Now Mediawatch is not about to pretend that Paul Pogba has been phenomenal this season but do you know what he’s not been? Ineffective, that’s what.
The Frenchman has started only 23 Premier League games but just four players – all of Manchester City – have more than his ten assists. But is that good enough for Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness? Is it balls. But that’s largely because he thinks he should be playing an entirely different role. He’s big and athletic, you see.
“He’s not being judged unfairly. The relationship with Jose Mourinho isn’t perfect, if I was managing him I’d be frustrated. He can be so much better, he’s got tons of ability, wonderful athleticism.
“He seems himself as a bit of a playmaker. I don’t…I see him as a 25-year-old at the peak of his fitness levels, he should be going box-to-box.”
Because of course Souness gets to decide. It would make life so much easier if he could send some kind of guide to all Premier League players ahead of the season so they know what role they have been assigned.
Perhaps Pogba ‘sees himself as a bit of a playmaker’ because his ‘assist per 90’ rate this season is exactly the same as that of Kevin De Bruyne, who probably also ‘sees himself as a bit of a playmaker’. Is he allowed?
“Kante has a way of impacting the game. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard did too. You need to find a way. People are always going to judge him with what he is.”
Kante does have a way of impacting a game – with tackles and interceptions – because he is a defensive midfielder. You might as well compare Pogba to Harry Kane and claim he does not score enough goals.
As for Gerrard, only twice in his 17-year career did the former Liverpool midfielder reach double figures for Premier League assists. And that definitely was not when he was 25. Indeed, in the season after he turned 25 – Pogba’s age, remember – he scored ten Premier League goals and claimed five assists. So far this season, Pogba has scored six and assisted ten; some would say that is a very similar return.
Gerrard had of course won the Champions League at this juncture but Pogba has not been too shabby about collecting trophies; he already has four Serie A titles, three domestic cups and a Europa League trophy.
And then there’s Lampard. Now he did reach double figures for Premier League assists four times in his 20-year career. But do you know what he did the season after he turned 25? He scored ten Premier League goals and claimed five assists.
It’s almost like those are pretty normal figures for a very good 25-year-old midfielder, and they do not indicate what that midfielder might achieve in the subsequent ten years.
How dare Pogba not be a defensive midfielder? How dare he not be at the end of an illustrious career? He needs a slap.
And in other ‘why is Pogba not like X?’ news, Garth Crooks has included Fernandinho in his BBC Team of the week. And he’s definitely not Pogba. He doesn’t even have a hair ‘do’.
‘Regular readers will know what I think of this lad. Fernandinho is everything Paul Pogba should be. In fact if Pogba had what Fernandinho had, Manchester City would have suffered far more sleepless nights this season – and not just the one they suffered a few weeks ago at the hands of the mercurial Frenchman.
‘Against a very ordinary West Ham, Fernandinho was as regular and as dependable as Greenwich Mean Time. You can’t get more dependable than that.’
Oh for f***’s sake. If Pogba ‘had what Fernandinho had’, then they would have no need for Nemanja Matic. Surely Crooks knows this? Surely.
Manchester United did not spend £89m on a dependable player to protect their defence; they spent £89m on a dynamic player to create from midfield. He could certainly do that better; but what he cannot ever be is Fernandinho.
Please can everybody stop judging Pogba against footballers in other positions? It really should not be too much to ask.
Look Hughes talking
Garth Crooks also includes Dusan Tadic in his team of the week (of course, he scored twice).
‘Stoke fans will be incandescent with rage when they see Southampton players being hugged by Mark Hughes at their expense.’
Now this could mean one of two things. Either a) Stoke fans have paid for Mark Hughes to hug Southampton players or b) Stoke fans want to be hugged by Southampton players. Both options seem unlikely.
‘There is no doubt about it, Hughes left Stoke in a perilous situation but seems to be reviving Southampton in a way he couldn’t manage in the Potteries.’
Yes indeed. What a ‘revival’. That is now four points from five Premier League games. It’s like Lazarus. Except with stripes.
Posted without comment
Garth gets to what he likes to call ‘The Crooks of the matter’:
‘This week we learned that the Football Association is considering selling Wembley Stadium.
‘What’s next, the sale of Buckingham Palace? I suppose Her Majesty could spend three months in each of her homes around the country so the locals can get a glimpse of her. Yes, an outrageous thought. But no more so than the one proposed by the FA if the sale goes ahead.’
Price of admission
Opening line of The Sun’s back-page story on Manchester United’s win over Arsenal:
‘ARSENE WENGER suffered more pain at Old Trafford as Arsenal boss – and then admitted he may NEVER be back.’
Yes, that’s right – man with no job ‘admits’ that he does not know where he will be working next year.
Opening line of the Daily Mirror’s back-page story on Manchester United’s win over Arsenal:
‘ARSENE WENGER admitted Manchester United fans finally warmed to him because he is no longer seen as a threat.’
Note to newspapers: Sometimes it’s okay just to report on the actual, you know, football.
Alan Shearer has been fighting Sam Allardyce’s battles this weekend, first on Match of the Day and now in his Sun column:
‘Everton were also in danger before Allardyce arrived.
‘Fans deny him that 4-0 win over West Ham when he first arrived which lifted the club to 13th – but they were still in trouble.’
We don’t think the fans decided that he would not be appointed until the following day, Alan.
I’m a celebrity…
Now this is what we call a reach. The Daily Mirror’s Darren Lewis watched Crystal Palace beat Leicester City 5-0 and this is his opening paragraph:
‘WITH the season barely under way, they were staring into the abyss having been seduced by the cult of celebrity.’
Pretty sure Palace were being managed by Frank De Boer, not Kim sodding Kardashian.
Say what you C
Struggling to understand the concept of scorelines and need somebody to judge a football team’s performance using school-type grades? Then you need Dean Ashton on the Sky Sports website.
Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 so get a ‘C’. Of course. Because they played exactly as well in their 2-1 victory as Liverpool (0-0 v Stoke, C), Swansea (lost to Chelsea, C), Newcastle (lost to bottom club West Brom, C) and Huddersfield Town, who ‘just look frightened’ in their home defeat to Everton (C).
So who got a B? Stoke, West Brom and of course Arsenal. Way to go, Gunners. Whoop whoop.
Recommended reading of the day
Graham Ruthven on Patrick Vieira.
Rory Smith on Lyngby BK.
Miguel Delaney on Arsene Wenger.
More from Planet Sport:
The day Thomas Muster was SO good Boris Becker made doping allegation (Tennis365)
The story of the ex-Man City Academy graduate now a head of maths (Planet Football)
India v Pakistan at the World Cup: A history in pictures (Cricket365)