October 26 2020, Monday Night Football had a definitive argument between Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, after the Paul Pogba was left out of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI against Chelsea on October 24.
Listening to the debate, a question popped up in my mind, “Has Paul Pogba done justice to his talent at Man United, in the 4+ years that he’s been at the club?”. To put it simply, he hasn’t done anything consistently apart from being flamboyant off the pitch! Paul Pogba will always be in the bracket of – what he could have been. Let’s look at the reasons why I’m saying so.
#POGBACK – Paul Pogba signed again for Man United in August 2016 on a five-year contract for a then record transfer fee of €105 million (£89.3 million). He came back to fulfill the unfulfilled dreams of a young footballer who had left the club in 2012, to Juventus, in search of regular game time.
Jose Mourinho signed Pogba back, a proper box-to-box midfielder with immense talent to bring back the glory days at the club. There was a lot of expectations on Pogba’s shoulders, after all, we had signed a proper midfielder with creativity as well as flair, who could make transitions for the team quicker.
However in the 4 years at the club, Pogba has been going through the motions, sometimes displaying the talent he has, while other times portraying the lack of discipline he has on the field. Meanwhile, he has also been plagued by injuries ranging from ankle issues to muscle tear injuries. In the 4 years at the club, he’s missed a total of 55 games & 304 days (almost a year).
However, injuries have just been a small blip in Pogba’s career. Instead of staying focused at the club, he & his agent (Mino Raiola) has flirted with other clubs, whenever the opportunity has presented. Even after one of the worst games for United against Spurs, which United lost by 6-1 (a record defeat), Pogba went ahead & spoke about another club – Real Madrid & its not for the first time that he has done so. A timeline below will portray his quotes & the background to them:
August 2018 – Pogba put himself in the shop window with a fine display in the World Cup final – his performances earlier in the tournament were much more like the laboured displays we had become used to at Old Trafford – and United chose to pander to their biggest star. He returned from Russia amid links with Barcelona, but Mourinho tried to get Pogba on board by offering him the captain’s armband.
March 2019 – The international break in March was when United lost their momentum, which just so happens to be when Pogba started talking about his Real Madrid dreams again.
June 2019 – Pogba spent some of his summer on a personal promotional tour of the Far East where it was inevitable that he would again flutter his eyelashes at Real Madrid and Juventus.
January 2020 – Now, with Raiola seemingly no closer to the fat commission he would earn from moving Pogba again, the agent took the initiative in trying to force the issue. After United failed to meet his demands over Haaland, Raiola spoke out several times
February 2020 – With Real looking unlikely to meet United’s demands anytime soon, especially with Covid on the horizon, Raiola and Pogba switched their focus to a return to Juventus.
October 2020 – Pogba has started the season in woeful form, like many of his team-mates. But Pogba was substituted in the opening two matches while leaving him on against Spurs seemed more of a punishment than a show of faith. On and off the pitch, his timing has been awful.
While Pogba has been flirting with other clubs, the disrespect shown to Man United is for everyone to see. Unfortunately, we do not have a personality of Sir Alex Ferguson’s, who would always believe that the club is bigger than any player. In the case of Pogba, this doesn’t seem to hold true. Yes, there’s too much leeway given to players these days, but a good old fashioned whip is always needed to get the horse in line, if he goes astray.
New Contract? – Its also believed that Paul Pogba is cajoling the club into offering him a new contract. Raoila has tried it before & Pogba, who’s just got his original contract extended by another year, keeps persuading the top management into offering him a hefty paycheck.
