When Didier Deschamps announced his list for 23-man squad to compete in the EUROS 2016 competition, French fans were heavily disappointed over the absence of star strikers Karim Benzema, Alexander Lacazette, and Kevin Gamiero. Rather they had to suffice with Arsenal’s inconsistent striker Olivier Giroud and former Marseille player Andre-Pierre Gignac. The exclusion had such an effect on angry French fans that it even led to boo Olivier Giroud during the friendlies even after he scored 7 goals in last 5 starts for the Les Bleus. After such reaction, they obviously had turned their attention towards other star players. Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba who had impressive performances for their respective clubs last season, especially Paul Pogba.
The French man is currently one of the best central midfielders in the world who also featured in UEFA Team of the Year. Real Madrid has identified him as a possible target to upgrade their midfield for the upcoming years. After such displays at a tender age of just 23, French fans’ expectations have already been elevated for him as he was touted to lead France to win the competition.
But such high expectations weren’t quite delivered. He couldn’t be the star man for France in the group stage matches against Romania and Albania as France somehow managed to squeeze past both through last minute goals. It was Dimitri Payet who was effectively running the whole show while also scoring the winning goals in both the matches. Pogba was thoroughly disappointing against Romania and was dropped against Albania.
ARSENE WENGER DEFENDS PAUL POGBA
Arsene Wenger, who is a big admirer of the Juventus midfielder went against the critics saying that Pogba doesn’t deserve such ‘harsh criticism’ and needs more time to get mature before anyone starts to question him. He goes on to say:
I watched the match against Romania a second time to form a proper opinion. I think that in general the criticism of Pogba was extremely harsh.”
In that match [Blaise] Matuidi and Pogba played to more or less the same standard. That said we also expect a lot from Pogba. But we forget that he’s only 23 and at 23 it’s difficult to be the leader of the French team.
Guys like [Michel] Platini and [Zinedine] Zidane were also called into question at that age. Pogba is in the process of learning the job.
They start with the French team at 20 or 21 and everyone says: ‘you’re the most beautiful and strongest that we’ve ever had.
Little by little expectation is created and at 22 or 23 we say to you ‘hey my man, you’re not bringing what we expected of you.
And all of a sudden you find yourself thrown to the very top of an extremely brutal questioning.
After the Swiss game, Pogba himself attended the post conference and told that media will always have something for him. He went on to say:
I play football, I play for the team. It will be talked about, good or bad.
We had opportunities to win but in the end, we take a point. We are happy to be first. The adventure goes on. Early in the game, I started high up the field and we were fine. Then they had more space and suddenly I was forced to stay back.
The critics? I have no answer to give to anyone.
What Pogba facing is nothing new from a star footballer’s point of view and Arsene Wenger was right on point in criticising the critics. Pogba needs some time to lead his Nation on a bigger stage such as the Euro Championship, but these things can not change the fact that France’s success relies on the shoulders of young and growing players, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante.