Why Pogba is his own worst enemy

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Pogblic Enemy No.1

This week, Paul Pogba became the first footballer to get his very own emoji on the social media platform, Twitter. Typing ‘#Pogba’ automatically generates a picture of the Frenchman’s face in profile.

It’s a bizarre achievement and one that epitomises the hype and extravagance that has surrounded Pogba since his association with Manchester United was re-ignited in the summer.

United’s kit sponsors adidas exuberantly supported the club’s interest in the player, unashamedly encouraging his departure from Juventus. They built an entire marketing campaign around the 23-year-old’s signing, promoting him as the new face of football, enhancing his – and in turn their – appeal to the younger generation. And Pogba, for his part, has been a willing participant.

His summer transfer saga was unlike any the football fraternity had ever seen before. From the ‘blah, blah, blah’ ads while the rumour mill was rife with news of his move to Old Trafford to confirming his arrival with a video featuring grime star Stormzy.

Since taking to the pitch, there’s been no doubt about Pogba’s ability but what’s also been evident is his incessant need to live up to the hype he continues to help generate. Many gawked when United forked out a record Dhs395 million (£89m) to re-sign the Frenchman.

The player himself certainly seems anxious to prove that he’s worth every penny.

That pressure has often shown in his performances. Pogba has been one of United’s best players of late and an integral part of their 16-game unbeaten run across all competitions but he consistently gets himself tangled up in his desire to impress.

The midfielder has opted for the flashy in virtually every game this season when the simple would have been just as effective. He seems almost physically repulsed by a sideways pass at times, determined to instead take his man on in the middle of the park.

He can sometimes waste precious seconds trying to shimmy and feint his way past an opponent while a team-mate lies in wait to advance an attack. It’s normal for a player of his calibre to set high standards for himself but how much of that is due to his need to justify the social media frenzy?

Against Liverpool on Sunday, Pogba literally handed the Merseyside club the advantage when he clumsily handballed inside the box to give away a penalty in the 13th minute. James Milner expertly dispatched his effort to leave United playing catch up for the rest of the game and Pogba chasing redemption.

His desperation to correct the mistake led to arguably his worst performance in a United shirt. He began to misplace passes, get caught out of position and allowed the frustration to get the better of him. It didn’t help that he was also probably ruing his missed chance early on when played in by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Naturally, Pogba was given a lot of flack over his new emoji in the aftermath of a poor performance by his standards.

The France international has a massive online presence with more than 12 million followers on Instagram and counting. There’s nothing wrong with being active on social media, of course, but one wonders if all the attention he attracts adversely affects him on the pitch. The spotlight is firmly fixed on him, the media waiting with bated breath for a slip up.

The fact that a new advert featuring the adidas x Pogba Collection launched on Monday, the morning after the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, doesn’t bode well for him. The press predictably berated him for indulging in the promotion of his own image at the expense of his performances.

Sir Alex Ferguson certainly wouldn’t have stood for any of it. In fact, he regularly went out of his way to take a player out of the glare of the media as a means to protect and refocus them. With Pogba though, you wonder if taking a step back is even an option.

There’s no point trying to deprive Pogba of his natural flamboyance or insisting that he keep it simple on the pitch. But there’s a vast difference between playing with confidence and playing under pressure.

People tend to forget that he’s only 23 and that he’s only really had one terrible game. There’s a long way to go until he hits his peak and that is a genuinely frightening thought.

#Pogba is here to stay but it’s maybe time for him to take it down a notch – less than one hairstyle per goal would probably be a good start…

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STATS: Payet's possible replacements

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The Frenchman wants to leave the east London outfit.

West Ham fans let out a sigh of relief after their impressive win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Second-half goals from Sofiane Feghouli and Manuel Lanzini, as well as an impressive scissor kick effort from Andy Carroll couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

The heavy defeat to Manchester City and ongoing row with Dimitri Payet spelled doom and gloom for the Hammers faithful.

And it is now imperative the London club offload the Frenchman – who has asked to leave the club – during the January transfer window.

Five men boast similar numbers to the once deemed irreplaceable midfielder – these are the stars the claret and blue should set their sights on:

As you can tell, while Payet is a prized assistman, his potential substitutes do not lag significantly behind. In fact, Benfica’s Pizzi boasts more goals (six) with the same games played, which could help alleviate the goalscoring burden off the men upfront.

While the Frenchman’s presence in the final-third mustn’t be brushed aside, West Ham may require a substitute who can relieve pressure off the back four in moments of difficulty.

Who do you think West Ham should buy?

Have your say by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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10 worst January signings in the EPL

Joel Brookes 16/01/2017

With just a month to get transfer business done, mid-season moves are often rushed to be completed, especially for struggling sides.

It’s usually viewed as a chance to get a short-term fix rather than a long-term solution – which has led to a number of January transfer duds.

Here, Sport360 brings you ten of the worst Premier league deals we’ve seen in the January window…

MICHAEL RICKETS (Bolton to Middlesbrough, 2003)

Having been “stuck in a rut” at Bolton, Michael Ricketts – by then an England international – joined Middlesbrough for a fresh start in a Dhs15.5 million (£3.5m) switch.

He failed to rediscover his form at the Riverside however, scoring just two goals in 24 games in the 2003-04 season though he did win the League Cup, beating former club Bolton in the final.

Having failed to produce the goods, Ricketts left Boro after 18 months to join Leeds United and from thereon in his career took a downward turn. He struggled with his weight and moved eight times before eventually retiring after a spell with Tranmere Rovers.

