Jamie Carragher and Frank Lampard offered their thoughts on Paul Pogba’s situation and how Jose Mourinho getting the best out of him is a problem.
As far as Manchester United fans are concerned, Pogba’s been improving and increasing in influence as the season has progressed. There was a huge lull after the game against Liverpool, and have been others, but overall Pogba’s first year back at Old Trafford has seen him grow in confidence and stature.
The biggest issue around Pogba is how to get the most out of him in terms of what position to play him and speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, that’s the point Carragher reiterated.
“He’s still nowhere near good enough or disciplined enough to play in that central midfield role,” Carragher said.
“He’s a liability defensively, there’s no doubt about that. They should have lost the EFL Cup final. Against one of the top sides I think they would have lost that game and Pogba was one of the reasons why.
“I think there’s no doubt that he’s better in a three-man midfield. That’s what you would class as the Frank Lampard position – wide left in a three.
“It’s a massive problem for Mourinho. You’ve spent that much money on a player, that position is best for him, but he’s lacking goals and there’s talk of Antoine Griezmann coming in.
“They’re going to want to spend big money on someone to get those goals. So if they get a Griezmann, or someone of that ilk, he then has to play [behind the striker] and you’ve still got the same problem.
“If you break a transfer record on Griezmann, he’s going to have to play week in week out, so again, Pogba finds himself in that position in a midfield two.”
Pogba’s best position is without doubt on the left of a midfield three. Having Michael Carrick or Ander Herrera in the deep lying midfield role frees up Pogba to concentrate on attacking as he has less defensive responsibility. It also allows him to receive the ball higher up the pitch in space where he can create problems rather than deeper where he is tasked with creating the move at the start.
He’s played there plenty this season but also as part of a midfield two at times and the issue of what United’s best formation would be with Griezmann in is certainly a tough one. However, if we do get into the UEFA Champions League next season then we’ll need a stronger squad and adding somebody like Griezmann into the mix is a game changer, o it’s a problem Mourinho would love to have.
Lampard also offered his thoughts on Pogba: “I played most of my career in that position [in a midfield three] and I loved it because the responsibility first and foremost is to get the ball in areas and make goals. If he’s up there, he can affect the game around the box.
“I think when Mourinho is playing a two, he wants them to defend. He wants their first thought to be security. I feel harsh criticising him [Pogba] because I don’t think it’s his real attribute to do that.
“I feel Jose Mourinho would want a holding midfield player to be doing that job.”
Pogba is definitely learning how to play in a midfield two under Mourinho. At Juventus he had Marchisio and Pirlo doing the dirty work which allowed him to simply concentrate on the creative side to his game which is no doubt where his natural talents lie – but Mourinho wants more from him.
Mourinho wants Pogba to become a Patrick Vieira of his generation – a true box-to-box midfielder who can be an enforcer in defence and a creator in attack. That side of his game is something Pogba is still learning, after all he is still just 23, and when he does mould himself into that complete midfielder – which is a matter of time – then he truly will be one of the best in the world.