There were high expectations for Paul Pogba this season, following his record-breaking deal to Manchester United. But despite the fact that the 23 year old had showcased his undeniable talents for four straight seasons in Italy, he’s yet to have a major impact in the Premier League. Here are five possible reasons as to why the eccentric Frenchman has struggled thus far.
Although you could argue that Pogba has played in England before, it’s fair to say that his three substitute appearances as a slightly cocky eighteen year old under Sir Alex Ferguson against the likes of Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion didn’t exactly give him the full Premier League experience. Most of Pogba’s actual playing career has come in Serie A, where the relatively slow-paced matches allowed him a lot more time on the ball than he’s going to get in the Prem. The style of Italian football is a lot different to the way teams play in England, and although he may have the strength and pace to deal with the physicality of the league, it may take some time to adjust the mental side of his game in order to make (and execute) decisions under a lot more pressure.
There’s no doubt that Pogba has confidence. Aside from the showboating, flashy haircuts and the dabbing, he made the decision to leave one of the biggest clubs in the world at 19 because of his faith in his ability, and also has the strength of character to return to that club, with perhaps a point or two to prove. But, following an underwhelming individual display at the Euros (coupled now with the ‘most expensive player in the world’ tag), Pogba may actually be feeling the pressure. Perhaps not drastically, but enough for his form to dip and as a result, the performances he turns in have become relatively sub-standard.
Another ‘issue’ for Pogba would be his position. Where does he play? At Juve he acted primarily as a playmaker in a 3-5-2, meaning that he would often have two other midfielders alongside him. Midfielders like Khedira, Marchisio and Sturaro, who’d provide more defensive industry whilst Pogba was delegated the freedom to roam in order to find one of the two attackers or a wide man. However, he was only able to do this because of Juve’s dominance, something that United currently don’t have. He doesn’t have the defensive discipline or work rate to act as a holding central midfielder or box to box midfielder in the Prem, but he is looking lost in the ‘10’ role, playing behind the striker at United. If Pogba is going to be a success at United, his best positions needs to not only be found, but integrated into the team.
Unlike Juve’s Massimiliano Allegri, who is able to create fluid and versatile formations that could be adjusted in game to support the needs of both the defence and attack, Jose Mourinho has a more predictable, ‘tried and tested’ structure. This means that Pogba is being confined to just two possible midfield roles in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1. Either one of the two central midfielders, that shield the back four and start attacks from deeper positions, or the ‘10’ who usually acts as an industrious attacking midfielder for Mourinho. Neither of these roles overly suit Pogba, who has had success playing with freedom from deep/central midfield, but this isn’t a role that really exists under Mourinho. Because of this, Pogba doesn’t actually look like the type of player Jose would ideally want in his team, and he may need to adapt his formation in order to get the best from Pogba.
Pogba’s move in the Summer was a massive story, becoming the most expensive player in history for a team that you left for free just four years ago is a pretty big deal, and there are certainly difficulties to overcome because of this. With endless weeks of media coverage analysing the story and scrutinising the deal, it’s understandable if Pogba almost got lost in his own saga at times. Meanwhile there seems to be new videos of Pogba dancing or ‘dabbing’ every other week, as well as being the face of Adidas’ Summer advertising campaign, and is now the star of their most recent advert ‘Football needs creators’. It’s highly likely that Pogba isn’t yet concentrating fully on his football, and this is something that should change ASAP if Pogba wants to live up to the hype that surrounds him.
Dan G, TFN Chief Premier League writer on 25/10/2016 at 12:06
Follow Dan on Twitter @False_CB