch with any of the other senior level players at Juventus and it’s hard for me to disagree with him.

There’s a long way to go for Miretti to become a regular player for Juventus, but as far as an audition goes this was a pretty solid one.

The Age of Serie A Parity

When Premier League stans claim that their league is the best in the world, one of the most common arguments is the parity between their participating clubs. Any given match day and what not. The league in which people dared football greats to do it in cold, rainy nights in Stoke.

And to a degree they are right, Premier League clubs tend to have more talent top to bottom, mostly because of their insane TV rights deal that pays even a lower table team an ungodly sum of money. And its probably good that leagues have more parity, it creates more excitement and chaos on route to the league title. If the league leader can lose against a team currently fighting for relegation anything can happen, right?

Without as much of a share of spotlight on it, Serie A has low-key developed lately into such a league in which anyone can drop points against anyone and there are not so many gimme matchups. Venezia legitimately played Juve tough, and while that could be ascribed as just a symptom of the undermanned, underwhelming form Juventus is currently at you only have to look at the — now guaranteed — top four finishers and notice that every single one of them has “dropped points” against teams you would think they can beat.

  • Inter Milan drew Sampdoria, Genoa and Torino. They also lost against Bologna and barely beat the same Venezia by an identical score.
  • AC Milan drew Torino, Bologna, Udinese (Twice!) and Salernitana while losing to Spezia and Sassuolo.
  • Napoli drew Cagliari and Sassuolo and lost to Spezia and Empoli (Twice!)

We don’t have to look back at all the bad losses and draws Juve has had but you get the point. Either every top team in Serie A is actually bad — not an indefensible take considering the lackluster showings they had in European competition — or maybe we have to give some props to the proverbial minnows and their ability to get results against the best teams in the league.

I think it's a better spin zone for Italy and Serie A as a whole if we go with the version that our bad teams are better than you would think and not that we just have a crappy league all around. Glass half full, if you will.

Parting Shot of the Week

With the Champions League qualification secured — and discarding a complete and total collapse from Inter and AC Milan in the last three games remaining of the season — Juve have officially nothing to play for outside of the Coppa Italia final next week.

With a third of the team injured, the other third in serious danger of being let go in the summer and every other player who is not currently part of either one of those groups just tired as all hell you’d be forgiven if you were less than excited for the crawl to the finish we have in our sights.

And I will not try to convince you otherwise, there really is not a ton to play for, I wouldn’t blame you if you just didn’t watch the games. I know I wouldn’t, but I have to, its my job and I’m nothing if not a professional.

But you, dear reader, you don't have to put yourself through it. That’s 270 minutes of your life that you can spend doing literally anything else. Read a book, workout, binge a show, watch the entirety of of the director’s cut of “LOTR: Return of the King.” The world is your oyster.

If you really feel the need to keep tabs on your beloved Juve just check the site after the games and we will have all the reading content you crave, but there is no need to watch anymore of Federico Bernardeschi’s career in a Juve shirt, there really isn’t.

See you Friday.