But is Pogba worth the money? Currently he earns £290,000 a week, which is higher than most players in the EPL (Only 5 players earn more than him). But does he equal the best in the EPL as well when compared to De Bruyne? Lets take a look :
|All stats||Pogba |
|De Bruyne |
|Goals per game||0.4||0.4|
|Shots per game||2.2||2.0|
While the above stats are just a birds eye view, the below ones provide an in-depth view :
|All stats for Premier League only||Pogba (PL 18/19)||De Bruyne (PL 19/20)|
|Passing (per 90)|
|Total Passes completed||51.7||54|
|Total Passes attempted||63.3||72.4|
|Total Pass completion %||81.7||74.6|
|Short Passes Completion %||88.1||82.7|
|Medium Passes Completion %||83.5||81.5|
|Long Passes Completion %||70.7||58.6|
|Passes in final 3rd||6.74||5.65|
|Passes into Penalty area||1.92||3.9|
|Crosses into Penalty area||0.24||0.58|
|Possession (per 90)|
|Def Pen (Touches in Defensive Penalty area)||1.59||0.97|
|Def 3rd (Touches in Defensive 1/3)||11.70||7.13|
|Mid 3rd (Touches in Middle 1/3)||45.60||36.60|
|Att 3rd (Touches in Attacking 1/3)||26.00||45.20|
|Att Pen (Touhes in Opponenets Penalty area)||3.62||5.29|
|Dribbles completed successfully (%)||63.2||64.6|
|Number of Players dribbles past||1.9||2.1|
|Carries (per 90)|
|Carries (no. Of time the player controlled the ball)||63.3||58.5|
|Total distance covered with the ball at his feet||322.6||318.3|
|Prog Distance (No. Of times the player moved the ball towards opponent’s goal)||177.4||210.0|
|Receiving (per 90)|
|No. Of times the player was the target to receive the pass||70.1||70.3|
|% of time a player successfully received a pass||88.6||89.4|
|vs Dribbles(per 90)|
|No of dribblers tackled||0.39||0.35|
|Att (No of times dribbled past + no of tackles)||1.14||1.87|
|Past (No of times dribbled past by an opposing player)||0.75||1.52|
|Press (No of times applying pressure to opponent who’s with the ball)||19.6||17.9|
|Succ (No of times the squad gained possession within 5 secs of pressure)||4.49||5.71|
|Successful Pressure %||22.9||31.90|
|Tackles + Interceptions||1.83||1.77|
The analysis for the best season comparison is done, to understand if Pogba really was the best player through a season that he’s been with the club. However, the data shows that when compared to the best Midfielder – De Bruyne, Pogba does excel in certain areas like passing, vs Dribbles. However in situations where he needs to pressurize the opponents, keep possession of the ball, progressive distance covered, pressures in the final 3rd , as well as touches in the opponent’s penalty area is poor in comparison to De Bruyne. In a position where Pogba typically plays – left center of the pitch, losing possession does put the team under pressure. Unfortunately, his errors recently have led to a direct goal as well, like in the last Premier League match vs Arsenal, he gave a penalty away. The position in which Pogba loses the ball, the team also usually loses authority & control in the most important areas of the pitch. Pogba this season alone, has been dispossessed, a total of 15 times (in the premier league – vs Arsenal 5 times & vs Spurs 3 times). If compared to last season he lost the ball 26 times during the whole season. (Source fbref.com)
Lets compare some stats of this season:
|All stats for Premier League only||Pogba (PL 20/21)||De Bruyne (PL 20/21)|
|Passing (per 90)|
|Total Passes completed||47.1||51.6|
|Total Passes attempted||58.3||70.5|
|Total Pass completion %||80.8||73.3|
|Passes in final 3rd||4.63||5.81|
|Passes into Penalty area||0.73||3.72|
|Crosses into Penalty area||0||0.47|
|Possession (per 90)|
|Def Pen (Touches in Defensive Penalty area)||1.95||0.93|
|Def 3rd (Touches in Defensive 1/3)||12.70||6.51|
|Mid 3rd (Touches in Middle 1/3)||40.20||37.70|
|Att 3rd (Touches in Attacking 1/3)||22.70||47.40|
|Att Pen (Touhes in Opponenets Penalty area)||1.95||5.81|
|Carries (per 90)|
|Carries (no. Of time the player controlled the ball)||51.5||59.8|
|Total distance covered with the ball at his feet||242.4||407.2|
|Prog Distance (No. Of times the player moved the ball towards opponent’s goal)||120.5||282.3|
|Receiving (per 90)|
|No. Of times the player was the target to receive the pass||59.5||65.6|
|% of time a player successfully received a pass||89.3||91.8|
This season simply isn’t Pogba’s, he’s simply being a passenger & going through the motions in every match he’s played. The number of reds in the table above, be it in possession, passing, carrying the ball ahead or receiving the ball, he’s been poor across every parameter.
Conclusion – Is there a question about the talent Pogba has? NO. Is there an issue with him being focused on Man United? YES. Can he do better if he’s focussed? Definitely yes!
That brings us to our original question? Has Pogba done justice to his talent while at Man United? NO
Pogba has been at the club for 4 years now, but all fans & pundits like Neville are still trying to justify his best position, his playmaking abilities, his skills off the ball & on it too. We are still debating if he deserves a new contract, even when’s disrespected the club by talking about going to another club.
Moreover, questions remain if he can gel with Fernandes & play in the same team & fulfill his talent by becoming the best box-to-box midfielder to grace football.
Honestly, I feel its time to part ways since the club will be better off without Pogba & if we get a good offer next summer, we should let him go. The new transfer policy does suggest that the club will not be bullied by the agents & player’s excess demands for commission & bonuses. Pogba’s agent has tried to do so earlier with Haaland & will try to get a heft contract & commission for himself via the new deal.
Keeping all the above points in mind, I feel the club will definitely be in a strong position if Pogba leaves the club.
What are your views? Do comment below, would be glad to hear them.