Juventus were desperately seeking a figurehead to lead a new era in Turin when key players left the club last summer, and Paul Pogba has taken on the mantle with aplomb.
This term’s prospects looked bleak when Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal joined New York City FC and Bayern Munich respectively, while new midfield arrival Sami Khedira suffered a series of injury problems to curtail his involvement.
Thereafter, Juve stumbled through the opening two months of the campaign in a daze, which was in stark contrast to their previous four Scudetto-winning seasons.
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Coach Massimiliano Allegri and his players came under increased scrutiny, despite having claimed a domestic double in 2014-15, with decent European form offering the only solace.
Pogba himself seemed to be weighed down by the added expectation on his shoulders, as numerous inconsistencies crept into his game.
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Reigning Serie A champions Juventus languished in 12th position after a 1-0 loss at Sassuolo on October 28.
Prized asset Pogba encountered many difficulties during that early part of the campaign, which could also have been caused by the unrelenting speculation over his own future that had raged throughout the summer.
Several uncharacteristic mistakes were made by the Frenchman in forfeiting possession, while he only managed one goal and two assists throughout his opening 13 Serie A and Champions League outings combined.
The evolution from being one of the younger guys in the team, who was previously afforded a little bit of leeway with which to make errors, into a key leadership figure was proving troublesome.
SIGN OF A CHAMPION
Pogba’s form, along with that of his comrades, mercifully saw a sudden upsurge after that aforementioned defeat to Sassuolo.
The 22-year-old exerted a great amount of influence in helping to turn the tide, and his performance levels were that of a man determined to prove any doubters wrong.
His trademark swagger and skill on the ball, which had been sadly missing in the infancy of the campaign, was back in evidence and led to a glut of man-of-the-match displays.
Additionally, Pogba struck five times in all competitions following that disappointing loss against upstarts Sassuolo, whilst providing another five goals for others during that period until the end of January.
Crucially, it has coincided with a remarkable 14-match winning run that saw the Old Lady briefly return to the top of the table on January 31 for the first time this term after a resounding 4-0 victory over Chievo.
Juve are now locked in a tight battle at the top with fellow Serie A championship hopefuls Napoli as the second half of the season rolls on, as Roma, Fiorentina and Inter dropped off the pace recently.
Pogba has already become a true driving force in the Juventus midfield way earlier than he could have expected – and a fifth successive league crown would cap a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for both the player and his club come May.
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