Monday, October 18, 2021

Manu’s Grab Bag: Same Ol’, Same Ol’

As it currently stands, Juventus are sitting in the relegation zone with two points in four games. That is not what I would call ideal.

Yet, and forgive me for bringing any sort of optimism into the fold as we discuss Sunday’s 1-1 draw against AC Milan at Allianz Stadium, for whatever reason I do not feel that this is a team that deserves to be or indeed belongs in the lower part of the Serie A table.

For the most part, the Bianconeri actually played a pretty good game, stifling the Milan attack, controlling the proceedings and allowing just one shot on goal for the first 70 minutes of the match. This is not the same clown show we saw against Empoli — the worst game Juventus has played this season and it’s not close — hell, it was even better than what we saw against Napoli with a shorthanded squad.

This is a frustrating result, absolutely, but the team is finally showing signs of life and, if only to be a contrarian, count me in as someone who believes that the true Juventus is yet to appear.

Let’s cook.

Say what you will about streaky players, but by definition, for every cold streak there must be a hot one — and right now we are decidedly on a hot one for Morata.

It wasn’t even just the goal — his third in as many games — it was his overall performance that gets him the nod for this award. If you were to show a young player a tape for what a target man is supposed to do, you’d be hard pressed to find better examples than what Morata did on Sunday.

He was leading the line, pressing, doing hold up work. Morata checked pretty much every box of what a striker is supposed to do and, yeah, that finish on the lone score of the day was pretty damn nifty as well.

He left the match with what seemed to be a minor injury and it’s in the best interest of the team that it is indeed just a minor knock. Moise Kean is probably faster and more explosive with arguably a higher ceiling to boot, but Morata is still clearly the first-choice striker and heads and shoulders above anyone else in the locker room at the moment.

Another guy who had a great outing despite the disappointing result. La Joya is continuing to have strong showings in the early goings of the season.

He got the assist with a textbook outlet pass to leave Morata on a 1-on-1 sprint against the keeper and was the creative fulcrum for the entirety of his time on the field. As we head into the umpteenth week of his contract negotiations, he’s definitely doing everything in his power to force Juve into loosening the purse strings to get the deal done.

Also, and neither here nor there, but I sure appreciated him getting chippy with Sandro Tonali after Milan did not kick the ball out of play to allow Morata get medical assistance. First, because it showed some legit leadership chops to stand up for a teammate that was hurt, and second because he showed some tremendous awareness picking a fight with Tonali, a guy of similar size and build and someone who you might be able to take in a scuffle.

Look, I predicted the guy would be out of a job by October, so it’s not like I was super high on him a few weeks ago. But credit where credit is due, he has managed to turn the page a bit on Juve’s last couple of games and especially this last one.

He had absolutely nothing to do on the goal as Ante Rebic’s header was perfectly placed and no keeper alive would have been able to do anything on that, however, he did manage to save a point for the Bianconeri thanks to an absolutely top shelf save on a Pierre Kalulu breakaway late in the game.

Admittedly the bar is pretty damn low right now for Woj, so any game in which he doesn’t self-destruct is a net win for Juventus. With that being said, when he’s on he can be as good a keeper as anyone and with no immediate reinforcements in the way between the sticks we should all be hoping for a quick turnaround for the Polish international.

Couple more of saves like that will go a long way to steadying the waters.

If Juventus had managed to not shoot themselves in the foot, they would have won this one.

Juventus played pretty well, outside of that one mistake.

They are not playing bad, its just bad luck.

About 90% to 95% of Juve’s bad results these last few seasons can be fairly described with any of the above sentences and you wouldn’t be necessarily wrong.

Which brings up the question: At what point does it stop being bad luck and it just becomes who this team is? That’s three seasons under three different coaches in which they seems unable to get out of their own way, making cheap, sloppy plays day in and day out. When it’s not a defender, it’s the keeper or a midfielder. Or perhaps a forward missing an easy chance that could have put the game away.

Its really not one specific player — sure Sunday’s mess-up can be attributed to either Adrien Rabiot or Manuel Locatelli for their horrid marking — because every single player in this roster has had at least one moment to point out in costing this team points. It hasn’t been on the coaching either since its still happening under coaching number three.

Perhaps, after a good decade of seemingly every single bounce going Juve’s way — domestically at least — in which it was all the other teams that self destructed when playing the Bianconeri this is just the pendulum swinging the other way? You can’t win forever and you can’t be lucky forever. Water finds its level eventually.

Nine years of continuous and unmatched domestic success coddled us as fans to think that the shoe was never going to drop. At the very least I can assure you that I always felt that Juve would come through in the end, that somehow, someway they would pull a result off, maybe the luck just ran out on us.

It’s a long season and a lot of different faces, Max Allegri and this team has time to show that perhaps Juventus still has a few more lucky trinkets up their sleeves to turn their season around.

Call me crazy, but I do not think Juventus will fight relegation this year!

This has been a brutal start of the season, one of the worst in club history. I know nobody wants to preach patience right now but despite the fact that Allegri is not really a stranger in Juventus Land this is still a new coach and some growing pains had to be expected. Add to that the fact that Allegri’s teams always seems to take some time to round into shape and perhaps we should have expected this team to start slow.

If people want to call the season in the month of September that’s their right to do so, but I still believe that this team will turn it around at some point. Will that be enough to compete for the Serie A title after spotting their rivals eight points already? That’s going to be the main question moving forward.

See you Wednesday.
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