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Manu’s Grab Bag: Right in the break

We talk missed chances, players making a comeback and the break that now have to endure.

Federico Chiesa of Juventus FC scores the goal of 0-2 during... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sunday night was a frustrating game for Juventus — and god knows we’ve had our fair share of those the last few years, so nothing new about that.

The one thing that was different, though, was that it wasn’t frustrating because the Bianconeri dropped points against a relegation battler in some dumb moment — as they have done before! — but because they should have won by so much more than they did.

While the final 2-0 scoreline was a decent enough testament to how the game played, Juve just could not stop wasting chances in front of goal. This could have easily been another offensive explosion like the one of Matchday 1 against Udinese if they had just been a bit more clinical.

Either way, Juve got the win and climbed up to third in the league as they authored their best start of the season since 2019 with seven out a possible nine points and remain undefeated as they head in to the first — and dumbest — international break of the season.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Danilo

This was a really great game from the captain and the biggest reason why the three-man backline kind of works. Danilo was everywhere Sunday night, even getting on the scoresheet to break the deadlock in the first half.

As long as he can sustain this form, he’s as key as anybody to make the formation work, not to mention the fact that he seems to be growing more and more into the leadership role that the captaincy requires each day.

Gotta love to see that.

Runner Up: Federico Chiesa - My guy was absolutely everywhere on the field and got rewarded for it with the goal to seal the result. His fit with Filip Kostic is not as smooth as it is with the youngster Andrea Cambiaso, but he remains a game changer whenever he can get into the open field.

The Dusan Question

Dusan Vlahovic had a game of ups and downs.

He looks noticeably more comfortable and much less isolated in the early goings of this season compared to last, and you could see it again against Empoli. My biggest criticism of Vlahovic last year was that he could rather easily be marked out of a game and make little to no impact if he wasn’t getting enough service.

This year, however, he is impacting the game and getting himself involved even if he’s not getting teed up multiple times a match. Nobody is going to mistake his hold-up play with Gonzalo Higuain’s any time soon, but it’s a bit better!

Then again, you can’t miss a penalty kick and get a good grade out of a game — you just can’t. Especially at that juncture when you could have put your team up by two goals late in the first half and pretty much wrap up the whole game right then and there.

I think we have to demand more out of the guy that is supposed to be the one of the marquee players of this team. Vlahovic can do a whole more, and my money is still on that we will see it in due time.

Winner: Federico Gatti

Cat Man is back!

Gatti made his first appearance in the lineup this season and the team did not allow one single shot on goal for the whole game. Coincidence? I mean ... kind of. Empoli are a legitimately bad team, but the Juve defense did have significantly fewer shambolic moments with Gatti in as the third center back than with Alex Sandro in that spot.

The Italian defender is not without flaws — he does take too many risks and his penchant to push the issue offensively when perhaps it’s not needed is going to cost this team at one point or another you can take that to the bank. Even taking that into account, however, he is a much more exciting presence in the lineup and it’s not like Sandro is playing completely mistake-free back there, either.

(It was one of his crazy offensive runs that ended up causing the PK call that Vlahovic ended up missing after all.)

Hopefully this start is the beginning of the end for the great Alex Sandro as the LCB experiment.

Back from the Dead

Hey! Kostic is still under Juventus employment after all!

After being vanished from the first couple of games — as they tried to get a team to buy him before the transfer deadline arrived — Kostic started his first game of the season and was ... exactly what you would expect.

He played hard and ran all game long and had a bunch of crosses. Kostic is not a bad player by any means, but his repertoire is certainly slightly more limited than we saw from Cambiaso and, as mentioned above, his fit with Chiesa is just a tad more awkward, too.

I’m not upset that he is still part of the team. As everyone — including me! — fell head over heels over the young, new thing in Cambiaso, we forget that Kostic was a very effective player for a stretch of games last season. He will have a moment this year, too, you can book that.

Parting Shot of the Week

Weren’t those three weeks of Juventus football fun? Aren’t you ready for more? Well, you can't have any more because the geniuses at FIFA have scheduled the stupidest international break ever just as the season is starting every single year.

For once, the break does seem to come at the right time for Juventus as Paul Pogba — shocker — and Gatti picked up what seem to be minor knocks against Empoli that could have cost them games but might end up being nothing thanks to the break.

Once the international break is over, Juventus faces up against Lazio in the first game against an opponent that figures to potentially be a top-four side. It’s going to be interesting to see how real some of the improvements we’ve seen from this team stand up against stiffer competition.

See you in a couple of weeks.