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Manu’s Grab Bag: Panic at the whistle

We talk that ending, VAR controversy of the week and the need for a changing of the guard.

Juventus v Salernitana - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

That was a chill, non-eventful game on a Sunday night, huh?

Just a quiet couple of hours to lead you into the new week with Juventus hosting a Salernitana side that barely avoided relegation last season.

Then again, when is it ever straightforward with Juventus these days?

After shockingly going down 2-0 in a blunder-filled first half, Juventus roared back in the second half and looked to win it at the end until, well, you know what happened. Call it another break that doesn’t go Juve’s way, but this is probably the 20th to 30th in the last couple of years, what’s one more stripe to the tiger I ask you? With the 2-2 final scoreline Juventus is now tied with a myriad of clubs at 10 points after they wasted a chance to get closer to the top of the table in Serie A.

Let’s cook.

Offensive Player of the Week: Arkadiusz Milik

Forget for a second the game-winning goal that wasn’t — we’ll get to that in a second — and the subsequent red card that will have him most likely miss the next Serie A game for Juventus. Arek Milik still had a great performance.

(Insanity that this “take off your shirt to celebrate a goal to get it disallowed afterwards” has now happened twice to Juve players in the last two seasons, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s offside’s winner against Udinese last season and Sunday’s debacle. Can Juve even appeal that red card?)

We talk a lot about players needing to have that famous attitude and grinta and what not, I think it's fair to say that Milik — despite being questioned by pretty much everyone when he was signed — has that in droves.

After being subbed out for a frankly horrendous Moise Kean, Milik changed the outlook of the game for Juventus, fighting and clawing for every ball and trying to make the most out of every chance. The man was brought in to be a sub for Dusan Vlahovic, but with every passing performance he makes the case that he can be a lot more than a rotational player.

(Kean is a lost cause at this point, huh? The few remaining residents on Kean Island are quickly sailing away and the last condos are being liquidated.)

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Dusan Vlahovic (6 Points)

VAR Controversy of the Week

OK, let’s talk about it.

Juventus got hosed. There’s really no ifs or buts about it. Despite the mistakes, despite Bremer pulling a Matthijs de Ligt with a handball call that causes a PK, despite Juan Cuadrado with his most unforgivable whiff — yet! — despite everything, Juventus should have won this game.

In real time, the offsides call is defensible in a vacuum. Leo Bonucci goes to head in Milik’s winner and in the close up he looks just about offsides. Sure, he doesn’t interfere with the play in any way shape or form and he doesn’t touch the football, either, so if you ask any person with an iota of common sense, they’d agree that it should have stood. Hell, even the Salernitana players were not motioning for an offsides.

But, fine, call it offside. That’s the rule, and no matter how dumb and completely against the spirit of the rule it goes, if that’s how its going to be reffed, then that’s how it's going to be reffed. But, then ...

I mean...

How are you so catastrophically bad at your job? How do you just not look at a wide angle? How could it be possible that every ref on that field just missed that? Isn’t the whole point of VAR to make sure that you don’t commit any egregious mistakes like that?

Twitter sleuths found that angle within minutes of the final whistle. Unconscionable to me that paid professionals could be so bad at their job, especially in a literally game changing call. This isn’t about interpretation, this is about being incompetent.

Good thing is that, as we all know, Juve gets all the calls.

Wash Cycle

There’s an argument to be made that Juan Cuadrado was the worst player on the field against Salernitana.

A disaster defensively and a non factor offensively, the Colombian continued to his struggles to begin the 2022-23 season. The big moment was obviously the defensive blunder that led to Salernitana’s opener — an indefensible defensive mistake on a routine ball that you would expect any half-decent fullback to be able to handle without much issue.

But, hey, anyone can have a blunder, right? And dear old Cuads has never been a defensive stalwart exactly. The whole point of putting up with the defensive shakiness was his offensive output. Unfortunately even that has been gone from Cuadrado’s game as of late.

The biggest indictment was late in the second half when Cuadrado was easily and cheaply dispossessed time and time again during Juve’s late surge as he tried — and failed — to make something happen. Ironically, it was one of these doomed plays that ended up at the feet of Alex Sandro, who then won the PK that tied the game for Juve.

One of the other worst performers was another Juve veteran in Leo Bonucci. Reeling from a poor performance midweek against Paris Saint-Germain, Bonucci's followed it up by once again looking like a player who is decidedly over the hill. He was once again a step too slow in general and while he was accurate with some long passes, that alone cannot be a reason to continue making him a starter.

He took and missed the PK, only to get lucky that it bounced straight to him to get on the scoresheet. And even though — as we already discussed — he wasn’t technically offsides in the controversial play to win the game, the shocking lack of awareness to try and go for that header was something you’d expect from a youngster, not a seasoned veteran.

I know the team doesn’t have a ton of depth at the moment in those positions, but there is just no reason to continue giving both of these guys minutes. They were great Juve players and will live on as great players, but their place is now on the bench, not as everyday starters.

Parting Shot of the Week.

After a relatively encouraging showing midweek, Juventus went back to being their frustrating, maddening selfs on Sunday.

This game was right there for the taking, there is no reason that it should go down to the wire against Salernitana — who to their credit played well and are better than last season — but you cannot be out there committing dumb mistakes galore like Juventus is woefully becoming used to doing. There is no reason to allow a goal, lose control of the game and look shocked for the remainder of the first half. Whether that's on the coaches, the players or — most likely — a combination of both, some of the stretches of play that this team has are inexcusable.

The second half response was exactly what they had to do, but, wouldn't it be great if the a response wasn’t needed every single time?

Great note to go off against potentially the deciding game for your European aspirations. This season will be the end of me.

See you Wednesday.