Paul Pogba’s three-game ban leaves Manchester United without unquestionably their most important player. The Frenchman has been incredibly effective this season, pulling the strings when the Red Devils have been on the attack and absolutely deadly on the counter, as against Arsenal.
But, by the time his suspension is over, he will have missed more Premier League games than he has played this season.
Jose Mourinho has no-one in his squad who can replicate Pogba’s unique skill set, and that will likely be exposed when City visit Old Trafford on Sunday. Marouane Fellaini is a wrecking ball, Ander Herrera an all-action dynamo and Michael Carrick a supreme passer: Pogba is all three and more.
He makes United an infinitely better side, and as the stats show, he has been operating on a completely different level this season…
THEY WIN MORE GAMES
Pogba's win rate
Win percentage with Pogba: 87.5%
Win percentage without Pogba: 57.1%
Points per game with Pogba: 2.75
Points per game without Pogba: 1.85
United’s win rate is 30% higher with Pogba than without him, having won seven and drawn just one of the eight games he has played this season. It is worth noting, however, that the match against Arsenal was the only top-six opponent the Frenchman has faced – though he did create two goals and was decisive on the break. In his absence, United took on Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea.
Their form with Pogba owes much to how creative he is, and how much more adventurous the side are when he is pulling the strings and setting the tempo. That has produced a lot more goals too…
THEY SCORE MORE GOALS
Pogba's effect on the attack
Goals per game with Pogba: 3
Goals per game without Pogba: 1.57
Chances created per game with Pogba: 12.5
Chances created per game without Pogba: 7
Incredibly, United are almost twice as prolific with Pogba in the side than without him. Not only do they create more chances when he plays – largely because he plays more key passes per match than any of his teammates – they create better quality chances too. Of course, that has it’s downside…
THEY ARE MORE OPEN
Pogba's effect on the defence
Goals conceded per game with Pogba: 0.75
Goals conceded per game without Pogba: 0.42
Mourinho does often take a rather dour and pragmatic approach to big games, though those high-profile encounters can obscure how free-flowing and attack-minded his side are the rest of the time – and especially when Pogba plays. The former Juventus man puts more emphasis on rampaging forward than shielding the defence, and while that opens up teams more it can also leave the defence behind him vulnerable. But who cares when you can outscore almost any side?
LUKAKU PLAYS BETTER
Pogba's effect on Lukaku
Lukaku’s mins per goal with Pogba: 136.8
Lukaku’s mins per goal without Pogba: 222 mins
Lukaku shots per game with Pogba: 4.13
Lukaku shots per game without Pogba: 2.57
Lukaku’s touches in oppo box with Pogba: 6.75 pg
Lukaku’s touches in oppo box without Pogba: 3.42 pg
If anyone can appreciate how effective Pogba is, it is Romelu Lukaku. After starting the season in blistering form, Pogba’s injury coincided with the beginning of the £75m Belgian’s goal drought. He has only scored once in his last seven matches, and that goal came in Pogba’s first match back after injury. The midfielder’s more adventurous approach creates more chances, obviously, but he also has a superb understanding with Lukaku.
WHAT IF POGBA PLAYED EVERY GAME?
The effect of Pogba on United's season
If Pogba played every game of the season:
POINTS: 104 / GOALS: 114 / GD: +85 / LUKAKU GOALS: 24
Projected finish: 1st – Champions!
If Pogba missed every game of the season:
POINTS: 70 / GOALS: 60 / GD: +44 / LUKAKU GOALS: 16
Projected finish: 6th – Europa League
So this is rather simplistic and only takes into account a tiny sample size – which, as already mentioned, does not factor in the lesser opposition faced – but right now Pogba’s effect on United is the difference between title-winning form and Europa League form. Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that both the Frenchman and United could maintain their current standards, but it goes to show how impressive he has been that, when he is in the side, they are operating at record-setting levels for points accrued and goal difference. Now they just need to get him back in the starting XI and hope he does not pick up any more injuries or suspensions!
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