Each close-season transfer window has a defining ‘saga’ and everything points to the next revolving around Jadon Sancho and Manchester United.
Media reports began to circulate on Wednesday claiming Sancho is set to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, having emerged as one of world football’s next great hopes since joining from Manchester City.
The England international seems likely to return home later this year and United are rumoured to be leading the chase, ready to pay £120million for his signature.
United’s issues on the flanks are nothing new. For several years they have seemingly operated with a bizarre square-pegs-round-holes policy, assigning numerous players who clearly aren’t wingers to wide roles.
We looked at the data to understand how Sancho stacks up with United’s current attacking options.
Care for an assist?
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 12, 2020
A PROLIFIC CREATOR
It’s difficult to imagine Sancho joining United and not having a swift and decisive impact. The only other genuine winger in their squad is Daniel James, and while the Wales international has enjoyed a solid debut season after a shock move, he has faded recently and clearly lacks a certain presence.
After Andreas Pereira (31), Fred (30) and Marcus Rashford (24), James (23) has created the most Premier League chances for United this term and his haul of six assists isn’t matched by any of his team-mates.
By comparison, Sancho has laid on 47 opportunities for team-mates in the Bundesliga this season, the fifth-highest in the division, and his haul of 13 assists is the same amount as James, Anthony Martial and Rashford combined.
The Sancho Skill Show pic.twitter.com/UHvmiUjzqZ
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 27, 2020
SUBTLETY IN THE FINAL THIRD
The United squad isn’t exactly blessed with lots of physical attackers renowned for their aerial ability, which suggests hooking hopeful crosses into the box does not represent a fertile route to goal.
For the most part, United forwards aren’t desperate to cross, with Pereira (28), Rashford (19) and Martial (7) often looking for alternative ways to penetrate the box, but James (79) is the 11th most-frequent crosser in the league, even if he’s some way off Trent Alexander-Arnold (159).
Sancho fits in more with the former group, supplying only 22 crosses this season. Perhaps such a low figure is justified by the fact only five per cent were accurate.
Nevertheless, this does suggest Sancho is more subtle and deliberate with his creativity, and given he has crafted comfortably more chances and goals than the United contingent, it is difficult to argue he should alter his style.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 12, 2020
A KEY INFLUENCE
As someone who creates so many opportunities, it wouldn’t be unusual to expect Sancho to be somewhat wayward in possession, given the necessity to take risks.
But 80 per cent of his 496 passes into the final third have been accurate. Of the 284 Bundesliga players to play at least 50 passes into that part of the pitch, only 11 have greater accuracy than Sancho, though none of those attempted more than 308.
Martial, Fred, Mason Greenwood, Luke Shaw, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all been more accurate in the final third, but Sancho has attempted far more passes, while none of them have got anywhere close to the Dortmund star’s chance creation record.
Touch like Sancho pic.twitter.com/KrEQzzlaB3
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 21, 2020
DEADLY WHEN IT MATTERS
Sancho’s not just a creator, however.
As well as his 13 assists, Sancho has also chipped in with 12 Bundesliga goals this season, a figure bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (22) and Timo Werner (20).
Those 12 goals came from 37 attempts, meaning he is averaging almost a goal every three shots, comfortably better than Martial (17 per cent of 48 shots) and Rashford (19 per cent of 74 shots).
A complete player in attack, Sancho offers an all-round threat that United simply do not possess.
He also appears to be the ideal player for United stylistically, with his attributes and dynamism similar to the likes of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, around whom club seem intent on building their future.
Will Sancho be the next to join that trio?
The first player in Europe’s top five leagues with double digit goals and assists?
Sancho, Jadon Sancho pic.twitter.com/uzuD2RoF6h
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) January 19, 2020