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Manu’s Grab Bag: Rolling

We talk another win, a brewing controversy and the weeks ahead.

Juventus v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A TIM Photo by sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Talk about defense doing it all, huh?

In a game in which literally every goal was scored by a center back, it was Juventus’ defenders who were the ones that had the upperhand, as the home side defeated Cagliari on Saturday night to once again take the lead the table in Serie A. (This was pending whatever Inter Milan did against a feisty Frosinone side Sunday night, which proved to be another win for the current Serie A leaders. It was a set to be a good moment to make a case for next year’s squad for all of the Juve loanees. Just saying.)

It wasn’t quite the virtuoso defensive performance of last weekend in Florence, but the team handled a rather weak Cagliari side fairly handily. Outside of a few nervy moments after the away side found their opener to cut Juve’s lead in half, they never really threatened all that much as Juventus continues their streak of wins heading into the international break.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Weston McKennie

After being cast aside, loaned out, shopped around and then reluctantly incorporated back into the squad, I’m really enjoying this Weston McKennie renaissance.

The American international was never a bad player. Unfortunately for him — as with many other Juve players in the last few years — he was never really put in the best position for him to succeed before. He was consistently being asked to do things that doesn’t fit his skillset and that got interpreted as him just being below par.

His play in Max Allegri’s defense-first, hustle-all-the-time set p is bringing out the very best in him. His relentless motor and energy have been key to making their team defense concept work and he’s playing up to his reputation as a Swiss army knife player considering he has been moved around all year to pretty decent results.

Probably the best example of this turnaround was the numerous occasions in which he just hunted down Cagliari players trying to start a counterattack only to be snuffed out by McKennie.

Runner Up: Bremer - Just another day at the office for the best defender in Serie A. He scored the winning goal with a pretty great header that looked almost more like a striker than a defender with how calm, cool and collected the finish was. As long as he plays well, Juve has a chance to win every match he is in.

Is this a thing?

Back in college, I had a friend who dated a rather ... complicated person at the time. To put it in a way that we can publish here at your family friendly BWRAO neighborhood blog ...

Blowups were rather usual, most of the time in public, almost always for relatively minor misunderstandings. We were late five minutes because there was traffic or my friend stepped outside to smoke a cigarette without letting her know first, maybe there we mixed up in which bar we were suppose to meet, dumb things like that. After the incident occurred, there was a usually a lull in which you didn’t know if it was going to become a public shouting match or just a harmless blip.

Within that lull, we’d try to subtly — sometimes with just a glance! — check the temperature of the situation with our friend. Essentially asking “Hey, is this going to be a thing?”

If it was indeed a thing, we’d just move the hell out of the way and started the approximately 45-minute countdown clock while they sorted things out in the parking lot. If it wasn’t we’d try to joke and change the subject of the conversation entirely to try to avoid any further drama.

(Almost like you would with a child that fell down and you try to distract so they don’t realize it happened and they don’t cry.)

I kinda feel we are in that lull with a certain Dusan Vlahovic right now. Vlahovic got benched again in the last game before the international break in favor of Moise Kean. His second straight benching and third in the last four games.

This could all very easily amount to nothing. It can all be chalked out to Vlahovic still recovering from a back injury that he sustained over a month ago, couple with the form that Kean has displayed recently and it could be more about playing the hot hand rather than anything else.

Juventus v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A TIM Photo by sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Then again ... we all know Vlahovic has struggled under Allegri’s defense-first system. It’s system which does not necessarily suit his best attributes, and when you have a striker like Kean who is tailor-made to perform in a counterattacking system maybe there is a little more to the fact that Kean is playing so much lately.

(That is October MVP Moise Kean, by the way. It was a month in which he did not score one single goal and was still elected the MVP by Juve fans. Proof that he is playing at a very high level despite not getting on the scoresheet and that Juve fans know ball.)

Like I said, we are in the lull. This could all go away very quick the moment Vlahovic lines up as the starting striker against Inter in a couple weeks but if he doesn’t? Well, we might be getting ready to hear a strong worded argument outside of a bar.

Parting Shot of the Week

As we are closing in on being officially one third of the way done with the 2023-24 season, it’s hard to ask for a ton more of this Juventus team.

They are currently not only comfortably in the top four, but in the thick of competing for the Scudetto and depending on what happens with Inter Milan could lead the table in the International break.

They have nine wins with only one defeat in their best start ever since Maurizio Sarri was managing the team during the 2019-20 campaign.

We can split hairs about whether or not their style is the one we want them to play moving forward, but overall, I think we are seeing a lot of improvement from last year. With their strongest test ahead of them, Juventus marches on another week with a win. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

See you during the break.