Data Analysis: Looking at what Ronaldo’s Man Utd arrival means for the positioning of Bruno and Pogba

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EPL Analysis

Manchester United completed a convincing win against Newcastle United over the weekend on Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut for them in the Premier League. While their forwards have been impressive so far, it is the midfielders that have done most of the hard work for United. Bruno Fernandes has scored four goals in four matches while Pogba has provided seven assists to date.

Pogba started the first two games of the season as a left attacking midfielder but was shifted to a deeper role in the midfield double pivot because Scott McTominay underwent surgery and the star-studded attacking line-up of United. Bruno Fernandes has been starting in the same number 10 position as the central attacking midfielder behind the striker. United have adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation for all their games and it has suited them throughout all four games.

The average positions of the United players in their match against Wolves can be seen in the above visual. As we can see Paul Pogba was in a deeper position and had spent most of his time in the United half. Since the majority of the game was dominated by the Wolves players, he had to stay back in his half to defend.

But in the game against Newcastle it was observed that while he started in the same position as the earlier match against Wolves, he played in a more advanced role with his average position in the opposition half. This is understandable because United did most of the attacking in the game and most of their players played higher up the pitch. There was not much change in the positions of Bruno Fernandes in both the matches.

One factor that contributes to the fact that Pogba was able to play higher up the pitch is his midfield partner in the double pivot. In the game against Wolves, Pogba had to drop deeper to help out Fred in the midfield in order to win the ball as well as receive the ball. But in the Newcastle game, it was Matic who carried the ball from deep into his own half to the opposition half and played it to the attacking players of United which gives more freedom to Pogba to move further up the pitch.

The above visual shows the pass receives by Bruno Fernandes in the game against Wolves. The visual indicates that in the Wolves game, Fernandes had to drift to wider positions on the field since he was not able to receive the ball through the centre and tried to put in crosses from these positions.

But in the game against Newcastle, he received more passes in the central part of the field than he did in the previous game while trying to put in balls onto to the wings as well as through the Newcastle defence.

As for Paul Pogba, we saw earlier that he had a deeper average position in the game against Wolves and the above visual proves that. Paul Pogba received most of the passes in his own half. While Pogba has the skill to provide a pass while playing this deep in the half, he can have a more positive impact on the game if he can play higher up the pitch.

Pogba was more lively in the game against Newcastle as he was able to play the more attacking style of football that he prefers and was able to receive more balls in the opposition half. Pogba attempted the most number of passes and also received the ball more than any other player on the pitch. This is the part of the pitch where is he very effective and United will be able to create more chances if Pogba can play in such a position.

Pogba started the game against Newcastle in the same position as he did against Wolves, deeper in the midfield. Despite this, his performance was as impressive as it had been in his previous matches, indicating that the change in his role will not result in a more restricted version of the midfielder.

With players like Rashford, Cavani soon to return to the squad and the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Pogba will have shifted to the central midfield role and proved that he poses a threat to the defence of the opposition team from this position. But in this position, he can link up with Bruno Fernandes even more and both of them can help their team play a more direct style of football which we have seen at Manchester United for a long time.

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