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Manu’s Grab Bag: Smash & Grab

We talk escaping with a win, the Scudetto race and Daniele Rugani being good.

AC Milan vs Juventus - Serie A Photo by Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu via Getty Images

After the absolute meltdown that the October international break brought for Juventus for (more) off-the-field shenanigans, a Sunday night visit to San Siro to face off against AC Milan was probably not the easiest of ways to welcome back football for the Bianconeri.

When you consider that Juventus was working on a five-game winless streak against Milan and that their best offensive weapons were only fit for the bench, this had all the makings of another letdown loss for Max Allegri’s squad.

Yet, thanks to a providential red card shown to Milan’s Malick Thiaw late in the first half that left them shorthanded for the majority of the game and an ever more providential deflection off a Manuel Locatelli shot, Juventus managed to escape from hostile territory with a 1-0 win.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Bremer

In a game in which Juventus focused significantly more on the defensive side of the equation rather than the offensive one, the big Brazilian center back was the standout.

Sure, there’s the caveat of Milan playing shorthanded for a little over half of the game, but the Juventus backline still held a pretty potent Milan offense to just one shot on goal — and that is in large part due to the work of Bremer, who helped shut down Oliver Giroud, Rafa Leao and company.

This was another clean sheet for Wojciech Szczesny as well as Juve, who now have the second-best defense in the league with only six goals allowed. And don’t forget that four of those goals came in the meltdown of all meltdowns against Sassuolo.

It’s very clear that if Juventus are going to accomplish anything this season, it’s going to be on the back of their defensive chops. So far, they are doing as good as they can.

Runner Up: Moise Kean - Kean gets the nod here on the strength of his game-changing move to burn Thiaw on a counter and getting him to foul the streaking Kean to avoid a 1-on-1 chance against the keeper, Antonio Mirante. For all intents and purposes, the red card changed the entire game and in large part allowed Juventus to take the win. That’s not nothing.

Winner: Daniele Rugani

Is Daniele Rugani good?

I know it’s all fun and games with the forever-prospect Rugani, but when thrown into a pretty thorny game he performed pretty well. As Danilo remains sidelined for the next couple of weeks, I feel pretty comfortable with Rugani filling in for as long as the captain is out.

That’s something that I never imagined myself saying, but ... here we are, Daniele Rugani! Good! What a world we live in.

I can’t imagine that he will challenge for starter minutes if and when the center back line is healthy again, but he is a pretty good option as a reserve. It's kind of a similar situation that of Mattia Perin in which he could very easily be starting somewhere else but remains at Juve as an overqualified reserve. Not too shabby.

Schrodinger’s Juve

Much like the famous cat and experiment, Juventus right now seems like a team that is both good and bad.

On the one hand, this is by far the best start that Juve has had in the Max Allegri 2.0 era, as they are firmly entrenched in the top three and are only two points away from the top spot in the table. As mentioned above, they have the second-best defense in the league and just beat Milan, a top title contender, in their own house.

Yet ... this is also a team that still struggles to score goals consistently, that seems unable to escape the injury bug, with off-field issues galore and, let’s face it, only beat Milan due to a relatively lucky break and playing against a shorthanded team for the whole second half.

On paper, this is a contending team. The eye test, though, pegs them more as a talented but ultimately flawed top-four contender that is still a notch below the top teams. Of course, this is all premature, with only nine games played there is still a lot of football left to be played, and it’s feasible that this team will make strides as the season goes on. You can’t get lucky for over 30 matchdays, so at the end of the day if this is indeed a team that can compete for silverware this year, it will show up eventually.

They are in the thick of it right now, and it’s going to be up to Allegri and Co. if they remain there or not.

Winner: Dean Huijsen

Sure, why not, Max?

Go ahead and throw in a teenager to see a 1-0 lead off at the freaking San Siro and see what happens. Even better, if he’s making his senior team debut, why not?

To Huijsen’s ever-lasting credit, he played with maturity and composure when thrown into that situation. And, to Allegri’s credit, he seems to be very willing to give youngsters a chance when they show that they can hold their own.

I’d love to see Huijsen get more of a run. After all, it’s going to be tough to have it harder than this on his debut.

Parting Shot of the Week

Don’t look now, don’t panic.

There’s a non-zero chance that Juventus is top of the table by the end of next weekend. With midweek games coming back for both Milan and Inter as Champions League kicks back up, both of those teams having tricky matchups in Serie A and Juventus having a favorable game against a bad Hellas Verona team ... it’s not inconceivable.

Of course, this assumes that Juventus doesn’t lay an egg against a team they should beat and that both Milan clubs drop points, but it’s conceivable. And the fact that we are having this conversation at all, it’s pretty decent considering that we are a few years removed from Juventus even sniffing a top of the table chance.

Good vibes only, guys.

See you Saturday.