New statistics published by The Athletic‘s Laurie Whitwell show that Paul Pogba’s performance so far this season is significantly worse than normal, but also suggest why that is the case.
The Frenchman has struggled to show his best form since contracting Covid-19 in the summer break and has found himself on the bench for most of United’s recent Premier League matches.
And whilst Pogba always provokes a great deal of debate among fans, journalists and pundits as to whether he is being used correctly by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, or whether he is judged unfairly simply because he is Paul Pogba, the stats that The Athletic have reported are evidence that it is not a matter of form but one of either fitness or effort.
The table compares the 27-year-old’s last five seasons in terms of touches taken, attempted passes, pass completion, passes into the opponent’s third of the pitch, chances created, non-penalty shot and possessions lost. Pogba’s figures for this season are down in every column compared to previous years.
source: The Athletic
Of course, a decline in pass completion, chances created and possession lost – the success rate of what is attempted – could be due to poor form. However, a drop in figures such as attempted passes, passes into the opponent’s half and shots – indicators of what is attempted rather than what works – suggests that he is simply not working as hard as usual.
‘Usually, Pogba tops the charts at United for a whole range of measures, mainly creative. But this season his expected assist value of 0.06 per 90 minutes is the 12th highest in the team — joint with Nemanja Matic. Bruno Fernandes leads the way on 1.82,’ Whitwell writes.
The number of assists statistic can of course be misleading and is to some extent based on luck – if the forwards are not converting the chances a player creates, it does not mean he is not creating them. But to go from first to twelfth highest is an incredible drop that cannot entirely be due to fate.
Pogba’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has insisted at press conferences that the issue is one of fitness rather than form and to some extent these figures support his claim, because they say that he is simply doing less per 90 minutes than normal. The only other explanation besides a lack of fitness would be a lack of effort.
The fact that the 27-year-old has got two full 90 minute matches under his belt on international duty this week should therefore encourage Solskjaer to start him in United’s coming match against West Brom. If the issue is just fitness, we should expect to see a much better array of statistics by the end of tomorrow’s game.
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