Comparing Paul Pogba’s stats and role for Manchester United and France
Paul Pogba has had a miserable time of it at Manchester United so far this season, often sitting behind Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay and Fred in the pecking order.
The aforementioned trio have seemingly earned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trust ahead of Pogba, and the midfielder’s words after France’s 1-0 win over Portugal spoke volumes about the way he is feeling.
Pogba* told RTL France: “I had never known such a difficult period in my career. The France team is a breath of fresh air, the group is exceptional, it’s magic.”
This comes after Didier Deschamps spoke about the 27-year-old to France Football, saying: “He finds himself in a situation with his club that he can’t be happy about, neither in terms of his playing time nor his position.
“There’s no problem with me, but I also work hard to manage him. When a player is unhappy at club level, of course he is happy to play for France.
“He will tell me about how he’s feeling and as I know him very well, things will go in a positive direction. It’s also his responsibility to put in a big effort.”
So, aside from the obvious fact that Deschamps is giving Pogba more minutes, is he doing much else different to Solskjaer in dealing with Pogba?
We have taken a look at Pogba’s performance in that victory against Portugal and his displays in a United shirt this term to try spot the difference.
Starting with his showing in the UEFA Nations League, Pogba was listed as being on the right of N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot, but in practice, he was allowed to roam across the pitch to areas where he felt he could have the largest impact. This can be seen from his heatmap:
There is a clear difference between this and his last 90 minutes for the Red Devils, which came in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at the start of November.
In this example, the Frenchman sticks to his side of the midfield three far more, indicating there is perhaps less freedom being afforded to Pogba at Old Trafford than he gets with the national team.
He also had 35 fewer touches in the Premier League outing against Arsenal, indicating how these restrictions could potentially be limiting his influence on matches.
While on international duty, the midfielder attempted two dribbles, completing both. Meanwhile, he has attempted 3.9 dribbles per 90 minutes in the Premier League, completing 2.4 of those.
His pass success rate of 88% for France outdoes the 79.9% that he has recorded in the league. He didn’t actually make any key passes against Portugal, but he has similarly averaged just 0.5 per 90 for United.
Looking at the stats above, Pogba seems to be showing more precision with the ball at his feet in a France shirt, which is something that confidence – both in himself and his team-mates – could play a big part in.
He also played more passes to his team-mates against Portugal, making 74 in total, compared to the 57.7 he attempts per 90 minutes in the Premier League in 2020-21.
Onto his defensive performances. Against Portugal, Pogba attempted seven tackles – three of those were successful with the opposition managing to dribbles past him four times. In the Premier League, he has averaged 3.1 attempted tackles per 90 minutes, coming out on top in 1.9 of those.
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The 27-year-old made one interception and one clearance on the international stage, while he matches the number of interceptions for United and makes 0.7 clearances per 90.
France’s 49.9% possession was only slightly less than United’s average of 52.2%, so it is interesting to see that Pogba attempted more than double the number of tackles against Portugal than he has against Premier League opposition while also being far more involved on the ball.
All of the above points to Pogba having a more influential role in the France team, whether that be down to Deschamps instilling the confidence in the midfielder to get more out of him, or the greater freedom in the French system allowing him to identify areas on the pitch where he can have the largest impact.
There have been plenty of theories about how to get the best out of Pogba and, unsurprisingly, putting him on the bench isn’t looking like the way to do that.
Deschamps has wholeheartedly stuck with Pogba whether he has had dips in form or has performed at his top level, and it seems as though he and France are getting the rewards for that now.
While Pogba is fading into the background a bit at Old Trafford, his performances for France are showing he still has the quality to be the leading man.
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