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Why Pogba’s 28-step Penalty Was Not So Ridiculous After All


Paul Pogba has been criticised heavily since his £89 million move in 2016 to Old Trafford.

Paul Pogba gets a lot of criticism. This is fuelled by his huge ego, arrogant mannerisms, outlandish behaviour and even sometimes his footballing ability. His displays for France at the World Cup, Juventus on a weekly basis and Manchester United on occasion prove just how good this guy can be. But, that makes it all the more infuriating when he puts in frequent below-par performances.

His penalty against Everton in October at Old Trafford did little to keep him out of the headlines, taking 28-steps in total before striking the ball. Usain Bolt ran the 100 metres faster than it took the Frenchman to take his shot.

Were it to have nestled comfortably into the back of the net, this may not have even attracted such debate, but Pogba’s effort was excellently saved by keeper Jordan Pickford, before the ball fortuitously rebounded to the midfielder who passed it into an open net. But, on the contrary to much of the criticism he’s received following the match, here’s why his penalty was not-so ridiculous after all.

Pogba missed the penalty against Everton in October but scored the rebound to United the lead.

It was a good penalty and an even better save.

Not every missed-penalty is a bad penalty. Equally, not every converted penalty is a good penalty. Too often pundits heap praise on players who’ve taken poor spot-kicks, but still found the net, and berate players who’ve missed when the keeper has pulled-off an outstanding save.

Consequently, before addressing Pogba’s technique, it must first be said that it was a top save from the penalty by Jordan Pickford. He held his nerve and showed composure and agility to fly to his right and stick out a strong left hand.

Regardless of whether Pogba should or should not have performed that technique for the run-up, if a keeper manages to hurl himself to the very corner of their net and guesses the right way then so be it. Pogba struck the penalty well and with power, albeit not right in the corner.

But most penalties struck in a similar fashion go above the keeper’s hands. Also, Pogba could do this technique for the next 20 penalties and score them all. This could just be an anomaly, so it’s slightly redundant to critique this exact style (he has done something similar before) after just one penalty.

Pickford, Pogba
Image Obtained Via

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford initially saved Pogba’s penalty but was unable to stop the rebound.

Why the penalty gave Pogba an edge?

He did miss, but his lengthy run-up was still a good idea. Eden Hazard has perfected the art of simply rolling the ball along the floor, quite centrally into the net from penalties. He waits until the last second to look for a tell of which way the keeper is diving and places it to the opposite side.

In the 12 seconds that Pogba took to reach the ball, all the time he could be looking for signs at which way (in this case) Pickford was going to dive. Keepers rarely stay in the middle of their goal when facing penalties, and will almost always know which way they are going to dive long before the ball has been kicked.

Therefore, with Pogba’s penalty style, it becomes a stand-off. The Frenchman’s tiny steps and standard angle of the run-up gave no indication about where he intended to place the penalty.

Pickford on the other hand, must try to not reveal any signs of where he will dive. This includes balance – is his weight on one foot so he will dive in the same direction – movement of the leg and twitches of the arm/hand.

In concentrating on not ‘revealing his hand,’ Pickford is focusing less on saving the actual penalty. He is also unsure of when exactly Pogba is going to reach the ball, as the Frenchman could choose to accelerate at any time during the 28 steps, breaking the pattern and potentially catching Pickford off-guard or even making him panic and react too early.

In this instance, Pickford did actually react a little bit before the ball was kicked. That’s rather standard for keepers, but if Pogba would have continued his slow run up all the way through to kicking the ball, he may have seen Pickford leaning to his right and therefore been able to slot it to the left.

Pogba, the Brand.

Finally, Pogba himself is a brand. He is one of the only players to have their own personal pair of boots made for them and he was also the first ever player to get his own emoji – not that that means too much, but it demonstrates just how marketable he is. There are players that have come and gone with Pogba’s ability and then some, but few have even got close to his notoriety and fame.

He is not shy from making bold statements with his attitude, footballing style and even appearance, which is precisely what attracts the fame and the criticism as well. When he isn’t sporting an outrageous hairstyle, or filming himself dabbing with Jesse Lingard, he can only be criticised for the football part – which, when he is completely focused, is rarely anything below average.

This penalty did wonders to enhance that bad-boy, ‘I don’t care’ kind of image. The image that he truly does what he wants because he is one of the best in the world and he has earned that right. Unique is another significant word here.

Few players would have done what Pogba did, but it all just adds to his unique character. The thing that makes kids want to wear a Pogba shirt and copy his hair. The thing that makes him brandable.

Overall, he has been severely warned to not replicate his penalty against Everton again. However, if he did do it again and scored the next two or three, it really could be advantageous to his image.

Furthermore, if he perhaps imitates Hazard and lets the keeper make the first move, it really could become an effective method of taking a spot kick. Never change Paul, you keep doing you.

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Amiya Saha
Avid follower of Manchester United FC. Have blind faith on the Red Devils at any point. Waiting to see Manchester United bring back the Ferguson era. Has a dream to watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford live.

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