From the Handbook: Jadon Sancho
This profile was originally published in our digital-only handbook, Scouted Football Handbook Three, released in March 2018. You can download it – in full, for free – right here.
CAREER IN REVIEW
Jadon Sancho announced himself at both the World Cup and European Championships for England with individual displays of the highest order. Perhaps the most disappointing thing for one of England’s brightest young talents is that in a summer of success, he was robbed of any glory.
Named Best Player at the U-17 European Championships in Croatia, Sancho was relentless up to and including the final against Spain. His five goals and five assists meant he contributed to more goals than any other player at the tournament, only for England to fall in a penalty shootout to Spain after some odd decisions in the final moments.
Fast forward to the World Cup in India and Sancho’s own personal transfer drama had unfolded and been resolved. Reportedly refusing to sign a new deal with Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund secured his signature in the end with a whole host of top European clubs chasing him. Furthermore, being handed the number seven shirt vacated by Ousmane Dembélé was seen as a sign of his involvement with the first-team squad from the outset - as
was their refusal to let him play beyond the World Cup group stages.
England dominated, sweeping past each opposition and their star winger was once again at the heart of almost everything exciting the Young Lions produced. His return to Germany was met with disdain by the England manager, and disappointment from his team-mates.
Nevertheless, England were rampant and bar a tight game against Japan, sliced every team they faced to ribbons, culminating in sweet revenge for the defeat in Croatia with victory over Spain in the final. This, as Sancho found himself playing in UEFA Youth League games, rather than UEFA Champions League games.
Despite making history by becoming the first English player to represent Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, first-team minutes were absent for the rest of the year, adding to the frustrations of being torn away from England’s incredible World Cup win.
A fantastic year on an individual level lacked the trophies Jadon Sancho deserved, and whilst ‘robbed of recognition’ may be too strong a phrase, Sancho’s outstanding displays were certainly underappreciated as a result.
STYLE OF PLAY
Despite his age, the 17-year-old has proven at every level that he completely understands every pocket of space, every angle and every possible move he can make from his preferred position.
Whether cutting inside to create havoc on the edge the opposition box, or driving towards the by-line to isolate defenders; Sancho seems to know what to do in every situation: a quite unbelievable trait given his age. His decision making is also brilliant. A concoction of composure, vision and the ability to execute sees him excel in attacking transitions as well as in confined spaces around the box.
With only a handful of senior minutes, Sancho has carried his defining traits from his splendid youth career with him to the next level. Clinical finishing and clinical passing: the main reason his aforementioned numbers for England U-17s in 2017 were so outrageous. Occupying the most dangerous positions possible, carving them out through slick exchanges with his team-mates or a sprinkling of individual magic. His shot locations are well thought out, his assists are intelligent and selfless. Perhaps the only characteristic not fully evident during his spell
in the Dortmund first team is his ruthlessness in front of goal. The confidence and self-belief being arguably the best player in the team at U-17 level gave him a ruthlessness in front of goal that is yet to be seen in the Bundesliga; most likely born out of an eagerness to impress and make the ‘right’ decision, rather than trusting his ability.
Another highlight of Sancho’s play-style is the chemistry he develops with his team-mates and the sublime interplay born out of it. Stemming from the complete understanding of his role, his awareness of space and teammates around him, Sancho strikes up stunning partnerships with those who operate on his side. Despite an individualistic style of play overall—enjoying taking players on and flicking through his book of tricks—Sancho is conscious that a pass to a team-mate can often create the same opening as an intricate piece of skill, and has a higher chance of succeeding: his interplay with fellow handbook inductee Callum Hudson-Odoi for England U-17s this summer was truly scintillating, an absolute feast of fast-paced attacking football, with devastating end product.
Alluded to briefly above, the only criticism of Sancho’s behavior in the final third is his over-reliance on individual ability at times. During the U-17 World Cup in South Korea, he would begin matches trying to force his own stamp on the game by attempting unnecessary dribbles or unproductive pieces of skill. Whilst this creativity and flair should not be tempered, the line between arrogance and confidence was crossed on occasion. Reigning it back ever so slightly speeds up Sancho’s game and makes him more of a threat. Quick, incisive one-twos allow for neat flicks and high-level skill at breakneck speed; focusing on trying to achieve that each game will serve him well.
FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE
An ankle ligament injury has disrupted what had the potential to be a defining second-half of the season for Jadon Sancho. Calls for any inclusion in England’s World Cup squad for Russia are premature; Theo Walcott is perhaps the most famous teenage inclusion in recent tournament squads, and despite Sancho being 10 times the player Theo Walcott was in 2006, lessons have been learnt from what was a needless call-up.
Given Sancho’s talent though, it would not have been a surprise. Should he recover quickly from his ankle injury—which at the time of writing had no specific time frame attached to it—then although the 2018 World Cup will have come too soon, do not put it past him to be part of the European Championship touring party in two years’ time. As for 2022; look out.
Sancho’s main aim for 2018 will be to establish himself as a starter in Germany. Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembélé are proof that Borussia Dortmund are prepared to give minutes to prodigal young talents, and the 17-year-old should be considered in the same way from a talent perspective. A Champions League debut is on the horizon if the Bundesliga side can secure a top-four finish; Sancho should be aiming to turn heads and break ankles on the biggest club stage of them all.
International fame will follow soon after.
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