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J. Sancho

One goal in eight games: Inside Sancho's post-Man Utd saga slump

08:00 GMT 24/11/2020
Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund 2020-21
The Borussia Dortmund winger has not yet hit the heights of his previous seasons following the Red Devils' public pursuit of him over the summer

Forget what you may have heard  - rumours of Jadon Sancho's decline have been greatly exaggerated.

While it is true that Sancho has not been at his best this season, few players ever even reach the benchmarks he has set in his career so far.

A long summer of transfer drama and speculation saw Manchester United fail to make a big enough offer for the 20-year-old, who remains at Borussia Dortmund for at least another season.

So far, that season has not gone exactly as hoped for any of the parties involved, but to claim Sancho is struggling would be a huge overstatement.

Last week, Dortmund's player director Sebastian Kehl called the slump a "temporary phenomenon", blaming the prolonged transfer saga for the lower numbers this season.

"Jadon is perhaps lacking a little fluency right now," Kehl told Kicker. "His natural game is only partially recognisable at the moment.

"But this is only a temporary phenomenon, one that will soon vanish into thin air. It is not a distraction brought on by United's interest.

"We will have to go through this together. Jadon doesn't care [about speculation]. We know that he is working on it."

He has yet to score a Bundesliga goal this season and has just a solitary strike in his last eight club appearances.

He has, however, been involved in five goals in nine games in all competitions, and netted his third goal for England during the most recent international break.

The goal came at the right time for Sancho, but at the wrong time for ITV co-commentator and ex-Arsenal defender Lee Dixon, who asked “What is his end product?” moments before he curled the ball into the net against the Republic of Ireland.

“He needs to be educated on what’s required of him, the spotlight is on him. When you play for England, you’ve got to perform," Dixon added.

Sancho only played 34 minutes across England's subsequent Nations League fixtures, but showed his skill with a clever run and pass to earn an assist in the 4-0 win over Iceland.

For some critics, this is still not enough, with many pundits expecting miracles every time he has the ball.

Sancho is partly to blame for that due to his own success across the last two seasons, with the ex-Manchester City academy star having recorded 29 goals and 30 assists in 66 league games between August  2018 and the start of this campaign.

Those kinds of numbers earned rave reviews and put a €120 million (£107m/$142m) price tag on his head - the magic figure which United were unwilling to pay.

The same onlookers now read his stats for 2020-21 and believe that the Red Devils were right not to give in, but those numbers will probably return as his performances have largely been good.

This season was always likely to be a more difficult one for Sancho on the pitch.

Dortmund lost Achraf Hakimi to Inter in the off-season and replaced him with Thomas Meunier, who does not have the same attacking or defending prowess from right-back as his predecessor.

Sancho, therefore, now has more work to do on his side of the pitch and is clearly attempting to make up for Hakimi's absence, with his average of almost seven dribbles per 90 minutes comfortably the most of any player in Germany's top flight.

His dribbling has become more successful too, with a success rate of 62 per cent, a new personal high, while he is on target to match his chances created numbers from previous seasons.

All that is missing at the moment are goals and assists, leading Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre to comment that the transfer talk was to blame.

"Every player has slow periods," Favre told reporters before Sancho scored against Zenit in the Champions League in late October. "There was a lot of talk about Jadon in the summer, something like that can also have an influence.

"But no player is consistently in top form for a year, that's impossible. You have to accept that."

Sancho has put the transfer talk behind him and is now focused on "bouncing back", with the spotlight probably lessened away from the England camp and international football.

“I feel like every player has a little dip in their career, and I feel I’m going through that at the moment," Sancho told ITV after scoring against Ireland.

"It is just how I’m bouncing back and I am just happy to have managers who have faith in and keep sight of me.

“I expect a lot from myself personally. When I play I try to assist and score, and help the team. For a couple of games I haven’t been assisting or scoring but I knew I had the chance to do that.”

Sancho has demonstrated more than enough to show that this slump is only temporary and that the goals and assists will return for club and country.

He is still dominating opponents with his dribbles and creating chances for his team-mates. The goals will come.