Disclaimer: I am not a professional scout, I just happen to consume the breakfast of champions every day. Additionally, I can read.
"Is this the way to Chelsea?" - via www.footmercato.net
Recently, I asked who the WAGNH community would most like to see a scouting report on. I'll admit, I was surprised to see Pogba take the cake, with a whopping 47%, compared to the next closest, Koke (18%). I'm guessing many people
misread didn't read the poll, as Pogba seems to be fairly well-known among WAGNH. Despite voters probably thinking they were voting for "most desired transfer target" or maybe "weirdest hairdo," the choice was clear and I must follow the mandate. Let this be a lesson, people: read the fine print! Ah, whatever. Here you go.
Name: Paul Pogba
Date of birth: 15 March 1993 (21 years old)
Place of birth: Lagny-sur-Marne, near Paris, France
Position: Central Midfielder
Current club: Juventus (at club since summer 2012, under contract until 2016)
Former clubs: Le Havre (youth), Manchester United
International caps: 9 (2 goals)
Undoubtedly, Pogba's greatest strength is Ball Retention. Of course, this capability requires a great many skills and attributes, which I shall enumerate here.
Strength: Pogba is big, and he uses his body very well to shield the ball.
Footwork: He is excellent with the ball at his feet, and uses this ability to dribble out of trouble or sneak a pass out of a tight area.
Focus: This is where Pogba really shines. He plays at a high intensity that rarely falls into lulls or lapses of concentration. He is an absolute machine on the field.
Aerial ability: He has a ridiculous vertical and plenty of natural height and strength, so his timing is really the only of factor in Pogba's ability to get to the ball in the air, and I'd say his timing is excellent.
Bursts: When he puts an opponent behind him, he puts an opponent BEHIND him. His explosiveness is enough to put serious space between him and the man he just took the ball from. When Pogba takes the ball from you, you don't get it back.
Everyone wants a piece of this guy. Marchisio would settle for the armpit. - via static.sportskeeda.com
To give you a more objective understanding of where he might fit among this past season's crop of midfielders, I compared his statistics with those of Chelsea players. Keep in mind that these statistics can be somewhat flawed or skewed when it comes to telling the whole story of a player's performance.
Pogba was dispossessed by opponents in league or European play an average of 1.5 times per game. That compares with 1.3 for Matic, Ramires 0.9, Luiz 0.4 (who had the added benefit of playing as a CB for about half his appearances), Mikel 0.3, and Lampard 0.3. A surface understanding of these statistics might lead one to believe that Pogba would be the worst of our midfield in terms of possession, if he were to be purchased. Comparing his statistic to teammate and fellow midfield boss Arturo Vidal gives us some more perspective. Vidal was dispossessed an average of 1.4 times per game. This tells me that either Serie A is more prone to dispossession in the midfield, or Juventus' style of play leads to these midfielder's being more vulnerable to their opponents' tackles.
The same is true in the case of turnovers (i.e. when a player gives up possession through poor dribbling or a wayward pass). Here is a list of the averages per game in descending order: Ramires - 1.5, Pogba - 1.4, Vidal - 1.2, Matic - 1.2, David Luiz - 0.6, Lampard - 0.5, Mikel - 0.4. Again, considering factors like Luiz playing at center back and the type of teams Lampard and Mikel were often employed against is as important as the league and style of play involved.
In terms of shooting, I would compare Pogba to our favorite former-Chelsea ferret-head, Raul Meireles. He does really well when facing goal, exhibits good technique (even on the volley) and packs a wallop when he strikes the ball. They have similar weaknesses as well in terms of shooting; if given the time and space, they're each deadly, but if not, the results are usually poor from distance. Another nice thing about Pogba is that he seems to have pretty good recognition of when he has the time and space to shoot.
So far we've seen that Pogba can burst forward like Ramires, retain possession like Matic, and shoot like Portuguese Robert DeNiro from Taxi Driver, but many of you will be wondering about Pogba's passing ability. Those of you who are familiar with the system Juventus employ will know that much of the creative string-pulling and deep-lying playmaking comes from Andrea Pirlo. Long balls and cross field switches can also come from Vidal. In terms of the type of passing Pogba most often does, he's a bit like Ramires has been throughout the Brazilian's Chelsea career. He's not the distributor that Mikel or Lampard are; he's more of a connector. After receiving or regaining possession, Pogba turns and moves forward quickly into whatever space he has. If there is no space, he finds a quick outlet, usually to the wings. However, he's often able to move into space until he reaches a defensive line, at which point he does one of three things:
A) He sees a pass out to the wing and makes it.
