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Manu’s Grab Bag: Could Be Worse

We talk the Mattia Perin revival tour, European spots and certain midfielders who are just cashing a paycheck.

Spezia Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Well, that match happened, I guess.

What happens when you mix a team that is not particularly brilliant even at their best and couple them with that same team playing on 72 hours — at best — rest? Well, you get the most awful match between Juventus and Spezia that we all had to sit through on Sunday night.

Thanks to a few choice moments of skill, we got a bad match, sure, but it was a win nevertheless for the men managed by Max Allegri, as they barely scraped by Spezia with a 2-0 victory.

I don’t know how we are milking 1m000-plus words out of that joyless watch, but by God we are going to try.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Mattia Perin

Out of all the sliding doors in recent Juve history, the great Wojciech Szczęsny vs. Mattia Perin goalkeeping battle from all the way back in 2018 is one of the most fun ones.

After backing up Gianluigi Buffon in the 2017-18 season, Szczęsny came in to the 2018-19 campaign as the presumptive starter. But, in order to foster some competition, Juve signed Mattia Perin from Genoa as well.

While it was never reported as an open competition for the starting gig, Perin had been one of the best keepers in Serie A up until that point. And considering Juve paid the not insignificant amount of €14.2 million for the guy, it was a reasonable to suggest that he wasn’t your traditional backup keeper signing.

Anticlimactically, Szczęsny took the position early on and never gave Perin much of a shot. A few months into the season the Italian got hurt and he never really threatened the Polish keeper for starter minutes after that.

Still, games like the one against Spezia are a good reminder that Perin is a legitimately great keeper and should be starting somewhere consistently. Perin had a ton of saves and was a large part of why Juve managed to hold Spezia at bay despite ceding a large part of the initiative. With rumors of Szczęsny’s long-term future in a bit of a flux, I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Perin — who is only 30 years old! — another chance at a full-time gig as the starter.

Runner Up: Angel Di Maria - Yes, a sub gets the nod here, but his introduction completely changed the game for Juventus by giving them at least the semblance of an outlet and a counterattacking threat. Thanks to his goal in the second half Juve could breathe easier for the remainder of the game too. He remains the most in form player in the squad and someone they’ll have to hope and pray doesn’t get hurt if they want to close out the year with a shot at some silverware.

What would you say you do here?

Leandro Paredes is just there.

On paper, Paredes was a perfect fit for Juventus. He’s traditional center midfielder in a squad that really didn’t have a player with that skillset. He’s a starter for the Argentinian national team. He was coming coming from Paris Saint-Germain and was certainly one kind of a player that should have been a difference maker for Juve this season.

But, for the most part, he has been little more than a warm body for the Bianconeri, who haven’t really looked all that better with Paredes in the lineup. A lot of it has to do with the general squad imbalance that continues to plague the team, which has in consequence caused the team to never settle on a set formation for too long.

Still, when you are one of the highest earners on the team and a guy that is presumably playing for a spot on next year’s roster considering he is on loan with an option to buy — but no obligation — he’s been remarkably lukewarm whenever Max Allegri has given him playing time.

My guess — and hope? — is that Paredes will be one of those guys that is a one and done as a Juve player and we see him head quietly back to Paris.

Spezia Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Francesco Scaccianoce/Getty Images

So, you're saying there’s a chance?

Look, I don’t mean to draw attention to it too much, but Juventus is literally one place away from playing in a European competition next year.

Fine, it’s the Conference League spot and it’s also a nine-point gap between Juventus and sixth-place Atalanta, so it’s not like they are banging on the door, but still! That’s pretty remarkable considering that once they got penalized a few weeks ago everyone thought that Juve’s best shot at playing a European competition next year was to win the Europa League and get into the Champions League that way.

But with all of the current European place seeded teams — outside of Napoli, who is running away with the Serie A title — failing to find consistent form what seemed like an absolute pipe dream is suddenly a relatively tangible option.

Granted, it’s not like Juventus itself is playing lights out, but they are on a three-game win streak and have as good a shot as any team with a 15-point deduction hanging over their heads.

(Fun fact, if they didn’t have that deduction, Juve would be alone in second place in the league table. Don't want to throw a parade for a distant second, but that’s not nothing!)

Juve should still focus on the Europa League as their most important competition this year, but the prospect of the league still being relevant for the Bianconeri is not as far fetched as we would have thought a few weeks ago.

Parting Shot of the Week

This win over Spezia was uninspiring, but they pulled it off once again.

That should be the title of the DVD recapping Juve’s season so far. Nevertheless, you can't hate another three points being secured, especially going away and in extremely short rest.

With a few more days now to take a slightly larger break before playing for their European lives, Juventus is truly at a crossroads in the season. Lose the next game against Nantes and any hope of salvaging an extremely poor season goes out the window. Win and the hope of lifting some silverware remains alive.

Let’s all hope for the best but brace for the worst.

See you Thursday.