Manu’s handbag: Play the successes
Do you know who Larry Tesler is?
Although the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, it’s part of most people’s daily lives. Tesler was a computer scientist who developed one of the most widely used computing features for the everyday worker. Hell, if you’ve ever worked on any kind of work that requires the use of a computer, I can almost guarantee you’ll thank it for one of the most useful tools in the book: the copy-and-paste commands.
Juventus played their game against Spezia on Sunday in a way that would make Tesler proud. Juventus pretty much copied and pasted their winning performance in the Coppa Italia to secure a 1-0 win that had very little to get excited about, but was ultimately as effective as one could have been. to hope.
Hey, what’s copy-and-paste if it’s not just efficient, frugal, and simple? Just like Max Allegri likes it.
MVP: Manuel Locatelli
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the recent injury crisis for Juventus is that Allegri was forced to play Manuel Locatelli in a more advanced role in midfield.
We went nausea about this particular feud with the Juve manager, and I understand that you could fill several encyclopedias with the knowledge of football that Allegri has and I don’t. I understand this in a vacuum.
But the move seemed to be so simple, just the for the making of, notably with Arthur’s semi-revival and Denis Zakaria’s signature. But for some reason Locatelli got stuck in that midfield position that seemed to turn a very good player into a good one.
Although it was by no means a virtuoso performance, it was one of the best performances from the Italian in a second, helping the team with an assist and a number of possessions and dangerous passes. He was, for all intents and purposes, the team’s only creative force in a game that mostly lacked much attacking punch from exhausted players. Bianconeri.
With the recent news that Weston McKennie will be out for the rest of the season, I really, really hope Locatelli’s positioning has been improved to stay as Juve will need someone like him at the end of the season.
Finalist: Alvaro Morata – Break the drought in style! Despite some of his best performances recently, he was missing that points tally. No better time to smash the duck than now for the Spain international. He missed a keeper late in the second half, but what are you going to do? Morata is what Morata is after all.
Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Paulo Dybala (15 Points)
It’s almost a war movie cliche now.
Our beleaguered heroes are nearly defeated, their numbers are dwindling, their spirits are collapsing. They asked for reinforcements days, weeks, months ago, but there is still no sign of anyone coming to help them.
Suddenly, when it seems all hope is lost, they receive respite in the form of some friendly soldiers who arrive almost by chance. Our heroes ask newcomers for a form of the following exchange:
“Where are the reinforcements?”
“WE are the reinforcements.”
I imagine something like this when Bianconeri fans around the world saw Juventus picking up a few guys from the injured list for that game and those two guys ended up being… Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi. He’s Juve’s fourth-choice centre-back and second-choice third-choice winger – hooray!
Just kidding because we know the checkered history of Juve that these two guys have. To be fair, Rugani was as welcome an addition as any given Juventus have literally been playing with a healthy centre-back in recent games. And to continue to be fair to Rugani, he has played very well, maintaining his pre-injury form as an average-to-good centre-back which I can tell you I didn’t see coming.
(Seriously, imagine telling yourself at the start of the season that Rugani playing minutes anytime big games in March was going to be a good thing?)
Bernardeschi on the other hand… well, my guy received a yellow card minutes after coming on and got suspended for the next game, making his comeback significantly less impactful or positive than Rugani’s.
For a guy whose contract is about to end, it’s not a great look, I would say.
Winner: Grit and Grind Juve
Juventus faced Spezia with 14 senior squad members. Eleven starts, four on the bench and of those four players we count the two reserve keepers – Carlo Pinsoglio and Mattia Perin – which essentially makes Allegri’s underplay choices pretty easy all of a sudden.
And yet, despite these devastating options, Juve somehow manages to keep delivering results. It’s not pretty, it’s not flashy. I have to tell you, it’s awful as hell, I didn’t find any pleasure in watching these 90 minutes, but damn they got the three points and the W against Fiorentina in the Coppa and they are somehow unbeaten in their last 14 games, so consider me pretty impressed.
At some point, all football seasons become marathons. You’re bruised and tired and just want to quit, but there’s something to be said for just putting one foot in front of the other and keeping doing it. Say what you will about Juventus right now, but they are within striking distance of the top three and have managed to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the teams vying for the Champions League places.
Considering this team was a mid-table team for most of the first half of the season and the shocking lack of depth they have right now, that’s as good as it gets.
Farewell shot of the week
I watched two football games this weekend: Juventus vs Spezia on Sunday and my beloved Puebla FC vs Cruz Azul on Saturday night.
Both games were won by the teams I support, but both victories seemed hollow considering the events that unfolded earlier on Saturday in another Liga MX game between Atlas FC and Queretaro.
If you haven’t seen the news, during this match, opposing “fan” groups called barred violently clashed in the stadium ending the match as visiting fans had to invade the pitch to escape the violence unfolding in the stands. The stories, pictures and videos that have come out since have been completely horrifying in every way. There are stories of women and children who had to remove their tour kits to avoid being targeted by criminals posing as supporters. There are stories of parents hugging their sons and daughters to act as human shields as debris, punches and kicks rain down on them because they had the nerve to attend a game football and put down roots for the “wrong” team.
The flow of information remains questionable, with official sources saying there were no fatalities despite media on the ground, eyewitnesses and fan accounts claiming several people died in the crash. As of this writing, there are still no arrests, no concrete changes to how the league operates and so far no accountability.
Violence is nothing new in my home country – after all, we had more reported murders in January 2022 alone than in the whole of Ukraine, which is an active war zone last time I checked – it’s something you learn to live with out of necessity.
You avoid certain areas of the city, you stop going out alone late at night, you constantly look behind you when you walk “In case” and hope and pray that you can avoid it all if you’re just “careful.” That if you keep your head on a swivel and send your live location to a friend or family member when you take a cab and you’re savvy and resourceful and don’t mess with people with whom you shouldn’t be wrong, you’ll be fine. I have made the same argument to many foreign friends when they plan to visit my country.
It’s a lie, we all know that. In this country, you can get murdered with impunity for being in the wrong place at the wrong time for no reason, but what are you going to do? You always have to wake up at dawn to go to work and you always have to come home when it’s dark. It’s like that.
All this considering the fact that I was lucky enough to live a relatively sheltered life. I have never lived in some of the real hotspots of drug trafficking violence in my country. I have never been mugged or robbed. I live in a relatively safe neighborhood in a safe building. I can afford the privilege of being naïve and turning a blind eye to the realities of daily life for millions and millions of Mexicans because that’s the easiest thing to do. You distract yourself with your hobbies and interests, your friends and family, and you hope and pray that nothing bad happens to them. And once you get that”I made it home safely” message you forget again.
Now you can add going to a soccer game to the ever-growing list of dangerous and potentially deadly activities to do in Mexico. It hurts and there’s no easy way out, it’s a reflection of what’s happening in society as a whole, transferred to what I – selfishly and naively – viewed as a safe haven.
Saturday night — as I watched my team thrash Cruz Azul breaks to regain the top of the table — I sat alone in my living room, scrolling Twitter to almost movie-level snuff of fan-uploaded videos at stage when I got a message from my mom on our family text feed.
“You NEVER go back to the stadium, okay?”
Shit, maybe I won’t.
We see each other on Saturday.