It has been six seasons, 29 Premier League goals and one victorious World Cup since Paul Pogba has worn a Juventus jersey. But, when everything locks into place in a matter of days, he will be playing for the Bianconeri again this 2022-23 Serie A season.
A lot has been written about his back and forth movement between Manchester United and Juventus — from Manchester United to Juventus in 2012, Juve to United in 2016, and now completing another full-circle moment this summer — as well as the terrible reviews his “Pogmentary” has been getting since its release last month. More important will be Pogba’s movement on the field, how he will fit into Massimiliano Allegri’s starting lineup, and if he will be able to help pull Juventus out of their less-than-stellar form of late.
That said, we should not assume the arrival/return of one player will be able to turn everything around. It will also depend on a myriad of other factors — including, obviously, what players Juve will have come August and Allegri’s ability to coach effectively.
In Pogba’s last season with Juventus in 2015-16, Allegri had him playing in central midfield in a more offensive role in a 4-3-3 formation, a left-center midfielder in a 3-5-2, or a left midfielder in a 4-3-1-2. He does have the ability to play in a variety of positions in the midfield as seen when he plays for the French national team where he has more recently been a left center mid, right center mid and a right defensive mid. Indeed, some of Pogba’s best play since his standout 2018-19 season at Manchester United — when he scored 16 goals and had 11 assists in all competitions — has been with the French national team. In particular, his performance at Euro 2020 was pretty darn impressive, even though France exited early from the tournament.
Nevertheless, given Juve’s current roster, Allegri will likely have Pogba on the left in a 4-3-3.
It goes without saying that Pogba is a very skilled player. He has great ball control, dribbling and long-range passing skills, and a tantalizing ability to score from outside the penalty area. He is also creative and can have commanding force in the midfield, which are qualities that — with the exception of Manuel Locatelli — have essentially been missing at Juventus the last few years.
If Allegri goes with a 4-3-3 with Pogba on the left side of the midfield, with Locatelli in the center and Denis Zakaria, Weston McKennie or somebody else on the right, it definitely has the potential to be a very effective midfield. Similarly, with a 4-2-3-1, Pogba could be on the left as the more attacking mid, with Locatelli and Zakaria as the more defensive and deeper mid. In both these formations, Pogba would be free to move up the field into the final third, provide service to Dusan Vlahović, or cut in to take a shot himself. In a 4-4-2, Pogba would probably be paired with Locatelli.
In any of these formations, on paper, having both Pogba and Locatelli on the field should increase Juventus’ ability to create chances in the final third.
I think Pogba will be a positive addition to the team. He will likely have more time on the ball in Serie A than in the Premier League — which will allow him to express his creativity, and being paired with more defensive-minded midfield players could provide a potent attacking force on the left side.
This, however, all depends on if Pogba can stay healthy. If he misses as many games due to injury for Juve as he did for Manchester United in the 2021-22 season, his potential impact on the field will obviously be diminished, and Juve will need to rely on other options — which at this point might be McKennie, Zakaria or Adrien Rabiot (assuming he is still around).
Those are not bad options, but when he is playing at his best, Pogba is certainly better. Some might complain about Pogba’s inconsistency and not being reliable, but in my opinion, given that Juve needs to make some drastic changes in the midfield, he is definitely a risk worth taking.