Dinner has been eaten with gusto. The pole stands tall in the corner. The ring is being marked out on the living room floor.
That can only mean one thing.
You guessed it! FESTIVUS IS HERE!!!
(Although, a day or so late because Juventus actually had a game on Dec. 23, the day in which we are to celebrate Festivus like Frank Costanza taught us to do.)
And as you all know, the tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. While things aren’t quite as bad as they were a year ago, there has certainly been enough knuckleheadedness, idiocy, and obstinacy to provide plenty of fodder for us to chose from.
Well, let’s not beat around the bush. Now, I GOT A LOTTA PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE, AND NOW YOU’RE GONNA HEAR ABOUT IT!
I have to be honest, Paul. When you came back a year and a half ago, I was deeply conflicted. On the one hand, you could maybe unlock the Juventus attack with your still-undeniable skill. On the other, you had spent so much time on the injured list in the years leading up to your return that I wondered if that €10 million a year net salary that we were giving you wasn’t perhaps better spent elsewhere.
I honestly expected there to be some time during the season where you would be unavailable — the only question was how long that would be. What I didn’t anticipate would be the fact that that unavailability would be almost entirely your own doing.
After the absurd way you dealt with that pre-season knee injury last year, I didn’t think you’d be able to top yourself in self-sabotage. But there you went, failing a drug test after the FIRST GAME OF THE YEAR. To make matters worse, all indications are it happened because you were a bit of a moron. You took a supplement that was recommended by a doctor friend in Miami — a supplement that ended up containing the substance you got hit for.
What possessed you to just take something without consulting the club’s medical staff, who would likely have alerted you to the substances contained in the stuff, is beyond me. It’s a level of boneheadedness I truly wasn’t expecting — and my opinion of your decision making prowess wasn’t particularly high to begin with after the injury debacle last season. (Seriously, who convinced you you could rehab cartilage??)
Now, you’re facing a four-year ban that will blow whatever you had left of your prime out to kingdom come. It’s time for the club to get out from under your salary. Signing you back is going to end up on a lot of “worst transfer of the decade” lists in a few years.
Oh, my large adult son. This hurts me. I’m not angry, i’m disappointed.
With Pogba gone, you were the only midfielder we had that displayed the kind of passing ability to split a defense a time or two. You were going to be a key cog in the team’s engine room this season.
But your gambling problem, discovered thanks to an investigation into illegal betting platforms and trumpeted to the world by a smarmy gossip columnist, ended your season before it really began.
As disappointed as I am, it’s impossible to be truly mad. Addiction is a monstrous opponent, tougher than any that you might encounter on a soccer pitch. The way you handled things after the news broke — taking responsibility for your mistakes, cooperating with the sporting prosecutors, and getting help for your condition — made me proud. It clearly resonated with the club, too, as they have given you their full support and even signed you to a contract extension since the scandal broke.
Like any addiction, gambling addiction is best confronted with a support system behind you, and it looks as though you’ve got that on all fronts. I still wish I’d be talking about your exploits on the field rather than off them this season.
You didn’t think you’d get out of here without getting your share, did you, Max?
You’ve been fortunate this year. Your corto muso mindset and beloved 1-0 wins have carried the team to a surprise second place, and a significant portion of the way toward a renewed spot in the Champions League next season. But luck has played a massive part in a lot of those results. You almost dropped points against Monza again, only getting bailed out by a miracle goal when the defense finally slipped off the edge of the knife you insist on putting them on every week. A little bit better finishing on Napoli’s part would’ve made that game very, very different. And you dropped points against a struggling Genoa side last week when the knife again twisted under you.
What’s worse, that time you actually had a whole half of football left to play, but it was clear you had no idea how to get another goal after the initial plan of get one goal and hold it failed. Meanwhile, incredibly talented attackers like Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic are shackled, unable to use their abilities to their fullest because you insist on shoehorning them into some ideal you have instead of playing to the strengths of your best players. It still looks like you’re playing not to lose instead of to win.
Now Vlahovic is heading toward bust territory, while Chiesa is reportedly refusing to sign a long-term extension until he has clarity over the team’s future. It’s not hard to read between the lines and realize he’s waiting to see whether or not he’ll have to play for you — and if he does, he’s probably out the door.
I get that Fabio Paratici left the roster as mangled as some of the less fortunate soldiers in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, but your complete inability — or unwillingness — to find a way to maximize your best talent is a failure of a coach’s most basic job.
Juve can’t get to the level they want to get with you coaching the way you are. There needs to be some fresh blood — no, not you Antó — in the manager’s office. I dearly hope the rumors that you’re contemplating leaving at the end of the 2023-24 season have some pickup in them. If they do, I’ll learn to drive between now and May so I can fly to Turin and drop you off at the airport/train station myself.
And now, some quick hits:
You’re simply not at the level you were at last season, when you were far and away the leader in assists. You’re too predictable, you don’t mesh well with Chiesa when he drifts out to your side of the field, and the result is a player who simply isn’t as good as he was a year ago.
Why are you so useless? Seeing you step on the field feels like a harbinger of doom, especially for a team that often finds itself defending for its life.
Yes, I know, the tactics are screwing you over, and that you’ve gotten better at a lot of the little things this year but there have been a few that you should’ve put away, and you know it. For a team that scores as little as we do, you simply have to be more clinical.
You guys were all ready with the pitchforks after Wojciech Szczesny suffered through a horror show of a game at Sassuolo. It was time, you all said, to give Mattia Perin the starting gloves. Why hadn’t the team moved in on Gianluigi Donnarumma when they had the chance?
Boy, has he proved you wrong. Szczesny has quickly shoved those calls back down your throats, playing some of the best soccer of his life and making some key saves in games that Juve otherwise might have dropped points in. Woj keeps on chugging, and you guys keep looking like idiots.
SERIE A REFEREES
You all suck. You’re a huge drag on calcio. Be better at your jobs.
Alright, that’s all for this year. As is ordained by tradition, we now move on to the Feats of Strength. I had wanted to pick Pogba, but I’m told he’s too injured to wrestle, so it’s gonna be Max’s turn to start things off. Bring your gremlin face over here, Max. Festivus is not over until the author gets pinned.