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Manu’s Grab Bag: Monday Night Football, The Sequel

We talk more dissapointment, boring football and a necessary shoutout to Lobos BUAP.

UC Sampdoria v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

You want to know what was the worst part of watching Juventus’ matchup against Sampdoria on Monday night?

It’s not the 0-0 result or the dropped points per se — though that does not help. It’s the fact that it was a 90-minute exercise in boredom. It was 90 minutes of seeing the exact same issues this team’s been having for the better part of 12 months. It was 90 minutes of waiting for a breakthrough that not only never came, but you knew it was not coming because there was nothing happening on the pitch that gave you any assurance that they were capable of getting it.

Let’s cook.

Defensive Player of the Week: Mattia Perin

Perin had exactly one noteworthy save all game, but because of that one save Juventus managed to save a point out of this debacle. Given that no other player was particularly impressive on Monday, I feel compelled to give my man his due.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it because it remains true: Perin could be starting for so many other clubs, so for Juve to be able to have the luxury to throw him out there in case of injury is something that I’d argue almost no other club in the world has. It’s also — and taking nothing away from Perin — an indictment on the level pf play shown by the club that the keeper was a standout performer against a team like Sampdoria, a squad that is not going to be competing for absolutely anything this year

(Relegation, maybe?)

Nevertheless, as Wojciech Szczesny comes back from injury, my guess is that the staff is going to be in no rush to bring him back. We all love Carlo Pinsoglio because he is a fantastic locker room presence — and to an extent that is the job of the third keeper — but so many clubs treat the second in command as just a nice guy to have for experience sake not because he is a legit player. Thankfully, Juventus did not take that approach and now reap the rewards of having a guy like Perin stepping up when called for.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Angel Di Maria (3 Points)

Black and White and Purposeless

I’ve rooted for bad teams before — almost exclusively you could argue — and the worst type of bad team is the one that makes you feel like you’re wasting your time watching them.

It’s not just about being bad, you can be bad and entertaining. That is usually because your incompetence is so vast that the performance on the field becomes unintentionally funny to watch. Or the rare — but equally entrancing — case of the team that is so swashbuckling that even in defeat they are a joy to experience.

Such was the case of the one-year wonder Lobos BUAP in Liga MX of a few years back. Representing the largest state-funded university in my hometown of Puebla, they won their promotion from the Mexican league second division playing a fast, furious and unapologetic offensive style that blitzed their opponents into submission. Center backs making runs into the box, strikers making tackles and dispossessing opponents. It was the ideal of position-less football that Andrea Pirlo tried and failed to implement in Turin. It was this style that made them overtake — albeit momentarily — Puebla FC as the favorite team in the city.

Though, perhaps, they should have compromised maybe a smidge. Teams started to figure them out and they were ok with allowing Lobos to attack all the time because they knew they were left defensively compromised. This led to tremendously entertaining 6-5 losses that eventually cost them relegation — and eventual complete disappearance because Mexican football is cartoonishly corrupt — after one season in top flight football.

I’d so much rather watch another full season of entertaining losses than to endure another second of the monument to mediocrity that the trident of Manuel Locatelli, Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot in midfield. It was the peak example of useless possession, it was 90 minutes of spiritually watching Arthur play every position on the field.

Locatelli does not have the vision nor the skill necessary to be a great central midfielder — we know this by now. It was a valiant attempt, but it’s just not happening for him. Rabiot and McKennie are two extremely similar players and do not complement each other in the slightest. What more do you need to see from them to know that playing these dudes together, in this current setup is not working and will most likely never work? How broken does your system need to be when long passes from Daniele Rugani — of all people — end up being the preferred method of offensive advancement?

I’ve defended Max Allegri more than most and while I’m still not fully in the #AllegriOut train and it’s undeniable that injuries are playing a big role in the current setup –— more on that a bit later — there has to come a point when you acknowledge that things are not working and at least make an attempt to fix them.

Allegri was lauded in the past for his chameleonic ways and adaptability. Continuing to fit a multitude of square pegs in round holes for the sake of a system — and not a particularly great or innovative one at that — is the exact opposite of what he was supposed to bring to the table as a Juve coach.

Same Old

There were literally two meaningful changes from the team that finished last season in a crawl to fourth place and the team that took the field against Sampdoria on Monday:

It’s Bremer instead of Matthijs de Ligt and Filip Kostic for Federico Bernardeschi or Paulo Dybala, depending on the formation.

Let’s be optimistic and say Bremer and de Ligt are a like for like change. Kostic is arguably better than Bernardeschi but perhaps worse than Dybala – though probably better suited to play on the wings — still let’s make the case this is a good winger instead of a below average one and a player that should have never even played on the wings in the first place.

Can you make the case this team is much better? Is the team worse?

Mind you, this comparison is against an already mediocre team — for Juve standards — that finished last season with no trophies and barely a handful of memorable performances. If we agree this team is not noticeably better, how can we expect a noticeably different result?

This can all be traced back to the two biggest signings of the offseason being hurt already in Angel Di Maria and Paul Pogba. And, to be fair, if you could have those two guys available the team would look a whole heck of a lot better. But you don’t and odds are you won’t have them for a while.

We often said that this team got bailed out by flashes of brilliance from talented players in years past — Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala or Federico Chiesa doing something otherworldly in a moment when the team needed it the most. What do you do now that two of those three guys are gone and — if reports about his Champions League unavailability are true — Chiesa will be missing for a while too?

What do you do when a team that survived — and won — thanks to sporadic sparks of talent suddenly has no more in its holster?

Blame it on poor transfers, bad injury luck or bad coaching — it’s probably a combination of all three — but Juventus remain a deeply and structurally flawed team in almost every phase of the game. And they have remained so for a few years now.

Parting Shot of the Week

It’s two games into the season and we as a Juventus community are already in panic. This is probably not a great sign for the rest of the year.

A lot of the issues that have plagued the team remain so as we look at the business end of the transfer window and while there could still be some sort of major overhaul in the works it looks like by and large the majority of the build of the squad is already in place.

If the already flawed squad that Max Allegri manages is mostly the same going into 2022-23 season it’s going to be on the coach to coax something better out of them. Last year we figured that fourth place was this team’s basement, but if we see a lot more performances like the one on Monday, maybe it was their ceiling all along.

See you Saturday.