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Manu’s Grab Bag: Nadir...?

We talk another historic low, another bummer of a Sunday and how sometimes plans mean jack.

Angel Di Maria of Juventus FC leaves the pitch after being... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The literal only reason to keep watching Juventus as of late is because I have to write for this here blog.

I do not want to to tune in to their games anymore, and I especially don’t want to tune in when games are early in the morning on Sundays like the latest matchup against newly promoted Monza was this weekend. And even more so when I know that I won’t find any enjoyment from watching the game.

Playing a free downloadable game in which you control chubby nameless characters to go through a demented version of the show “Wipeout!” for 15 minutes during halftime gave me more dopamine than the last 500 minutes of Juventus football.

So, sure, Juventus sunk to a new low last weekend by losing at Monza 1-0, gifting the Serie A newcomers their first ever win in top flight football. At this point, does it really shock you?

Let’s cook.

LVP: Angel Di Maria

This award could have gone to half the team, but let’s give it to the guy who pretty much sealed the bad result in the first half by getting himself red carded.

Di Maria was just as disjointed, ineffective and — seemingly — checked out as any other guy lining up for Juventus on Sunday, but his red card was just another sign of what more and more seems like an absolute train wreck of a season for the Bianconeri.

One of the big pros of signing a guy of the stature and career of Di Maria was the veteran savviness that the Argentine would bring to a team in a renewal process. This is a guy who has won pretty much everything there is to win at club and national team level and has played more big games than almost any player on Juventus’ roster. We openly speculated about him being a mentor for Matias Soule and the other young, up-and-coming players that Juve has.

To summarize, this is a guy who you do not expect to be throwing careless elbows around and getting himself red carded in the first half.

But this is what the club is at the moment. Seeing veterans making rookie mistakes is just one more thing that seems to be on deck for a Juventus squad that just can’t help to do the wrong thing at every juncture.

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

Leadership Vacuum

There is numerous problems currently ailing the club, but one that seems to be more and more apparent is a lack of leadership within the locker room.

We saw it when one mistake discombobulated the entire team against Salernitana. And again when hosting Benfica as they lost control of the game and could never get it back.

Sure, Leo Bonucci is the captain of this team on paper, but outside of some weird tough guy posturing in the Benfica game and forcing the team to endure a masochistic exercise in public abuse by fans, is he really a guy that the team looks to in crunch time?

(Can we talk about those two moments of self-abuse? What is the purpose of that other than provide the fans with some sense of catharsis? Which, I guess is not nothing, but what is the team getting from that? Bizarre all around.)

Back in 2015 when Juventus had a start to forget that saw them as low as 12th place on Matchday 10, there were a myriad of leaders that in a lot of ways ignited that comeback. With words, sure, but also with high level of play on the field. Gone are the Gianluigi Buffons and Giorgio Chiellinis of this locker room. The players who rotate through the captain armband these days mostly do it out of seniority at the club, and while we don’t know exactly what goes down in the locker room, it’s undeniable that this team is extremely susceptible to breaking down in the middle of games with no way of crawling back into them.

Some of that’s on the coach, sure, but the players also have to start taking some accountability for the mess the club finds itself in. And some minutes of public mea culpa posturing will only go so far.

Meaningless Project

A couple years ago, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, my home country of Mexico — as the world at large — was struggling to curve the effects of the deadly disease.

Part of the Mexican government’s strategy was to implement a formula to calculate the curve of infections. The details of the formula were always muddy at best, but it was in essence a number that would let people know if we were at a point of crisis or not in terms of hospital occupation. Test kits were almost impossible to come by and the government either didn’t have the money or the interest to acquire them so the formula was all we had.

The minister of health at the time would jump on morning TV every day and tell us how we’re definitely doing OK and how we hadn’t reached the point of crisis. Yet, one look at social media or any other media outlet would have story over story about hospitals being overcrowded, people being turned away, a lack of oxygen tanks and even morgues being overrun.

All the while, the government was assuring us everything was under control because the formula said that we were all good. Defenders of the stupid formula would just say over and over again that “Hey! There a method to it! If it says everything is fine, then everything is fine!”

And maybe at some point that thing made sense, but once it became abundantly clear that the reality is different than whatever the formula is throwing out, you have to change it because the results are meaningless at that point.

This current thing with Max Allegri and Juventus is sure starting to feel the same way. You can say all you want that you have a project, but what if that project is crashing and burning? What if the project is clearly not giving the right results?

Do you just stick to the plan even if every other piece of evidence is pointing towards it not working? Just for the sake of a “project”? Do you make a change just for making a change’s sake? I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to know exactly what the team should do.

I’m sure Allegri and his staff legitimately believe that they can turn it around. Maybe they still have allies in the front office. And who knows, it’s a long season, weirder things have happened and maybe the financial ramifications are so bad that they have to just bite the bullet and stick it out.

Whatever happens, it’s clear at this point that the project is not working. No matter how many words they use to dress it up, everyone can clearly see that.

Parting Shot of the Week

The good news about this game is that it's the last one we have to see from Juventus in a while, with the Bianconeri coming back until Oct. 2 against Bologna.

International breaks are usually a bore, but considering that Juventus currently can’t do anything right, maybe this one is not that ill timed. And, hey, if the team does decide to make a change, what better moment than a two-week break, huh?

See you in October.