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Why Pogba is so deep
Interesting article by James Nalton (is he the new Peter Goldstein?) about United’s problems and Pogba. I’m going to do something that I wouldn’t normally do: defend Pogba. I actually think that half the reason that he’s playing so deep this season is because we don’t have a proper striker – hear me out!
Last season, Lukaku, for all his faults, was behaving more like a regulation striker does; not necessarily in terms of scoring goals, but in terms of his positional play. While Lukaku was not the goal threat we needed him to be, the one thing he did do was occupy positions in and around the box, meaning that at least one of the two opposition centre-backs was occupied during our attacks. This meant that there was a little bit more space in which Pogba could run into a take shots from. Lukaku was also able to (occassionaly) act as a target man – he wasn’t the best at this by any means, but he did knock down a few long balls every now and then.
This season, neither of those things are happening. We don’t have anyone more advanced than Maguire who is capable of winning a header, so long balls to a target man are out. Indeed, the only long balls we really see working are those played out to James – anything else is just heading practice for the opposition. And now that Martial and Rashford are acting as the main striker (well, their approximation of that), we don’t have a player whose natural instinct is to take up the same kinds of positions that Lukaku did. This means that the space around the opposition area is much harder to find, with opposing defenders not having to worry about a poacher making a dart to the near post, or hanging back on the penalty spot waiting for a cut-back.
Martial scored a great goal against Wolves but again, that’s not what I would call a strikers finish – a forward’s, sure, but not a traditional striker. In fact, look at the all the goals we have scored:
vs Chelsea: Rashford penalty, Martial gets in front of his man to meet a low cross inside the 6 yard box, long through ball releases Rashford who slides it past the ‘keeper 1v1, defelected finish from James evades the ‘keeper
vs Palace: James hits it from just inside the area, with one/two Palace defenders between him and the ‘keeper
vs Wolves: Martial hits it from about a yard further forward than the penalty spot but level with the corner of the 6 yard box, with a defender between him and the ‘keeper
vs Southampton: James hits it from just inside the area, with two Saints defenders between him and the ‘keeper – basically a carbon copy of the Palace goal
So, of the 7 we’ve scored, only two were the sorts of goals you would expect a striker to score. It’s not a disaster – goals are goals, however they’re scored – but the sorts of goals we mostly score are down to a bit of individual brilliance (2 of James’ 3, Martial’s vs Wolves) rather than repeatable build-up play. This was my main issue with Mourinho; we regularly relied upon the brilliance of an individual – usually Pogba or Zlatan, with moments here and there from others – to beat teams. You never saw United scoring a goal that came from a situation that had been rehearsed or planned out. The other thing our goals this season have in common? In none of those situations was there a second player waiting for a second ball, should the ‘keeper have parried or spilled it.
I don’t doubt that if we’d had Zlatan back in our ranks this year we would have picked up more points. You need a proper striker, I’m sorry but you just do. Look at Ronaldo alongside Benzema, Griezmann with Costa, Hazard with any of his previous partners. Sure, those guys can score individual brilliant goals but it helps when you’ve got someone alongside them to make a bit of space for them to use. Maybe if there was a traditional striker in front of him, Pogba would have a bit more space to use in advanced areas, where he can play a defence-splitting pass, or have a long shot, and maybe Rashford and Martial would be able to be more effective in the area if they had a proper partner alongside them occupying the defenders.
I’m getting sick of hearing “if we’d scored those two penalties then we’d have four more points”. Great, but we didn’t. I mean, if we’re going to start talking about hypotheticals then how’s this one: if United could score 15 goals a game then we’d be top of the league. Only problem there is that we don’t. Trifling issue, I know, but we’re well clear at the top of the hypothetical table. Again, we’re told that Greenwood is the most natural finisher in this squad, so how’s about we give him a proper try (i.e. from the start) and see if that brings any rewards.
Hopefully it is obvious at this point that Mark is talking gold-plated bollocks in this morning’s mailbox, but it raises an interesting question of how there are still non-believers (even within our own fanbase) when it comes to Raz.
It’s clear that Sterling has had a tougher ride than most to acceptance. He subverts expectations and, perhaps more bizarrely, has world class attributes that actually expose some of his (few) weaknesses rather than hide them.
We aren’t accustomed to a player built like Sterling and nobody seems to have yet defined exactly what he is. He’s not a striker, traditional winger, inverted winger, playmaker…
Without that context we can’t explain him, he exists without constraint and it enables the various nonsense arguments against him.
Until football catches up, just accept that he’s bloody brilliant.
Turkeys voting for Christmas
I do like the idea that agents need to do more than angle for moves and pay days, although their job remit is to quite literally make their clients richer. Having said that, I will offer a single sentence reply to Anandaman’s suggestion so that you don’t have to read the rest of the email if you don’t want to.
Would Mino really want to have his funding streams relying on the goalscoring exploits of Rashford, Martial, Lingard and James, and the defensive abilities of De Gea, Lindelof, Maguire, (insert fit LB here), and Wan Bissaka?
