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Manu’s Grab Bag: Have a Serb Day

We talk seasonal kits, the injury crisis in midfield and a shoutout to my countryman.

US Salernitana v Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On an unusual day for a Serie A fixture, Max Allegri’s beleaguered Juventus side authored an unusual performance. Maybe play every single game on Tuesdays?

Thankfully for us, Juve’s 3-0 thrashing of fellow relegation battler — just kidding — Salernitana was unusual in a good way. We haven’t really seen a ton of dominating performances from the Turin-based club this season. Rest assured, however, that this definitely qualified as one.

This was a pretty comprehensive win in all aspects, and the home side couldn’t do much of anything once the floodgates opened and rarely troubled the Juve goal. I’m not about to build a monument in front of the Allianz Stadium for a good win in February against a team with a seahorse in its crest, but this was the rare drama-free and great performance that we wish we could see more often from this squad.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Dusan Vlahovic

After his last game out in which he clearly was shaking the rust off his long absence, the hulking Juve No. 9 looked like himself again. He picked up a brace and an assist on his way to leading the charge for a pleasantly spry Bianconeri attack that gave the Salernitana defense very few breathers.

(And sure, that assist was a shanked shot that luckily fell into Filip Kostic’s lap for the second goal, but it’s going to his season tally nevertheless. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.)

Juventus managed to get by without their star striker for a while thanks to the admirable efforts of both Moise Kean and Arek Milik, but to have Vlahovic back is a huge boost for this team. He’s just at another level and that’s no shade on the aforementioned duo who can be very good too, but Vlahovic is the type of striker that can make everybody’s life easier as a target man and showed it again on Tuesday.

With the Europa League and Coppa Italia still there for the taking, a healthy and in-form Vlahovic can make all the difference.

Runner Up: Angel Di Maria - Goddamn, he is so fun to watch. Despite finishing the day with no counting stats, the entire offense ran through Di Maria from the get go. There’s rumors swirling around a potential second year for El Fideo with Juventus and I wouldn’t oppose that one bit. Similarly to Vlahovic, he just brings something to the table that almost nobody else in the roster does.

Murphy’s Law

Back in January, we discussed the potential — and eventual — transfer of Weston McKennie. On paper, it made all the sense in the world because you had Paul Pogba coming back, Adrien Rabiot playing great football and youngsters Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti showing out.

There were too many cooks in the kitchen and not enough minutes to go around. That being said, my lone concern for the transfer was that you can never have enough depth and that injuries or a dip in form could be a lot harder to navigate without McKennie.

Well, as soon as our favorite American was shipped out to the Premier League everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Pogba suffered yet another setback and continues to be out of circulation, and now Miretti got hurt in what was the lone blemish in Tuesday’s win.

Early reports indicate Miretti suffered “only” a sprain, but that can mean a couple of weeks or a couple of months depending on the severity of the injury. Fagioli came in and did an admirable job but only a couple of games ago we were talking about him having a dip in form.

Just as the schedule gets congested again Juventus has all of three regular midfielders in Rabiot, Fagioli and Manuel Locatelli. Good times.

Stefano Sorrentino Memorial Award: Guillermo Ochoa

OK, fine, I’m cheating a little because Ochoa had very little to do in this game. He had a couple of decent saves, but had nothing to do in any of the goals and wasn’t a figure like old buddy Sorrentino was.

Still, wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow Mexican who somehow found himself in Serie A during the January transfer window and back again with a relative relegation battler as has been his tradition in Europe.

Despite not being a factor in this game, Ochoa already won the team’s MVP award for the month of January and he remains good for filling the stat sheet in terms of saves. It’s kind of a shame that he never got a shot at a bigger club and I doubt this Salernitana stint is the springboard that sends him into the big leagues but it’s still commendable that after five World Cups and pretty much nothing more to prove he took a shot to play in a top tier European league again.

Love is in the Air

No, dear readers, your eyes were not deceiving you. That was indeed a Valentine’s Day-themed kit that the home team was wearing against Juventus.

I consider myself a bit of a kit aficionado, but this whole trend of one off kits for holidays is a little bit too much for me. And to be fair to kit maker Zeus and Salernitana this is not a bad design, its kind of subtle and sleek and look you can get away with a lot of stuff if your mascot is a sea horse. Everyone knows this.

But where does it stop? Valentine’s Day is already kind of a superfluous holiday, if Valentine’s is getting kits what’s next? Are we getting New Years? Christmas? Take it to the logical conclusion and you get the atrocities that Napoli is inflicting upon the world this year:

(I kinda love the Christmas one, though, because it’s so terrible that you can’t help but love it. It’s like they just gave their designer 10 minutes to whip something up and the poor dude just copied and pasted a royalty free JPEG of Rudolph for the sake of walking into the meeting with something — anything — and somehow it got green lit.)

(Also, when Emporio Armani announced they were designing the kits for Napoli, a goddamned Christmas themed kit was not what I had in mind. What’s the biggest upset, Napoli running away with the league this year or freakin Armani sucking at kit design?)

I’m not going to stand for it. The third kit is already unnecessary but I understand why they have to produce them, more than that and you are one step closer to being the NBA in which they have a million different uniforms for each team and it’s legitimately hard sometimes to figure out which team is which when you look at a game.

This has been my old man yell at clouds take of the day, thanks for listening.

Parting Shot of the Week

I can’t say I enjoy these midweek kickoff times for Serie A, but if Juventus is going to play like these on Tuesday’s I can live with them.

With the win Juventus climbs all the way up to 10th place in their bid to keep accumulating points in case — yet another — point deduction gets slapped on to them too. It still feels wildly unlikely that Juve can secure a spot in Europe through the league, but with a few team — AC Milan, we’re looking at you — falling off a cliff and no squad other than Napoli playing super convincing football maybe a Conference League spot is not out of the question?

Either way, another three points to get you out of relegation zone, I guess.

See you Sunday.