EPL 2016-17: Why Paul Pogba deserves more time before being scrutinised
Manchester United stunned the football world when they broke the bank to re-sign Paul Pogba in the summer. During his time at Juventus, the Frenchman gained a reputation of being one of the best central midfielders in the game. But with such a massive price-tag to his name, the expectations are also soaring high.
Pogba has only just reached the 10 game mark since returning to Old Trafford but many fans already beginning to write off the midfielder. A single goal in his opening seven league fixtures this season has been construed as a poor return by football fans around the world, although an outstanding performance in Manchester United’s latest Europa League game will give the midfielder a huge confidence boost.
He dispatched a penalty before scoring a stunning second goal as United saw off Fenerbahce at Old Trafford by four goals to one. It was a much-improved performance from both Pogba and the team but it remains to be seen if they can carry it on in the league.
Not the same form as displayed in Juventus
Apart from the lack of goals he has scored, Pogba has also been criticised for his failure to replicate the form that he showed at Juventus, where he won six major trophies. While in Turin, Pogba also went on to win individual accolades like the Golden Boy award (2013), the Bravo Award (2014) and the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player award (2014). He was also last season’s the top assist provider in Serie A.
While his criticisms this campaign might be warranted, it has to be understood that the Serie A and the Premier League offer quite contrasting styles of football. The Italian game is known for its organised and disciplined football, while the Premier League is one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world and that is played at an exhilarating pace. It is not easy for any player, let alone a 23-year-old, to make the jump from Italy to England and enjoy instant success.
In fact, out of the 50 most expensive footballers in the world, Pogba is only the third player to move directly from Serie A to English football. Juan Sebastian Veron (Lazio to Manchester United) and Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan to Chelsea) were the other two to make the switch and while both players were considered world-class during that time, neither managed to make any solid impact in their first season in England. They also received a barrage of disapproval from fans and didn’t last more than three seasons in England.
There is no doubting that Pogba is a class talent but with the amount of pressure and media scrutiny on one single player, it can be difficult for anyone to produce top-class performances every week.
Never been a regular goal scorer
Pogba’s lack of goals scored this season have been the central focus of his criticisms but looking back at his short career, the Frenchman has never really been a regular goal scorer and had only managed a goal every five games for Juventus and one in every six for the French National team.
It is his other attributes that make him such a valuable player, though. During his spell in Italy, Pogba displayed an incredible range of passing, exceptional long-distance shooting, aerial threat, and gritty tackling. He was able to run past players at will and could also hold onto the ball if and when required. While he has only shown glimpses of that so far this season, the talent that the youngster possesses is the very reason that the Red Devils were willing to part with such a huge sum of money.
In modern football, performances must match your price-tag and in many eyes. Pogba has failed to do so. But at only 23 years of age, the French international has his entire career ahead of him to improve and live up to his expectations.
Too early to judge Pogba
It is far too early to be judging the midfielder’s performances after he only just completed two months since returning to Manchester. He had appeared nearly 50 times for Juventus last season and was also a regular feature in France’s Euro 2016 campaign. Yet, Pogba has managed to remain fit and continues to work hard to maintain his fitness levels.
United have a long season ahead and Pogba might need a little more than a couple of months to get used to the physicality and pace of the Premier League. While it cannot be written in stone that the French International will surely kick into gear and get back to his best, it simply makes more sense to allow him time to settle before marching with pitchforks.
Manchester United have been far from their best so far and Pogba has not been the only guilty party. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored goals for fun for Paris Saint-Germain but has evidently struggled for the last few weeks, while Wayne Rooney has also disappointed. Although, following their morale-boosting win over Fenerbahce that Pogba starred in, The Red Devils will be confident to continue their run. A tough trip to Chelsea awaits Manchester United next, as we head into week nine of the Premier League.
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