Two goals; zero assists: Analysing Paul Pogba's impact since re-joining Manchester United
It was the biggest deal of the summer transfer window, as Manchester United paid a world record fee to secure the signature of Paul Pogba, just years after letting him depart on a free. The Frenchman opted to leave Old Trafford in 2012 after making just a handful of appearances for the first team. He was upset with his lack of opportunities and chose to leave to kick-start his career. It was the correct decision and he has returned to Manchester as one of the world’s best players. The pressure is now on him to carry United back to the top of the game and his start has been mixed to say the least.
How has he started the season?
In his first ten matches, Pogba has scored two goals, but has yet to record an assist. This will be an area of the game that he will want to improve as he has the quality to contribute upwards of 15 goals a season. The Frenchman has been averaging 3.3 shots and 1.9 chances created per game. It is evident that he is trying hard to influence matches, but his decision making needs to be better. His creativity has been a particular disappointment as he has good vision and an impressive passing range. That said, he has completed 86% of his passes, showing that he has been reliable in possession.
Although Pogba isn’t known for his defensive qualities, he isn’t afraid to put the hard work on for his team and he has worked hard at the start of this season. It would have been easy for Pogba to have taken on the identity of the star of the team and disregard his defensive work. However, he is averaging 1.6 interceptions and 1.4 tackles won per game. This is a good contribution, but he is never going to rival the likes of Ngolo Kante in this department. Jose Mourinho must find the right combination in midfield to balance Pogba’s attacking flair with other player(s) defensive work rate. This has been the problem to date.
What is his role in the team?
As briefly touched on above, Manchester United have yet to find the right partnership in midfield and that has meant that Pogba’s role has yet to be clearly defined. He has been used as a number six at times, which limits him in how much he can influence the match in the final third. In the last match, Mourinho finally moved away from his 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 and Manchester United were much improved. Pogba was given the freedom to roam and get forward alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Frenchman gave one of his best performances of the season and if he continues to play alongside Michael Carrick, we should see a significant increase in his attacking contribution over the coming weeks.
Can he improve?
Paul Pogba is one of the best players in the world and has proven that over the last couple of years. It was a huge coup for Manchester United to sign him, especially given his history with the club. Mourinho now needs to find a system that suits his best players, even if that means moving away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation on a permanent basis. He has showed that he is able to alter his style of play in the last league game against Swansea and it paid off.
I expect Pogba to improve over the coming weeks and emerge as one of the best players in the league in 2017. It was expected that it would take some time for him to settle back into English football, but he has too much talent not to be a success. The problems at the moment lie with the formation and other players being picked rather than Pogba. The moment that Mourinho finds his best team is the moment when Pogba begins to fly.
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