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Manu’s Summer Grab Bag: Two kinds of happiness

The dog days of summer are nearing a close and the mood in Juventus land is as bleak as ever.

Chelsea FC v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Your boy is getting a dog.

I’ve been living in the new apartment for a month now and while there are still a few things missing here and there — mostly decorative — it sure feels like the move is finally complete. And because of that, the very next logical step is, obviously, to get a dog.

This is something me and the Girlfriend have discussed for a long while now. We both love dogs, and while she already had a dog living in her childhood home — a crazy, misbehaved, chubby pug named Bilbo — I haven’t owned one since I was in junior high school.

Back then, my parents got my brother and me a schnauzer that we named Sparky, due to reasons I can’t remember anymore. The main reason for the dog coming into our lives was because my brother was extremely shy and introverted at the time and a child psychologist recommended that getting a dog would be a positive experience for his social development. My brother eventually grew out of his shyness — undecided if it was due to the positive influence of the dog — but what I remember the most about having Sparky in our lives was how — for whatever reason — big of a dick he was to my mom.

She was never much of a dog person in the first place, but sweet, prick Sparky did himself no favors. My mom was obsessive about her roses, which she tended to and cared for to a fastidious degree. Sparky, however, loved nothing more than to destroy her rose bushes for sport. It didn’t matter that my mom tried to fence them with chicken wire or put chemicals designed to scare dogs away from them, the minute she was not looking was when the speedy schnauzer made a beeline towards them to tear them to shreds.

Did he hurt himself with the thorns? He did.

Did it matter to him? Not one iota.

Another recurrent battle was where Sparky relieved himself. As any alpha male dog — which he very much thought himself of as — he felt that our house was his kingdom so he loved to do his animal necessities right in front of the main entrance to our house. This annoyed my mother to no end and another war of attrition brewed from this difference in opinion. She yelled at him to not go there. Sparky did not care. She screamed and slapped a newspaper around, but he would only move momentarily and go back when she was gone.

A particularly memorable episode came when she put ground black pepper in the usual place he sniffed around before doing what he needed to do. The idea was that the shock of the pepper would scare him off for good. Poor dog almost coughed up a lung when he aspirated what was probably a not inconsequential amount of pepper but once he got a hold of himself — and in a tremendous display of resilience — marched right back to the top of our doorstep and pissed with remarkable resolve. My mother swears to this day he did so while staring at her through our glass door.

We were awful teenagers and didn’t really take the poor dog on walks or played with him or anything. My mom was sick of fighting with Sparky and when a longtime patient of hers — she’s a therapist — showed good chemistry with the dog while visiting our house she offered him to her and her family. I regret it now, but at the time it didn’t feel like a big deal to give away the dog to a family that probably would take better care of him.

I want to believe I will be a much better dog owner now than I was back when I was 12. She’s an adorable mutt that we have already named Cane — because of the fast food franchise we tried while in Las Vegas, I’ll get to that in next week’s Grab Bag — and we will pick her up right when this article runs.

Let’s all hope we don’t have to pull out the black pepper at any point in time.

Let’s cook.

J Medical Up and Running

Not one game into the actual season and all the optimism that some of us were feeling for this season has washed away.

We all knew the Paul Pogba signing was a risk because of his recent history of injuries. Nobody walked blind into this, but man, one preseason game in? We are still waiting to hear on the final official prognosis of how bad the injury will end up being, but considering the best-case scenario is looking like potentially a couple of months this is fairly close to the worst-case scenario for the marquee signing of the summer for Juventus.

On the very same preseason tour, Weston McKennie also got injured, suffering a shoulder dislocation that while much less serious that Pogba’s injury will still keep him away for around a month. That’s already two of Juve’s top midfielders down and suddenly the unit that seemed to be much improved is now back to bare bones and Adrien Rabiot.

Maybe hold on to your youngsters, Juve, because if things keep going the way they are you are going to need the depth sooner rather than later.

Danger Zone

Last time we talked about the fullback room for Juve was a couple of weeks ago when the Andrea Cambiaso signing was first rumored to be happening, this is what I wrote about it at the time:

While the reported signing of Andrea Cambiaso from Genoa doesn’t necessarily fix everything, at the very least is putting another body into a unit that was remarkably thin. Cambiaso was a regular for the relegated Genoa side last season, accumulating 25 appearances in Serie A with one goal and four assists to his name. Do you find that underwhelming? Kind of! To be honest, I didn’t have the Italian fullback on my wish list of signings, but a warm body is a warm body and given that Inter was allegedly also after the youngster maybe there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the rumored newest signing for Juventus.

Every single sentence in that remains true, only that it was done before Cambiaso signed and was immediately loaned to Bologna. And look, this is not entirely uncommon for Juventus, it’s a usual complaint amongst Bianconeri faithful the very few chances youth players get in the senior squad.

