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Manu’s Grab Bag: More efficient than beautiful

We talk another injury, new guy settling in and a better start than it looks.


Coming out of last weekend’s game against Roma, there’s an argument to be made that Juventus played a better match than the final score indicated. Then again, sometimes the opposite happens and Juventus plays a significantly worse game than their final 2-0 scoreline over Spezia on Wednesday night.

It was the type of performance we have been accustomed to watching as Juve fans for two or three years now — there was nothing particularly great about them with large stretches of play that leaves you scratching your head.

It was what it was, but at the very least, three points are better than one or none. In this early part of the 2022-23 season, I’ll take that.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Dusan Vlahovic

In less than a full year as a Juve player, Dusan Vlahovic already has more free kick goals than Cristiano Ronaldo did in three years.

Fine ... FINE. That was cheap and unwarranted, but goddamn, how fun is it to have a reliable set piece weapon once again?

(Low key, even my beloved Paulo Dybala lost some effectiveness in his last couple of years.)

After shocking everyone with his beauty of a free kick against Roma last weekend, Vlahovic followed it up with an even cleaner take to open the score up for Juventus. Again, the goal is going to be the thing that most people talk about, but Vlahovic had a complete performance. He is more and more comfortable generating for his teammates and he seems to be developing an attitude to him that is frankly exciting to watch.

He’s been starved for service more often than we would like, but he’s still been finding ways to make an impact which is very encouraging in his development as a more complete striker. Quietly but consistently he’s becoming the reference point for this team, which is good to see when you shelled €80 million for a guy.

(There’s a hot take brewing in me that truly elite strikers don't need constant “service” to be good. If you are only effective when you have an entire team force feeding you the football and giving you chances galore, how are you that much better than an average striker? It’s an unfinished take, but I’ll polish it.)

Runner Up: Fabio Miretti - Is he the best midfielder in the squad? Let’s actually talk about it more for a sec.

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

Winner: Fabio Miretti

OK, fine, maybe not the best, but at least the most in-form. The guy has got less starts under his belt than hairs on his face, but there is literally zero reason for this guy not to continue to start as he had another extremely impressive performance in his second start this year.

He’s not a perfect player — he had a shockingly low effectiveness in his passing completion — but he brings something to this midfield that nobody else does. In his limited minutes has already shown to be a significantly more dynamic partner to Adrien Rabiot in the midfield than any of the other players who had manned the role.

(Rabiot quietly looked decent and, at this point, I will die on Rabiot Island, but with the better midfield around him it’s not unreasonable to suggest he could improve and have a decent season.)

His minutes are going to be threatened due to the recent incorporation of Leandro Paredes — a signing that, according to Max Allegri’s comments, should liberate Manuel Locatteli to play a more offensive role — and the shuffling of positions and playing time that the signing entails. However, with the shortened schedule and the almost assured injuries that are going to be occurring Miretti should still find plenty of playing time.

Squad Complete

After many weeks of speculation, Argentinian International Leandro Paredes finally completed his move to Juventus and was immediately chauffeured to the stadium for a pretty nice presentation in front of the home fans.

I know Paredes is not the most exciting name in the world, but he comes in with a perfect profile for what Juventus needs at the moment. If you want to sell yourself on whatever it is that Juventus is building, may I redirect you to the bottom right image on that tweet?

A potential midfield of Paredes, Paul Pogba and Manuel Locatelli is honestly a pretty good unit with potential to be great. Paredes has taken some flack because of his injury concerns and because we were all hoping that Nicolo Rovella would be finally given a shot, but he is no slouch and he immediately becomes the best center midfielder in the team.

I’m cautiously optimistic and, hey, speaking of another underwhelming guy that might turn out to be a decent addition.

Winner: Arkadiusz Milik

Count me in as one of the many Juve faithful that was legitimately upset that Juventus ended up singing Milik over presumed target Memphis Depay when the signing was announced a week or so ago.

And look, I know Depay did not sign more due to his insane wage demands than Juve “preferring” one guy over the other, but of the two it was clear who had the most potential and who was inherently more exciting.

Still, that is not Milik’s fault and once the dust settled — and in very few minutes — Milik already has a goal as a Juve player with his sealing score in the dying minutes of the match against Spezia.

With him — as with almost anything — it is all about your expectations. Milik is not a 20-plus goal scorer or a dude who is singlehandedly going to elevate the level of this team, but he is a very capable striker who will get starts here and there with some substitute appearances for the most part. That’s not a bad guy to have and if you judge by his textbook form in finishing up that scoring opportunity, he seems a lot more of a sure bet than Moise Kean or the departed Alvaro Morata to man that second striker role.

Parting Shot of the Week

I know it's almost a meme at this point and we have not faced the stiffest opposition, but that’s three clean sheets in four games and only one goal allowed to start the season. There’s a lot of bad stuff still going on with this squad, but there is also reasons to be mildly optimistic if we still have the disposition for that.

With the transfer season done and at least a squad that on paper could make some sense if deployed correctly, I’ll allow myself to hope for a better year than last. And, hey, we already have a better start than last year, so, improvement?

See you Saturday.