RICARDO ROCHA (Benfica to Tottenham, 2007)

Having built a strong reputation during his five years with Benfica, big things were expected when Daniel Levy managed to prise the 29-year-old away from the Portuguese giants in January 2007 with a Dhs14.15m offer (£3.2m).

But the move was an abject failure with Rocha playing just nine Premier League games in the remainder of the 2006-07 season – before making ZERO appearances in 2007-08.

He was released at the end of his contract, and actually returned to England with Portsomouth in 2010 after a spell at Standard Liege.

AFONSO ALVES (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, 2008)

Alfonso Alves joined Middlesbrough in January 2008 for a fee thought to be around the Dhs56 million (£12.7m) mark, on a four-and-a-half-year deal. The Brazilian arrived following a very successful spell in the Netherlands with Heerenveen, for whom he scored a phenomenal 45 goals in 39 Eredivisie games.

However, things went very differently on Teesside. There were a couple of highlights – a brace in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United and a hat-trick against Manchester City – but overall, Alves’ spell was entirely underwhelming – ending with Boro’s relegation to the Championship in 2009.

That summer Alves moved to Qatar with Al-Sadd, leaving for half the amount Boro paid for him.

SAVIO (Brescia to West Ham, 2009)

West Ham brought in Ugandan-born German striker Savio Sereko in for a then-club record transfer of Dhs40 million (£9m) from Serie B side Brescia, following the departure of Craig Bellamy.

The club trusted Gianfranco Zola to bring in some of Italy’s finest young players to help the Hammers establish themselves in the Premier League, but Savio did not cut the mustard.

The forward failed to adapt to life in England and played just 10 times in 2008-09 season. Only six months into his career in London, Savio was shoved out the door with West Ham making a Dhs26.5 million (£6m) loss.

JEAN MAKOUN (Lyon to Aston Villa, 2011)

Aston Villa signed Jean Makoun for Dhs27.5 million (£6.2m) from Lyon during the 2011 January transfer window, the midfielder arriving with an excellent reputation after a successful 10 years in Ligue 1.

The Cameroonian certainly didn’t shy away during his short stay in the Premier League, but his aggressive style didn’t bear fruit for Villa. Makoun played seven games in the 2010-11 season, picking up three bookings and a red card.

He spent the following two seasons on loan to Olympiacos and Stade Rennes before making his second loan spell a permanent move back to France. Now 33, Makoun currently plays in Turkey for Antalyaspor, alongside countryman Samuel Eto’o.

ANDY CARROLL (Newcastle United to Liverpool, 2011)

Andy Carroll became the eighth most expensive player in history when he joined Liverpool in 2011 for a staggering fee of Dhs155 million (£35million).

He’d scored 11 and assisted seven goals in 19 Premier League games for Newcastle before moving to Merseyside, but he started life at Anfield with an injury and only made his debut three months after joining.

Blighted by injuries and his inflated price tag, Carroll played out just one full season with Liverpool – scoring four goals in 35 league games before leaving on loan – and then permanently – to West Ham.

FERNANDO TORRES (Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011)

The decline of Fernando Torres still baffles football fans and pundits alike to this day. A scoring sensation at Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool, Torres swapped Anfield for Stamford Bridge when Chelsea swooped in with a British record Dhs221 million (£50m) offer.

Torres seemed a sure thing given his goal-scoring record but he endured a nightmare time at Chelsea, appearing a shadow of the player who had terrorized defences for Liverpool. The Spaniard scored just once for Chelsea in his first six months and things did not get much better.

Torres joined AC Milan on a two-year loan in the 2014-15 season, and made the move permanent just six months later. However, just two days later, he moved on loan to Atletico Madrid for the season. Torres then made a permanent return to Madrid, though he has still never reached the heights of his early career.

KOSTAS MITROGLOU (Olympiakos to Fulham, 2014)

Greece international Kostas Mitroglou joined Fulham in 2014 for a club record Dhs55 million (£12.4m) fee after scoring 14 goals in 12 appearances, including a hat-trick in the Champions League, for Olympiakos.

Appearing unfit and unliked by new head coach Felix Magath, Mitroglou made just one start that season as Fulham were relegated.

He returned to Olympiakos on loan, where he managed to hit fine form again with 16 goals in 24 league appearances, and later joined Benfica having rediscovered his scoring touch.

ANDREJ KRAMARIC (Rijeka to Leicester, 2015)

Despite heavy interest from Chelsea, highly-rated Croatian Andrej Kramaric joined relegation-threatened Leicester City for Dhs43 million (£9.7m) in January 2015.

Kramaric played 13 times in the Premier League, scoring twice as the Foxes survived relegation. However, that was as good as it got for the youngster.

As Leicester enjoyed a fairytale run to the 2015-16 Premier League title, Kramaric played little part – appearing just twice in the first half of the season before leaving for Hoffenheim in a loan move that was made permanent in summer 2016.

OUMAR NIASSE (Lokomotiv Moscow to Everton, 2016)

Oumar Niasse completed his dream move to the Premier League in a deal worth Dhs60 million (£13.5m) to Everton last January.

Following the move, the Senegal international struggled to adapt to football in England, with doomed manager Roberto Martinez’s gamble not paying off.

Niasse started twice and played a total of just 19 minutes in the remaining 13 league games – 14 minutes of which came when Niasse came on as a sub with Everton beating West Ham. The Toffees went on to lose 3-2.

Ronald Koeman replaced Martinez at Goodison Park and deemed Niasse surplus to requirements. He began the season with Everton’s U23s and was loaned to Hull City in January 2017, with an option for the Tigers to buy for Dhs42.3 million (£10m).

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