While I still don't think the young Italian was going to be surefire starter or even a solution to the whole fullback issue, he was at least going to be there, at least give them some minutes. With Cambiaso off the table we are back to paper thin depth and just not very good players.

If the U.S. tour proved something is how the left back position is arguably the weakest unit in the whole team. Alex Sandro is 100% cooked, he can still play against some lesser Serie A competition, but he can no longer be starting against top tier teams as evidenced by his complete demolition against a world class level winger like Ousmane Dembele against FC Barcelona.

Luca Pellegrini seems like he will stick around and I like him more than most, but it’d be crazy to suggest he is right now a consistently above average fullback.

The right back slot is looking better, but not by much! Danilo is solid and the only player that could arguably make the list of top five in his position in Serie A. Juan Cuadrado, to his credit, has improved tremendously since he started playing some spot starts as a fullback a few years ago but he still remains a much more productive player when set up in the wings. And Mattia De Sciglio is here as well.

So to recap: It’s five players, only one of which is actually good, a converted winger, a washed former great, a decent youngster and a useless waste of space. This is without accounting for any injuries — that will absolutely happen — or lack of depth in other positions that maybe even leads to their only good fullback playing centrally as we saw Max Allegri tinker with in the U.S. tour.

This is a real problem. This is going to be the cause of a lot headaches and a lot of dropped points. If there are no changes here — and it seems like there won't be — we will be sitting here plenty of times during the season ruing how we lost this or that game because any above average winger had their way with our fullback line. If Juventus fails to win any silverware for a second year running I can almost guarantee you that a large share of that will be on this major weakness that the club seems for whatever reason content with.

Help (still) Wanted

While Juventus ignores the huge leak in their hull known as “Mattia De Sciglio is your failsafe plan in defense” most of the recent transfer rumors have been centered around bringing one more attacking player to round up Juve’s attack.

With Federico Chiesa coming back slowly and not expected to play heavy minutes until the new year, this sort of makes sense. Moise Kean has showed flashes of his old self, but with Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala gone there is a space to be filled out.

Of the most common names we have been hearing is a third comeback from old friend Alvaro, which is absolutely hilarious to me. I don’t think it’s happening and we already know everything there is to know about good old Morata, so let’s talk a bit more about the other options.

In the “Premier League Flops” category we have Timo Werner and Anthony Martial. They are both fairly similar in age and in the fact that both failed to live up to their hype in their respective clubs. They are also sort of the Swiss Army knife type of striker that Allegri seems to be looking for — a guy that is technically a central striker but can play on the wings in a pinch.

I’m lukewarm on both of these potential signings — especially because I’m sure that they’d come with massive wages attached to them — but if I had to make a choice I’d go with the German international. While his stint at Chelsea has been pretty underwhelming — some might say disastrous — he wouldn’t be the first nor the last big money signing to never quite find his groove in a Premier League environment. And while Martial had some decent years in the EPL, they never even came close to what Werner accomplished in the Bundesliga at his peak. Werner in the 2019-20 season was a beast, scoring over 30 goals and tallying double-digit assists numbers as well.

(I’d even argue his first season with Chelsea wasn’t a huge flop — 12 goals and 15 assists is probably not what they were looking for after shelling out €53 million, but its far from a total catastrophe.)

If you have to bet on a guy that didn’t pan out, I’d bet on the guy who has the better track record of success and that is Timo Werner.

Giacomo Raspadori is the other big name being linked to Juventus, and he’s probably the sentimental favorite with the Juventus faithful and with good reason. He’s another shapeshifter striker who just authored an impressive season at Sassuolo, with 10 goals and six assists. And most importantly, he is someone who has been heavily linked to Napoli recently, so getting him is also a blow against one of your biggest title rivals.

He’s also young and Italian which always makes a player more desirable for Juventus. With all that being said, Raspadori is by and large the most unproven of all the players mentioned and the one that would undoubtedly require the largest outlay of cash.

With the transfer season soon approaching to an end and a team that still feels very much in flux and with huge gaps to fill, Juventus needs to be as assertive as possible. They showed they can do it when they hijacked the Bremer signing from Inter, let’s hope we can see some more of that sooner rather than later.

Parting Shot of The Week

To wrap up this week, I want to ask you all again to please follow us on our brand new Instagram account @bwrao_sbn. We posted a lot of cool stuff there from our week in Vegas, but we want to keep building on it and bring you more and different content on it as the season gets underway.

There’s still a few more stray thoughts left in the chamber regarding that Vegas trip, but we are running close to 2,000 words and I need to find something more to say than “Hey, our fullbacks remain awful!” for next week’s Grab Bag.

As always, thanks for reading.

See you next week.