Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is a controversial selection in the PFA’s Team of the Year. Using Opta data, we examine if he is worthy.
Paul Pogba’s inclusion in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) Premier League Team of the Year has certainly raised some eyebrows following Thursday’s announcement.
The World Cup winner has had a strange season for Manchester United, finding himself in and out of the team, then enjoying a resurgence before again suffering from inconsistency.
Under Jose Mourinho, Pogba’s underwhelming form saw him dropped, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival as manager brought about an undeniable improvement in the midfielder, who played a key part as United clawed their way back into top-four contention.
In total, the midfielder has netted 13 times and provided nine assists in the Premier League, an applaudable haul, but a record of seven penalties distorts the goals figure somewhat and recent performances have again seen him scrutinised.
Pogba was especially poor in the 4-0 hammering by Everton on Sunday and 2-0 Manchester derby defeat on Wednesday, though his unimpressive form stretches back much further as he has scored just twice – both being spot-kicks – and set up no goals in his past 10 matches across all competitions.
So, how does Pogba compare to other midfielders statistically? Is he really among the Premier League’s best?
— PFA | Professional Footballers’ Association (@PFA) April 25, 2019
Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen would probably feel the most aggrieved at missing out in favour of Pogba. The Denmark international has been involved in 19 goals (seven scored, 12 assists) despite having what some feel has been an erratic campaign.
Pogba’s record of a goal or assist every 124.5 minutes is also better than Eriksen’s (131.6), though the Spurs star’s figures do not include any penalties.
Eriksen has created 70 goal-scoring chances, 18 more than Pogba, but the Frenchman comes up trumps in almost every other area.
Pogba’s passing accuracy of 83.07 per cent is higher than Eriksen (81.22 per cent), his 1,902 passes are 219 more and he is more effective off the ball, making 59 tackles and interceptions compared to the Ajax product’s 49.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) 24 April 2019
Gylfi Sigurdsson is the only other midfielder who comes close to Pogba in terms of goal involvements (18), while he has also created 16 more chances than the former Juventus star.
Sigurdsson has also made significantly more tackles and interceptions than him with 74, though there are few other areas in which he comes out on top in the comparison.
In fact, statistically Pogba is arguably the most well-rounded.
While he might not be an impressive defensively as Ruben Neves, who has made 136 tackles and interceptions, the Portugal international’s impact going forward is not as great as he has laid on just 23 chances.
8 – Only Charlie Mulgrew (10) and Harry Wilson (9) have scored more goals from outside the box since the start of last season in the top four English tiers than Ruben Neves (8). Scoped. #WOLARS pic.twitter.com/3SMBM4CROH
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 24 April 2019
Arguably Pogba’s biggest rival in terms of all-round competitiveness is Neves’ Wolves team-mate Joao Moutinho.
With eight assists, the experienced midfielder has just one fewer than Pogba, though he has created many more scoring chances (77) and his passing accuracy (85.08 per cent) is better.
Moutinho is also more reliable than Pogba in the final third, with 77 per cent of his passes in that region finding a team-mate, as opposed to the United man’s 73.9 per cent.
And off the ball Pogba is less effective as well, with Moutinho making an impressive 144 tackles and interceptions.
However, even if you took away Pogba’s seven penalties, he still has five more goals than the deep-lying Wolves playmaker.
— Wolves (@Wolves) 18 March 2019
Like Moutinho, N’Golo Kante also has a strong record in multiple areas this season, particularly in possession, with the Chelsea man completing 87.99 per cent of his 1,982 passes.
He has created 44 chances – despite being renowned for his defensive work – while his 85.71 per cent distribution accuracy in the final third from 749 passes is impressive.
And, as one would expect, Kante has made 114 tackles and interceptions, evidence of his effectiveness out of possession.
But, with just eight goal involvements (four scored, four assists), he is certainly not as decisive as Pogba in that regard.