Paul Pogba. The Golden Boy. The World’s most expensive player. The World’s most marketable footballer aside from Cristiano Ronaldo. Paul Pogba is Manchester United’s diamond in the rough. He is the man that United are looking to, to lead them into another era of success under Jose Mourinho. However, in his first season back at the club, he is struggling to come to terms with the £89 million fee on his back. He has struggled to find his way in big games and is unsure about where his best role in this United side is. Already he has gone from the highest highs to the lowest lows. From a man of the match winning performance at Selhurst Park and a 88th minute winner against Middlesborough to a ridiculous handball against Liverpool and missing “sitters” against Bournemouth. It’s time to look at the problems of Pogba and the solutions
To start, lets define Pogba, in terms of style of play. Aggressive, technical and extravagant. Pogba is a rare breed of midfielder that can do almost any role. His all round physical presence along with his Footballing brain has gathered him a growing reputation from his time at Juventus. Goals from midfield mixed with technical brilliance to split defences a part, Pogba is seen as the guy. The Midfielder to have. A potential Balon D’or winner, Pogba can finally be United’s answer to Yaya Toure. He is the man to finally take over United’s midfield and finally be the replacement to not just Roy Keane. But Paul Scholes as well.
Pogba however has had issues with the system of United’s and what type of game to play. Now lets look at his time at Juventus, specifically the final two seasons under Allegri where he flourished. Allegri built his midfield around Pogba and getting the best out of him. Using the 3-5-2 with wing backs, Allegri used a midfield 3 that you would expect to see in your classic 4-3-3 formation. What Allegri had however to aid Pogba, was the profiles around him. In the 2014/15 season where Juve won the league and went to the champions league final, they had Andrea Pirlo in the deep playmaker role and in front was Arturo Vidal doing the box to box work for Pogba and they had Pogba in this free role shall we say.
What this allowed was Pirlo would create a lot from deep. This would allow Pogba to be the aggressor. He would make a nuisance of himself in the attacking areas of the oppositions half because he would know that Vidal is doing the work for him in case Juve lose the ball. Pogba would be in the Number 10 area however would be allowed to go wherever because the other 2 midfielders would support. The result? More goals from Pogba. 8 goals in consecutive Serie A seasons is impressive for a midfielder in the most defensive of leagues. The exact same happened in 2015/16 season. Khedira would hold from deep, not do as much ball playing as Pirlo but instead would do Pogba’s work. Marchisio would play make more but again Pogba would be free to do as he please and so would do some work but would again be the aggressor in an attacking sense.
Over the Christmas period of this season, Pogba had this again. Ander Herrera would do the dirty work for him. Michael Carrick play makes from deep. Pogba can take up that space that not having a number 10 leaves. He scored more and created more. However after a underwhelming performance against Liverpool and the return to form of Anthony Martial, Mourinho reverted back to old reliable. 4-2-3-1. What this meant was that Pogba had to play more deeper. He didn’t have that free roaming role and so him and Herrera would have to share the workload.
The Number 10 however is his biggest issue. What it does, is it takes up that space that Pogba would have in the free role, in 4-3-3. Someone else would instead be the aggressor and so Pogba wouldn’t have that space to run into and would have to do the work that players like Vidal and Khedira would do for him. Now I’m not saying play Pogba as a number 10. Far from it. Pogba hasn’t be influential as a number 10 for United this season. He isn’t the type of player to play with his back to goal. As we have said he likes to drive forward from deep and attack from a central midfield role so he can attack that open space on the pitch.
The same problems occurred for France at the Euros. Pogba didn’t have a great Euros because he was in the 4-2-3-1 and couldn’t excel. He was playing more deeper and sharing the workload with Blaise Matuidi and N’golo Kante. His best game for France came in the 5-2 defeat of Ireland where Gignac and Griezmann were both up front so again there was a lot of space for Pogba to run into whether out wide or in that number 10 area.
The Solution? Simple. Pogba has to adapt. It is easier for one player to adapt than 11 players change. United aren’t looking to lose the Number 10 position especially with having the likes of Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They have also been linked with Antoine Griezmann and Alexis Sanchez so it seems as though Pogba will still be in a deeper role with Herrera. What Pogba has to do is discipline himself earlier the expected. He has to influence from deep like Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso have done. He has to be able to control the play from deep but also attack at the appropriate time. If he is not scoring goals, Pogba needs to be controlling the midfield but also supporting enough defensively. He has masses of potential and is a future Balon D’or candidate. As long as he adapts to what Mourinho needs but still showcases his talents, he will have a long fruitful career in the Premier league
In doing this, we will see why United paid £89 million to bring him home.