This post was guest-blogged by Matt Statto. Follow him on Twitter (@ilstatto)
So Juventus are out of the Champions League. It’s a disappointment, but ultimately it’s only the start of a new beginning for the Old Lady and in particular for Paul Pogba. The summer bosman signing from Manchester United has been a resounding success, performing beyond expectations and becoming a prominent part of the first team squad and even breaking into the France national team setup under former Juventus player and coach Didier Deschamps. Pogba’s breakthrough certainly isn’t something which was wholly expected of the Frenchman when he joined after being only a reserve for the Red Devils, but he’s proven himself highly capable in a number of midfield roles, covering those played by Vidal and Marchisio, but also the more intelligent playmaker role which Andrea Pirlo has made his own since his arrival in Turin.
Against Pescara, Pogba found himself deployed in the regista role, filling in for Andrea Pirlo who was being rested ahead of the Champions League 2nd leg. When he has played for Juventus this season, Pogba has often excelled in the two positions ahead of Pirlo, but not so much as the deepest lying of the midfield. This is perhaps because it is a role which requires the player in this role to survey the field and dictate the flow and rhythm of the game. For an inexperienced 20 year old, this is something which understandably would prove difficult, certainly in the early months. However against Pescara, Pogba showed an increased level of maturity when deployed in this position and performed admirably, putting in a display more reminiscent of when he’d line up as the deepest lying midfielder for the French youth teams.
Statistically Pogba was excellent throughout. Playing 93 passes and completing 87%, in addition to his retention of the ball, his defensive work was very impressive. Winning 6 tackles, making 3 interceptions and even dominating aerially with 7 headers going in the Frenchman’s favour, Pogba showed he can offer a very viable alternative to Pirlo’s graceful style in this position. His dynamic display offered much superior protection to the Juventus back three, winning numerous 50/50 battles in the midfield, particularly from Pelizzoli’s goal kicks where he simply didn’t offer Pescara any chance to get the ball down on the ground and push higher up the pitch.
Winning all those duels meant Juventus were able to pen Pescara into the defensive third of the pitch and dominate the course of the match. Letting Pogba down was only his decision making when choosing when and when not to shoot on goal. On a few occasions, after a good piece of play, his inexperience would show and rather than looking for a teammate, he’d take the speculative long range effort, cheaply giving Pescara the ball back and relieve the pressure on their defence.
Once Pirlo’s inevitable decline happens and Juventus need someone to fill his boots, while it’s impossible to simply replace Andrea Pirlo’s vision and elegance on the ball, Pogba does offer an evolution of the deep lying playmaker role. As Pogba grows in experience – gaining a greater understanding of the position and football itself – he has every chance of proving he is the man to fulfill the regista‘s boots in his very own way.
JuventiKnows Pagelle Rating:
Paul Pogba 6.0 – Played in the Pirlo role today, and did so well enough despite it not being his strongest spot IMO. Chose his passes and picked his men well. Still managed a strong run or two with the ball.