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Manu’s Grab Bag: Heartbreak

We talk the good, the bad and the ugly for Juve’s Europa League exit.

Sevilla FC v Juventus: Semi-Final Second Leg - UEFA Europa League Photo by Jose Hernandez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Let me tell you something: That one hurt. Defeats in big-time European semifinals tend to be like that.

It was a wildly entertaining, back-and-forth affair Thursday night in which the result was going to always be decided by a razor-thin margin. Whichever team made the most out of their chances while committing the least amount of mistakes, that was going to be the team that was going to win.

Unfortunately for the Juventus faithful, that team was not the Bianconeri. When the final whistle sounded, the final score read 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate for Sevilla and it was yet another heartbreaking European exit who is — sadly — no stranger to those.

Let’s cook.

LVP: Juan Cuadrado

Sometimes you can just tell when a guy just doesn’t have it anymore.

A sprint that is a tad slower, a dribble that is just not quite there, a take on a defender in which there is just no chance that will be successful. Juan Cuadrado had literally every single one of those moments — multiple times, too! — against Sevilla.

In a game that was played on a razor’s edge at a super high level, it was more noticeable than ever that our beloved Johnny Square is no longer who he used to be. There were multiple times in which a break just stopped death in its tracks at Cuadrado’s feet either because of a bad pass or his inability to shake a defender away. Most of the time he took a player on it seemed like he was more hunting for a foul rather than trying to actually get past.

Cuadrado was a very good player for a long time and his stint as a Juventus player will be remembered fondly, but in a squad that is desperate for renewal, Cuadrado is a prime example of that need.

The Good

Despite the loss, there were a number of bright spots for Juventus in this game and they are certainly worth mentioning.

Wojciech Szczęsny was absolutely outstanding as he came up with a couple saves early on that only top of the line goalkeepers can pull off. He has been, at times, maligned due to some boneheaded plays and due to Mattia Perin’s great form, but Thursday night was a good showing of why Juve’s brass keeps trusting the Polish keeper. He is truly great when he is on.

Samuel Iling-Junior was another revelation. Given a surprise start in the biggest game of the season, the youngster validates his coaches trust in him by having a standout performance both in attack and defense. He can dribble with the best of them and its obviously those offensive skills that make him such an intriguing and talented prospect. But its his defensive chops and positioning that truly elevate him from just another dribble merchant youngster.

He has a legitimately incredible future and I’m looking forward to watching him develop further. He is one to watch for sure.

Gleison Bremer, Federico Gatti and Danilo continued showing why they are the strongest defensive backline that Juventus has right now and out of all the lines that need reinforcement at least center back looks covered. Dusan Vlahovic got himself on the scoreline again with a well taken goal that for a moment looked like it would be enough to put Juve through.

The Bad

Two of the guys that Juve fans had the highest expectations for in this game were probably some of the biggest flops in South Spain.

Angel Di Maria was far from the guy that was single-handedly destroying Nantes and carrying this team on his back a few months ago. His passing wasn’t as good as it can be and his offensive contributions were rather slim too. The biggest fault for him, however, will be the clear cut chance he flubbed early in the first half as Adrien Rabiot released him with a perfect pass into the box only for him to go for the chip shot to try and beat the keeper but missed badly, failing to put his shot anywhere near the goal.

This is an opportunity that any half decent offensive player at least puts on frame. That di Maria failed to even do that speaks to how bad of a miss it was.

All that being said, if Di Maria’s day was disappointing, the man that took his place on the field was somehow even worse. Federico Chiesa has had a very tough season, coming back from an injury like the one he had is always hard so we usually give him a pass for his relatively disappointing season.

Even so, his performance against Sevilla was probably the nadir for the Italian international. A sloppy giveaway led directly to Sevilla’s equalizer shortly after Juventus took the lead — zapping all sort of momentum that the score could have brought — and he did very little to make up for that mistake. Things never really clicked for him offensively and he was wasteful with the chances he had.

The perfect encapsulation of Juventus this game and of Chiesa’s whole season was 10 minutes from the end of the game when a rebound fell to him inside the box. It’s an angle and a shot that we have seen him convert many times before but on this day he skied it way above the frame.

And the Ugly

Isn’t it ironic that the game that might end up costing Max Allegri his job was one in which it was decidedly not his fault the team lost?

Allegri’s setup worked to perfection especially in the first half when Juventus had chances galore to score only to be wasteful in the end. This was decidedly not a game in which you can blame the man on the bench but one in which most of the burden of the loss goes in the execution of the players.

At this point it doesn’t matter where you land on the great Allegri discourse, but a large part of why he had a shot at staying on the bench was a theoretical success in the Europa League. Now that that is out of the window, Allegri has authored back to back trophy less seasons which for a team like Juventus is unacceptable.

The cherry on top of the awful cake was Nicolo Fagioli’s season coming to an end. The youngster had a great debut season and should be a guy to continue to build around. He was playing another great match before a blindside tackle took him out of circulation. Early reports point to a broken clavicle which would mean his season is over. Just an awful moment for a guy that deserved better.

Parting Shot of the Week

There was something about watching Juventus play in a big time semifinal once again. Sure, it was the Europa League which I understand that its not the competition that most people wanted Juventus to advance through this season but this was as big a game as the Bianconeri had been the past five years and you could tell.

Things didn't go our way in this one, it happens.

(Especially against Sevilla in the Europa League, a competition in which they seem to be unbeatable for whatever reason.)

It was still an exciting run and a good reminder of what its like to go deep in a competition after a bunch of disappointing early exits. This whole season has decidedly not gone the way anybody wanted — and I for one can’t wait for it to be over — but sometimes you have to crash to start a new cycle.

There’s a lot of good pieces in play and with some savvy moves in the offseason this team could be back competing for titles very soon.

See you Tuesday.