B) His teammates have not caught up to him, and he's facing a stacked defense so he buys time with crazy dribbling madness or he simply passes backwards.
Oh, and I guess he could also do this:
Pogba plays 1.2 key passes per game, which is the exact same production we saw from Matic this year in our pivot. Once more, stats are really difficult to translate across leagues and styles, but it does serve to demonstrate that Pogba has the vision and ball control to make those passes. I've seen him be a part of some really pretty link-up play, and with the other creative talent we already have, it would get really steamy really quickly.
Other comparisons - Mikel: 0.4, Ramires: 1, Lampard: 1.3, Fabregas: 1.4, Vidal: 1.5, Kroos: 1.5
"C'mon man. What do you want? Perfection?" - via en.africatopsports.com
Honestly, the truth is, Pogba has no considerable weaknesses as a midfielder. He's a box-to-boxer with excellent strength, acceleration, dribbling, vision, ball control, balance, and distance shooting ability. As he's only 21, I expect him to improve in many areas, including the ones I've just mentioned. If he does continue to improve and reaches his potential, he will undoubtedly be one of the best all-around midfielders in the world. Below, you'll find some nit-picky stuff because it's a scouting report, and you can't say only good things. These are the areas in which Pogba could make the most improvement:
Ball-Winning: It's not so much a weakness as an area that fans should be aware of. Pogba does not play as Juventus' primary ball-winner. He averages 2.3 tackles per game, and 2.2 fouls per game. In contrast, Vidal makes 4.3 tackles per game and 2.2 fouls. Again, this isn't a particularly helpful stat to compare across leagues and even teams, because the style of play in a side or league significantly affects opportunities. The same is true for positions. Vidal plays in a deeper position, thus he is able to make more tackles. Pogba is more often chasing down a play, which explains he near 1:1 ratio of tackles to fouls. The fact that Fabregas plays in a high press system might mean he would have more chances that a similarly advanced Pogba, except that Barca is so good at retaining possession that need to regain the ball is rare. Matic is Chelsea's primary ball-winner in midfield, so naturally his stat is superior: 3.1 tackles per game (he's also just really good at football). Pairing Matic with Pogba in a pivot would be similar to seeing Pogba backed-up by Vidal at Juventus.
I should mention a note. Juventus' midfield has been something of a chimera this past season, mostly because of Pogba's emergence as a gifted player that can't be left out. That being said, Pogba's role has sometimes shifted based on whether or not Vidal/Pirlo/both are on the field with him. But for the vast majority of matches, he has played as a box-to-box midfielder ahead of at least one other, more defensive mid. One might draw the conclusion that a 4-3-3 would be the best fit for him, but he could certainly play as the more dynamic half of a pivot with Matic.
First touch: Again, I'm being picky. Pogba often has great control and moves his body around the ball very well. Sometimes, however, his own size and strength get the better of him. He's unstoppable in space, and very good in close to opponents on both sides of the ball, but I expect him to grow into his body a little more as his career progresses. It's frightening to think about how good he'll be when in full control.
Attitude: A player's attitude is something that can be difficult to assess from the outside. Not being privy to training sessions, it seems ludicrous to try and make a judgement on a player who hasn't been involved in any malicious on-field incidents. However, we do have this bit of insight from a former manager as the young man left his club.
"It is disappointing. I don't think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I'm quite happy that if they carry on that way, they're probably better doing it away from us."
Of course, his manager at Juventus has praised the (French) out of him, lauding his attitude, self-awareness, and work ethic. My guess is that Pogba didn't appreciate the management style of Ferguson, which is good, because it's nothing like Mourinho's man-management tack. He apologized profusely after showing up late to practice once, and I think that's just the sort of dedicated attitude Chelsea appreciate.
I really hate how this particular video creator does his stuff (with the vignette filter and annoying zoom crop), but it's the most comprehensive compilation of Pogba's more recent performances.