This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Just how do you solve a problem like Paul Pogba? The France World Cup winner’s protracted transfer saga over the course of the summer window hit the headlines on a daily basis, and it was a major surprise to see him remaining at Old Trafford after the deadline.
Since then, the midfielder has come under heavy criticism for his perceived role in the Wolves penalty debacle, and has spent the majority of the campaign out injured. The Red Devils have suffered a series of embarrassing results in the Frenchman’s absence, not least of which was the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle last weekend.
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But when Pogba does eventually make his return from injury, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must change tack with the way he has deployed the 26-year-old so far. The question of where his best position is, has been the source of constant debate. But in the limited time he has played in the number ten role, the former Juventus man has emphatically delivered.
In his seven games in the role in the Premier League, Pogba has averaged a goal contribution every match, and yet for some reason continues to be played in various other positions instead. His 0.34 expected goals is the highest of anywhere he has played on the pitch, whilst his 0.27 expected assists is the most too.
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His last game in the attacking midfield role came away at Leicester in February of last season, and he provided the sublime through ball for Marcus Rashford to fire home for the winning goal. The Frenchman’s greater range of passing and incisive vision makes him a superb option for United to boost their creativity levels. He has provided 12 key passes in the seven matches he has played as a number ten, and registered 19 shots too.
The Red Devils’ complete lack of goals this season – they have managed to score just nine times in eight Premier League games – is evidence of a woeful strike-force, but a less than influential midfield too. Getting Pogba further forward in terms of his positioning on the pitch can help the Red Devils unlock doors with greater ease.
As former United man Paul Parker suggested, Solskjaer’s side could benefit greatly by a tactical tweak for the 6 foot 3 star.
“Pogba’s at his best when he can be creative and make things happen going forward. Remove the shackles and get him in positions where he can go at players one versus one, or has the freedom to run in behind and ask questions of the opposition defence that way.”
As the stats prove, it’s high time for United to unleash the full abilities of their midfield maverick.