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Manu’s Summer Grab Bag: Slow Animals

The summer break cannot and will not stop the takes from being delivered.

Juventus v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

In the three years I’ve been a regular writer in this here blog, the Grab Bag has gone through changes from its original format. It started as an almost copycat of the work that friend of the blog Hunter did with his pieces after the games.

(Which makes sense given I only got the gig because Hunter stepped down at the time.)

Then — and if I’m being honest because it made it easier to write — it became a straightforward winners and losers column. A format — gimmick? — I straight up lifted from similar columns running in pretty much any sports blog you can find on the internet. I’d never really written that much or that consistently before, so to have a structure allowed me to just fill in the gaps to keep cranking the blogs out.

(I remember during this period that the hardest thing was just to get anything on the article, a couple times I couldn’t even crank out more than 900 words, and that was just barely.)

That format also had the advantage of putting the focus almost squarely on the game and nothing else. Like I said, I’d never put so much stuff out there before in my life and I sure as hell never done so for an actual audience. It’s easy to crank out dumb-ass blogs about yourself when nobody is reading them, and it was really easy to just stop whenever you don't feel like doing it which is why there are at least three or four defunct personal blogs out there on the internet that I started and never really kept up with.

But as I got used to the volume of writing and became more confident in what I was doing and finding my voice the articles started to get easier to write, I allowed myself a bit more freedom in the structure and the writing became more in tune with my personality. Then I started putting my actual, real name on the articles because I felt that they were at the very least average, so no reason to hide behind a pseudonym anymore.

(The entire reason these pieces are called Manu’s Grab Bag is because my first handle was Manu C, which is shorthand for my second name and the initial of my second last name. Yes, in Mexico it is fairly common to have two first names and two last names.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I think the Grab Bags are high literature. Most of them are fine — if that — and sometimes I stumble upon a really great piece of sports writing and read back some of my better stuff and it gets very humbling, very quick. But, at this point, it’s not really about being the best; it’s that I’m comfortable — sometimes even proud — with the work I’m putting out there. And isn’t that the goal for most of what we do in life, really?

With all of that in mind, the Grab Bag will have another tweak in the summer as it honors its titular name and becomes an actual, honest to god Grab Bag. I’m talking transfer rumors, hot takes, personal anecdotes, everything under the sun. It’s all in an attempt to keep the content mill churning, because the SB Nation lights don’t keep themselves on by accident.

And, yes, I know most of you heathens will most likely use these pieces to start OT comment threads, but still, whenever you are not writing about whatever friendly is currently going at the moment the piece goes live I’d like to hear from you, so if you have any questions we will put some of them in the Summer Grab Bag’s as well.

And, hey, would you look at that? We are at 600 words already. Chess, not checkers baby.

Let’s cook.

Pogback On Hold

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Juventus is taking its sweet time to close out a deal with a player. All the reliable sources are still reporting that the deal is only a matter of time but, hey, that Paulo Dybala renewal was also supposed to be a matter of time and last time I checked Dybala is no longer a Juventus player.

Call me an optimist, but if I had to put my money on it I still think Pogba ends up coming back to the club where he saw his best playing days. True, he will earn less than he did at Manchester United but he will still be one of the highest paid players at the club and something tells me that maybe he learned that money isn’t the only thing that matters when signing for a club after his English comeback was less than successful.

The real fun thing for me would be if the only reason his signing is being delayed is so he can announce it once his documentary series Pogmentary premieres on Amazon Prime later this month. Right off the bat, Pogmentary is a tremendously dumb name for this project, I love it unconditionally. I really hope Paul Pogba just adds Pog before everything he does from now. I hope that when he gets a car that it’s the Pogcar and he opens a Pogstaurant that serves nothing but Pogwhiches.

Even if it had a normal name, some people are already prepping the takes that this somehow shows or proves that Pogba doesn’t care about football and only wants fame or whatever. First off, people can care about more than one thing at a time. If he wants to drum up publicity for his show by announcing his signing on it, I have no issue with that. It’s not like he will be missing important time adapting to the club or anything. It’s the summer break. It literally does not matter if he announced his signing tomorrow or in one month’s time. Nothing’s happening at Continassa anyway, so who cares.

Second, other than having silly dance celebrations and crazy hairdos, what has Pogba done exactly to earn the label of unserious footballer? He was nothing but great with Juve and, as far as I can tell, he never really had any major scandals as a Manchester United player either.

(Google Paul Pogba Scandal and the only thing that shows up is that he maybe — key word here being maybe — did an offensive gesture when playing for France in 2016, And, well, no easy way to put this, so here we go: Pogba probably has loud sex.)

His injuries are a concern, no doubt, and they are rightfully the only reason someone might not be convinced of this singing. But while I share those concerns, there is no doubt that Pogba is capable of being a truly elite midfielder, something that we haven’t really had since Miralem Pjanic did his best Andrea Pirlo impression in 2017.

(I love Manuel Locatelli, but he’s still not at that level yet. Give him time, though.)

It’s high risk, high reward. When you had literally the worst season you’ve had in years, you have to take chances and there’s worst players to bet on.

The Noodle is Loose

Like Angel di Maria! Another guy that all the reliable sources were claiming to be a done deal and now it looks like he might end up not being a Juventus player after all. Unlike Pogba, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if the Argentine International ends up signing elsewhere.

I think he can still be an impact player here and there — didn’t the Italian national team found out just recently — but to give so much money to a 34-year-old guy who is openly jousting for a one-year deal because he wants to retire in Argentina is probably not the greatest move for a club in Juve’s current state. That’s a move you make when you feel like you’re close, when you feel like that one last impact player from the bench is going to get you over the hump. Juventus is decidedly not close to that, they haven’t even started the climb, they are currently looking at the hump and figuring out what to do to get close to it again.

Overpaying for a guy that will — at best — give you one good year of above average wing play and leave is probably not the wisest investment for a team in the midst of a squad renewal.

My Kingdom for a Fullback

Here is the list of names that are slated to play fullback for Juventus next season:

  • Luca Pellegrini
  • Danilo
  • Alex Sandro

That’s it, that’s the list. That obviously doesn’t take into account Juan Cuadrado — who could easily see some playing time there — or Mattia De Sciglio, who is technically out of contract but it’s been heavily rumored he will be coming back to the team because sometimes this Juve team seems to do things exclusively to spite me.

Even counting those guys — and Koni De Winter, if you want to throw him in there — there is not one player on that position group I’d call great. Danilo is the best of the bunch, and he is more of an above average steady hand rather than a superstar level player. So while we discuss Pogba and all the other flashier position needs, I sure hope that either Nahuel Molina or Destiny Udogie are trading their Udinese black and white stripes for Juventus black and white this summer, because it is bleak right now.

I know the midfield has been the easy punching bag around here the last few years, but looking at the depth charts, I really do think the fullback position group is weaker. You’d take Locatelli over any fullback, that’s easy, but other than Danilo is there any other player that inspires any sort of confidence there? I’d take Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot over any other non-fullback Danilo any day of the week.

Parting Shot of the Week

That’s it for the inaugural, summer break Grab Bag. We’ll keep them coming as long as there is something to talk about so mostly transfer rumors, but we’ll figure it out as we go along.

As always, thanks for reading and if you have any questions you’d like to posit to the Grab Bag they are more than welcome. Sound off in the comments and we’ll pick some.

See you next week.