A Half-Term Report on Juventus

Jack Alexandros RathbornContributor IIIDecember 24, 2013

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 22:  Arturo Vidal (L) and Paul Pogba of Juventus celebrate the 4th goal during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Juventus at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 22, 2013 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Juventus enter the halfway point of the season in a mixed mood.

The Bianconeri will ultimately be devastated to know that there will be no Champions League football in the second half of the season.

With disappointing results in Copenhagen and at home to Galatasaray, the damage had been done before travelling to Istanbul for a Matchday 6 decider.

The season thus far will be remembered most by the shambles that took place at the Turk Telekom Arena.

The adverse weather conditions may have provided a screen for Antonio Conte to hide behind, but he must ultimately take the flak, considering the lack of diversity in the side's tactics in this season's competition—despite dabbling with a 4-3-3 in matches against Real Madrid.

Too often did Conte fail to adjust to what he was witnessing on the pitch, and although the pressure can only mount so far after back-to-back scudetti, there is evidently work to be done to appease Juventini in what will surely not become an improved season upon the last one.

In terms of the signings made this summer, a lot was put on the two strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, with the Spaniard probably edging the Argentine out to be deemed the best acquisitionsimply down to the goals he has scored in the big matches.

El Apache has performed well in Serie A, but came up very small in Europe, which has ultimately defined the opening half of the season.

Perhaps a failure to address other positions will eventually be deemed as the reason that this season was not a complete success.

All is not lost, though, with Paul Pogba emerging as the best young footballer in Europe, the 20-year-old Frenchman picking up Tuttosport's coveted Golden Boy award after displacing Claudio Marchisio from the starting line-up.

It is tough to argue against Pogba as the most improved player in the squad, although Arturo Vidal maintains his excellence in arguably becoming Europe's most complete midfielder.

Disappointments have not been glaring from the playing staff, but Mauricio Isla's failure to capitalise upon Stephan Lichtsteiner's injury and continuing to struggle for form is certainly one of them.

Kwadwo Asamoah has frustrated on the opposite flank, but considering it is not his preferred position, it is tough to be too critical of the Ghanaian.

In terms of best performance of the season, it must be the 3-0 thrashing of Juve's closest challenger for the scudetto this season, Napoli, who were dispatched with ease at the Juventus Stadium.

Andrea Pirlo's wonderful free-kick was stupendously trumped by a masterpiece from Pogba, who struck the goal of the season thus far.

Worst performance of the season to this point must be the away fixture against Fiorentina, whereby the Old Lady crumbled in the space of 15 minutes, conceding four goals in their only league defeat of the season.

One of the most innovative ideas of the season came from Juventus, who should be commended for allowing up to 12,000 children to enter the stadium during matches against Udinese—initially for poor behaviour from their fans in the Napoli match—and subsequently against Sassuolo.

Earlier kick-off times were arranged and free tickets to kids in the region were released in one of the brightest and most generous ideas by a football club in Serie A this season.

It is a season that still contains the potential to develop into a successful one, but the failure in Europe will likely tarnish it no matter what.

A significant lead in the league will probably be enough to deliver a third successive title, but without the addition of a Coppa Italia title or the Europa League—which will have the final played at their own stadium in May—Juve's season will probably only be deemed a minor success.

Conte has much work to do to convince the fans and the board that he has developed the side further this season, and no matter the lack of competition in the league, he will need to demonstrate this in the second half of the campaign to avoid increased pressure and criticism.