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Manu’s Grab Bag: Buzzer Beater

We talk escaping with a win, finally beating Monza and the momentary first place Juventus.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Our long national nightmare is finally over.

Juventus has finally beaten Monza in Serie A play. It — of course — had to come in the hardest possible way because this team just thrives in making things harder than they need to be.

After grinding out a 1-0 lead that seemed to disappear in the aggregate, the Bianconeri managed to find a last-gasp goal courtesy of Federico Gatti and come away with the three points and the momentary first place in the table.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Adrien Rabiot

With the rash of injuries/suspensions that is currently occurring in the midfield, it was pivotal that the most experienced guy in that unit stepped up. And credit where credit it’s due, captain Adrien Rabiot sure has stepped up in a big way for Juventus.

Is it mildly concerning that most of the offense of this team is coming from the midfield? Sure, but that doesn’t diminish the excellent shift Rabiot had against Monza as he singlehandedly gave Juve the three points.

With the young Hans Nicolussi Caviglia still staring over the ailing Manuel Locatelli, Rabiot is going to be tasked with carrying a bigger load. And if he’s going to be putting up performances like the one he put forward Friday, it can only mean good things for Juventus. He’s also taking the role of captain fairly seriously, showing leadership on the field and talking all sorts of smack on social media:

I like scrappy Rabiot. It’s a good look.

Runner Up: Federico Gatti - Extremely solid defensively and johnny on the spot for the game winner. He managed to miss a golden chance earlier in the game that was arguably harder to miss rather than to make but he made up for it with his late game winner. After the disaster class that was the Sassuolo game, Gatti has managed to turn it around.

Loser: Max Allegri

I’ve defended Allegri’s way more than most.

I don’t hate that he likes to play defensively, and I’ve often made the case that for the way this team is built the way he wants to play is most likely the best method of getting consistent wins. But this game, and specifically the second half, was proof of what can happen when you take his philosophy too far.

Defending in your own side of the field for extended periods of time is only viable if you have reliable outlets to take advantage of the space being left behind by the opposite team. If you can’t mount a counterattack that at least threatens the other team it becomes an exercise in holding on and you only need one play to go bad for you to pay.

Juventus defended pretty admirably — they literally allowed only one shot on goal all game — but it was painful to see them try and hold on to the ball for any amount of time in the second half. Every time they dispossessed Monza it usually ended with a long pass headed nowhere that gave their strikers little to no chance to do anything.

We’ve seen this team play good counterattacking football, but they have to do it more consistently in games like these.

Loser: Dusan Vlahovic

See, this is why Dusan Vlahovic is so damn infuriating.

After a standout game last weekend against Inter in which he did pretty much everything right, he followed it up with a clunker in which he missed a PK early on and somehow his night was even worse after that.

His problem is similar to what I mentioned above in terms of consistency. He just cant seem to string together a long streak of strong performances. There’s always up and downs with him and when you are trying to become a top tier striker you simply cannot have so much inconsistency.

(The GOAT of inconsistency by the way is Alvaro Morata. My guy has stretches in which he looks like the best striker alive followed by games in which he doesn’t seem to be able to find the back of the net to save his life.)

For Vlahovic to reach his full potential he’s going to have to do a lot more like last week and a lot less like this one.

Parting Shot of the Week

This is the type of game in which Juventus drops points a year ago.

They’ve had several of those moments this season in which previous editions of Juve would have imploded but one way or another this time around they are consistently gutting it out and pulling the result off even when it seems that they are destined to do something dumb.

Sure, they probably shouldn’t have even been in this situation considering the missed PK and flubbed chance by Gatti in the first half that could have secured the result in significantly less stressful manner. But whatever it is, this team is managing to steal wins out of the jaws of defeat - or draws - over and over again and it’s a very welcome change to their former tendency to implode.

Some might just call it the luck of a champion, who knows? With Inter facing one of their toughest games against Napoli after a bloodbath of a 3-3 result against Benfica in midweek play this seems like a prime chance for the Milan based club to drop some points.

Juve leads the table in solitary on Monday? There’s a chance and I’m happy with that.

See you Friday.