Last season Paul Pogba took a lot of unfair criticism from many pundits and fans. His, then world record, transfer fee led to expectations that he was going to completely transform Manchester United and carry them to the Premier League title. While that might be a somewhat hyperbolic interpretation of what many expected, it’s not too far from the truth. When Pogba didn’t end up scoring goals and making assists on a weekly basis many began to question his fee and his ability.
The problem with these criticisms is that Pogba is not really the kind of player that is going to completely transform a team on his own, especially not in the role he most often played in with United last season. While playing with Juventus he was positioned primarily on the left of central midfield. He’s the kind of player that benefits most from the players around him which in turn allows him to become a massive benefit to them.
My belief is that Pogba is going to finish in the top three in Togga scoring this season. Last season he finished 14 in total scoring having played in 30 matches and 2608 minutes. This despite scoring just five goals and providing four assists. This worked out to 14.18 points per minute. Last season’s top five included Alexis Sanchez (17.12 PPM), Eden Hazard (17.42 PPM), Harry Kane (18.58 PPM), Christian Eriksen (17.15 PPM) and Kevin De Bruyne (15.54 PPM).
When looking at the points per minute, Pogba will need to really step up his game this season. Considering his arrival at the club so late into the summer and the lack of a real preseason, this year should certainly see him jump into the top ten at a minimum just from his increase in minutes played alone. In addition to the increase in playing time here are my three reasons why Paul Pogba is a top 3 draft pick this season.
- He will have support in midfield
Last season Pogba was expected to be nearly everywhere on the pitch and so often he was played out of his preferred position. With the addition of Nemanja Matic I’m expecting Matic and Ander Herrera to play deeper and allow Pogba to push forward more often. With Matic being able to sit as a deep defensive midfielder and Herrera being more of a ball carrying midfielder (ala Paul Schole), Pogba can then be more effective in an attacking role.
- Better forward options
Now that United has added a more mobile attacking line by ditching Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and adding Romelu Lukaku, I’m predicting more chances that should be converted. After all Lukaku scored 25 goals with a 64% shot accuracy compared to the 17 from 55% delivered by Zlatan. There are plenty of other articles and discussions out there about the number of wasted chances created by United last year that I think this is a solid enough prediction to make. Lukaku also makes for a fantastic target man and Pogba’s ability to make successful passes should increase the goals scored. Last season Pogba had a total of 1382 forward passes, a total of 1812 successful passes, and an 85% pass completion rate. All of these statistics are higher than Sanchez, Hazard, Kane, Eriksen, and De Bruyne.
- Improved understanding
This is the second year for Pogba playing under Jose Mourinho and alongside many of the players in the attacking line. He had mediocre attacking statistics with 53 key passes and 57 chances created, but this was also with an often disjointed and ponderous attacking line led by Zlatan. I’m predicting that these statistics will increase due to a better understanding of his role in the squad as well as the roles of those around him.
With the extra support he should be receiving in midfield and further up the pitch I’m expecting that his attacking numbers will also improve including the chances he will be able to create for a more potent forward line. In addition he should be able to come closer to improving on his goals and assists and come closer to the 8 goals and 12 assists he provided for Juventus in the 2015/16 Serie A season.
Last year Pogba contributed across the entirety of the pitch. Not only did have so many passes, he also played well defensively with 42 interceptions, 4 blocks, and 41 tackles won, all of which are more than Sanchez, Hazard, Kane, Eriksen, and De Bruyne. If he is able to continue to put in the defensive effort, which I’m sure he will under Mourinho, and add the attacking prowess we all know is there, he will surely be a fantasy powerhouse.
I know that top three is going to be tough for him to reach, but Pogba is such a dynamic player that when he is playing at his full potential, this is certainly an achievable position for him.