So, slightly longer answer: to an extent I think he should get some bonus related to Pogba’s performances, and I’m guessing he probably does through taking a cut of Pogba’s earnings anyway, and such would get a slice of Paul’s perfomance bonuses. But, I consider agents as glorified accountants. And would you expect to pay your accountant, or would your accountant expect to be paid, purely based on your own business performances? Not really.
As a rough example, they take a standard 5% (arbitrary number for easy maths), then say an extra 1% for any amount you earn over £X in any given year. Why would they want to risk that given 5% and drop that down to 2%, then add 4% in other relative bonuses based on factors out of their control? The agent has no input on training methods, tactics, team selection, manager mood swings (hello Jose), or hell, even injuries. So many things could impact their earnings, and when they’re earning so much money, if a huge chunk of that relies on wildly fluctuating and variable factors, why would they want that?
I completely agree that agent fees have grown stupidly out of proportion to the real world, but then what aspect of football that revolves around money hasn’t? They are the coordinators of multi million (hundred million in some cases) deals that get their clients tens of millions a year in salaries, I have a feeling that bankers and other money men who do similar deals also earn LOTS, they just keep a significantly lower profile due to the differing businesses.
I say this all whilst not being able to offer a suitable alternative method, but still, I get a slight kick out of pointing out flaws. Sorry not sorry.
Also I’m pretty sure stockbrokers have no shame.
Joe (have a good weekend enjoying the hindshitely crap football)
…In this mailbox Anandaman T argues that football agents should be on performance-related pay from Football clubs.
While, I suppose, any person or institution entering into a transaction with anyone can ask for any clauses they wish to be applied to it, so I suppose United or any other club could try that if they really want to, Anandaman doesn’t seem to realise that Mino Raiola isn’t actually Manchester United’s employee, he’s Paul Pogba’s, and his ‘cut’ of any transaction comes from negotiating the best possible deal for Paul Pogba, not for negotiating a better deal for Manchester United against his employers’ interests. Embedding performance-related payments, as opposed to guaranteed payments, would seem to be anathema to that.
Dara O’Reilly, London
SWP is to Sterling what Sterling is to Messi
Gazprom (Ridiculous Mail)
Jesus that what does hendo do mail sent me into a what-the-fuck-how-many-times-have-we-heard-this-before-time-vortex and I only read the headline. Most skipped mail ever I suspect.
…I see in Jacques, Oxford way of evaluating VVD against other top defenders judges such important criteria as goals scored, assists and cards received. So will we judge our attacking players on clean sheets, tackles made and aerial duels won? Even cards for me is not a real judge of a defensive player – Roy Keane had more than his fair share of red cards but taming him would have almost certainly have made him a worse player. You could argue that a defender who never gets cards is not tackling as much as they should or aggressive as they might need to be…an argument for another day/pub.
I think it will always be difficult to use stats to judge the best of the best and subjective measures will always be used which will ultimately continue the arguments – Ronaldo and Messi cannot be separated on stats alone, people will still debate forever who is better. Personally, as a Utd fan, I’d put Jaap Stam above Vidic with Rio further behind. All top quality defenders, but I felt watching Jaap Stam that he was a one man defence and it didn’t matter who he played with, he just seemed to control the opposition and they had almost no chance of scoring. The other two did give that impression also but less so.
Jon, Cape Town
Dickon (LFC – Ottawa) asked if the mailbox can think of any players associated with one particular act or skill, I oddly do have a list of such players, so enjoy
Carlos Valderrama – For his hairstyle, he still has it to this day, what a guy
Rory Delap – Long Throw In Specialist
Jean-Marc Bosman – The Bosman Ruling, which I must say is a very interesting read, his career may not have been anything special but he changed football
Gabor Kiraly – For wearing tracksuit bottoms
Ali Dia – Got himself into that Southampton side by claiming to be George Weah’s cousin
Facunda Sava – Fulham striker who before Raul Jimenez started it, would wear a mask he hid down his sock when he scored
Harald Schumacher – For the 1982 World Cup, where he made a “tackle” on Patrick Battiston
Jimmy Glass – The goalkeeper who scored the 91st-minute goal that kept Carlisle in the Football League
Chris Brass – Scored an own goal and some say broke his nose by attempting a clearance which hit him in the face and rolled into the goal
Mikey, CFC (Kerlon, I really wanted him to be something special, the Seal dribble was incredible)
In terms of the difference in public estimation of the two sides, and how much more of a toss one side gives than the other, could this be the most mis-matched rivalry in history that didn’t somehow involve Piers Morgan?
Enjoy your weekend,
GK: Packie Bonner – A nation holds it’s breath
RB: Lilian Thuram – Terrifying running forward
CB: Franco Baresi – Jersey Retired
CB: Paul McGrath – Ball magnet
LB: Roberto Carlos – 28inch thighs
RW: Chris Waddle – Mesmerising
CM: Clarence Seedorf – Had it all
CM: Zinedine Zidane – Elegance
LW: Johan Cruyff – Turn Johan Turn
ST: Romario – That finish v Holland in 1994
ST: Roberto Baggio – Divine