Jadon Sancho: Is the on-loan Man United winger back or is it a false dawn in the Bundesliga?

12 Mar 2024

FotMob - March 11, 2024, 12:40 PM
Two months ago, Jadon Sancho ended his unhappy stay at Manchester United, headed back to Borussia Dortmund on loan and marked his second debut with the club by assisting in a win over Darmstadt. Within a minute or two of coming on he had almost scored, blocked out at the near post; 20 minutes later a typical burst behind the defence saw him square for Marco Reus to tap in. Rewind the clock: all was well again for the BVB double act – or else it was back to 2021.

By Karl Matchett

It was not, however, the start of a glorious run he would have hoped for, that Dortmund fans would have dreamed of – maybe even expected. Sancho didn’t manage a shot in the next two games, didn’t start the following two and struggled to recapture that early impact.

Perhaps, though, that is changing: his most recent outing saw Sancho play a big part early on, show some of his best traits in ball-carrying and work rate…And score the winning goal, his first since returning to Germany and his first competitive strike anywhere since May last season.

The No.10’s goal against Werder Bremen was pretty much classic inside-forward, classic Sancho: picking the ball up 35 yards from goal on the left, he used tremendous skill and two-footed dribbling ability to jink past his man, cut in from a narrow angle and coolly finish at the near post.

It was also the kind of moment he hasn’t been able to conjure too often in a yellow shirt so far: in a little over 500 Bundesliga minutes, Sancho has had six shots – but three of them came in a few minutes’ blitz off the bench late in one game. His six efforts have registered a total xG of 0.6 – hardly the stuff of nightmares for keepers – and the winner over Bremen was only his second on target.

However, Sancho’s impact has been felt more keenly in Dortmund’s build-up play, delivering threat in his ability to attack space and pick a pass.

With 20 successful dribbles behind him already and a 51% success rate, he’d be in the top five of the Bundesliga for take-ons per 90 minutes if he had enough appearances to his name to qualify on FotMob’s charts – while his nine chances created so far puts him somewhere between Niclas Fullkrug and Marco Reus in Dortmund’s top four, on a per-90 basis.

While he is of course capable of more – this is a previously £100m-rated player after all – it needs to be put in perspective, too: Sancho had managed just 76 league minutes on the pitch all season before January, ostracised by Erik ten Hag at Man United and needing time to get back up to speed.

The question now must be of if he reaches the peak of his game again, how quickly he can manage it and where that leaves him for next term.

While there is plenty of off-pitch change happening at Old Trafford, it seems improbable that he can rely on reconciliation with his manager there, so further change at the top might be his only route back. Even so, the impact by Alejandro Garnacho renders it less vital that Sancho is incorporated back into the squad, even as another rebuild is considered. Another loan? A permanent deal away? How much of a loss would United be prepared to take, and who can pay anywhere close to Sancho’s original fee outside of the Premier League?

That is all for the future, and most of it will be dictated by what Sancho achieves in the next two months.

With the Bundesliga title firmly in Bayer Leverkusen’s hands, Dortmund have two tasks for the rest of 2023/24: finishing in the top four and, Sancho’s biggest window of opportunity, the Champions League.

A tame 1-1 away draw in the first leg with PSV Eindhoven just about has BVB in the driving seat ahead of their midweek return fixture; win there and Dortmund will surely have a much higher-profile quarter-final to look forward to.

Between now and then his game time in the top flight in Germany has to yield more consistency, more goal threat and more minutes on the pitch than, for example, compatriot Jamie Bynoe-Gittens: an easy comparison but a relevant one, given their prospective audiences and positions.

There are a further four games to do that in, before the Champions League last eight begins. That is where Sancho will need to send Dortmund to, will need to star in and show his real worth, if he’s keen to reach the top again – wherever that might be.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every Dortmund game – with xG, deep stats, and players ratings on FotMob. Download the free app here.

Mauricio Pochettino warns Chelsea they need to build on win over Newcastle

Mauricio Pochettino warned there will be more problems for Chelsea if they fail to build on their 3-2 victory over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge as he praised the impact of match-winning substitute Mykhailo Mudryk.

The Ukrainian came off the bench to score with a superb individual goal to make it 3-1 in the 76th minute, pelting on to the ball at full tilt before tricking his way beyond a dumbfounded Fabian Schar and nipping round Martin Dubravka to finish.

“It was a very good goal and that is what we expect from a player from the bench – impact,” said Pochettino. “Then it is about competing with different players in his position. Then he will deserve to (start).”

The goal helped settle a finely balanced game, the kind that has so often slipped away from Chelsea under Pochettino.

They had already allowed an advantage to get away from them on the stroke of half-time.

Leading 1-0, Chelsea made two errors to hand Newcastle a way back into the match. First, the otherwise impressive Malo Gusto was caught trying to juggle the ball in midfield, then Trevoh Chalobah rushed up from central defence to assist and left a gaping hole into which Alexander Isak darted and rifled the visitors level.

Earlier, Nicolas Jackson had given his team a deserved sixth-minute lead, applying the deftest touch with his heel to Cole Palmer’s strike, getting just enough contact to divert it out of the reach of Dubravka and into the bottom corner.

Palmer, brilliant again on the right of a forward three, scored a 13th goal of his debut Chelsea season early in the second half.

Enzo Fernandez spotted the Blues’ top-scorer in space and gave the ball to him with his back to goal. With his first touch Palmer turned and with his second he lashed a shot inside the near post for 2-1.

Then came Mudryk’s decisive moment of magic and, although Jacob Ramsey gave Chelsea a scare with a cracking late drive from range, Pochettino’s young side clung on.

“We need to understand that we are Chelsea,” said Pochettino. “We are in a project that is completely different (to the past). Some people might be confused. When people don’t want to listen, it’s difficult.

“But we are trying to explain we are a different Chelsea, we are building something different. It’s going to be tough.

“We need to keep believing, even when it’s tough circumstances. We played (the Carabao Cup) final, 120 minutes, then after three days we play the FA Cup and we play Brentford. In six days we played three very tough games, nearly with the same team.

“It was really tough. If that means we are a disaster, OK. The most important thing is it’s not affecting the team. They know what they need to do and we keep believing.

“The win today is important for our fans to be a little bit more calm. But I think if we don’t win our next game, it’s going to be again a problem. That is Chelsea.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe reflected on a match that had been there for the taking before Mudryk’s late strike.

“I thought it was a game in the balance and an open game,” he said. “The game got away from us with the goals we conceded which were really poor from our perspective – they were self-induced.

“Wherever you play you have to pride yourself on being tight and I don’t think Chelsea had an abundance of chances tonight.

“But the way the goals came from our perspective is hugely frustrating as we know the details have to get better.”

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