Few Premier League players divide opinion quite like Paul Pogba; to some, an incredible talent that Jose Mourinho continues to stifle, to others, an ill-disciplined and incomplete player who struggles to function as part of a team.
But essentially, the whole debate centres around trying to define what Pogba actually is and how his abilities can best serve the team. Should he be a box-to-box midfielder, a holding player or something far more offensive minded? Football FanCast lay out four suggested solutions to the conundrum of the French star’s best position…
It’s allegedly Pogba’s preferred position and arguably the one that strikes the best balance between what he thinks he can bring to the side in terms of dynamism and creativity, and what Jose Mourinho wants him to bring to the side in terms of physical presence and defensive protection.
It’s also where the France international produced his best form for Juventus alongside Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, and where most would argue he’s provided his strongest performances in a United jersey as well. However, some believe Pogba can be utilised even further forward, while Mourinho clearly thinks he can have an impact in deeper roles as well.
For all the controversy surrounding Mourinho deploying Pogba alongside Nemanja Matic in deeper midfield, he does possess the natural requisites for the role – at least on paper. Indeed, the 24-year-old has the natural power and brawn to soak up the kind of space opposing No.10s like to thrive in, alongside the passing quality and dribbling ability to protect the ball and give United a real platform to launch attacks from – similar to the service Mousa Dembele has so ably provided Tottenham with in recent seasons.
But it’s clear Pogba lacks the discipline and positional awareness to be a study and dependable option at the base of midfield, and it’s obvious that the role doesn’t appeal to his natural mindset. In any case, putting a leash on a player who can offer so much offensively seems a monumental waste of a talent that once demanded a world-record price-tag.
A few years ago, back when practically every side in the Premier League lined up using a 4-2-3-1 formation, Pogba would potentially have taken up the spot at the tip of midfield, where his defensive obligations are as limited as possible and the close proximity with the central striker allows his creativity and netting prowess to flourish.
At Manchester United, that would work out as Pogba regularly linking up with Romelu Lukaku to either play in the Belgium international or latch onto any second ball situations to rifle home from the edge of the box – in a similar style to Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. But the fact is, 4-2-3-1’s popularity has waned in recent years and even during its hayday, more slender and technical playmakers were preferred to physically imposing types – think David Silva over Yaya Toure at Manchester City, for example.
With Pogba – who Transfermarkt value at £81million – so offensive-minded, perhaps he should be more part of the attack than the midfield. Although it can be completely different to the midfield game at times, especially when you’re taking the ball with your back to goal, a supporting forward role either side of or just behind Lukaku would truly allow Pogba’s attacking instincts to flourish.
He’s got the power to hold off defenders, the aerial prowess to latch onto crosses at the far post, the finishing ability to shoot from distance and the quality when dribbling to burst through opposition lines, so the potential is certainly there for the Frenchman to move up a department, partnering Lukaku and Sanchez likely as the left forward in United’s attack.
It would end all the debates over which midfield role gets the best out of Pogba, and give him the platform to impact games in the way a world-record signing should. It’s also reminiscent of what Liverpool once did with Steven Gerrard, playing him as a right winger and a second striker until the Anfield legend improved the more disciplined aspects of his game and became a deeper-lying midfielder.
Admittedly though, Pogba is untested in that position and playing him further forward would keep Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial out of the Red Devils’ first XI.
So, Manchester United fans, what do you see as Pogba’s best position? Let us know by voting below…