Having moved to Borussia Dortmund in the summer, 17-year-old Jadon Sancho is already proving he is a star for the future after his recent performances in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup for England. After being signed from Manchester City for 8.73 million euros, Sancho is instantly proving he has the assets to be a fantastic addition to the Dortmund youth academy, with a view to becoming a key first-team player.
With 11 goals in 15 games for England’s Under-17 team, Sancho is showcasing his ability to hit the back of the net, something that world-class wingers such as Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar look to offer frequently as attacking threats. Sancho is seen as a potential replacement for Dembele after the latter signed for Barcelona.
A prominent part of Manchester City Youth team’s passage to the FA Youth Cup final, where they were runners-up to Chelsea, Sancho is already showing signs of a winning mentality in high-pressure, knock-out football. Sancho was also widely regarded as one of the best players at the UEFA Under-17 Championships in Croatia during the summer of 2017. Sancho scored five goals in total as England finished as runners-up.
Sancho is often inclined to head for goal when cutting in from his left channel. By moving in towards the penalty area, Sancho offers the potential to interchange and link-up with centre-forwards. This makes man-marking more difficult for defenders. However, the main strength of Sancho’s willingness to cut inside towards the penalty box is that he can create space to shoot with his stronger right foot.
During the 4-0 win over Chile in the opening game of the Under-17 World Cup, Sancho scored across the keeper into the far corner. The goal was reminiscent of the one Sancho scored for England during the UEFA Under-17 Championships in a 2-1 win against Turkey in the semi-final. Such goals give his side an added source of goals and can be used as an alternative to him heading to the by-line when making it unpredictable for full-backs as to which way he is going to attack.
Being able to open up his body and score across goal is something that Thierry Henry used to do on so many occasions for Arsenal, and is an effective way of creating chances for other strikers if the goalkeeper parries the ball as opposed to the ball going dead at the near post.
Another dimension to Sancho’s game is his ability to take on defenders with pace and trickery. When in full-flow, Sancho is direct, but he can also check his run to cut back inside onto his more favoured right foot.
His ability to suddenly change his direction with a drag-back or feint enables him to shrug off the attention of defenders when finding a clear route towards goal. Moreover, Sancho is not afraid to tease defenders by slowing up and attempting a few skills or dummies before making a decision at an accelerated speed.
However, he will need to improve on the quality of his balls into the box, ensuring that he does not over-hit his cross, but instead finds the danger area around the penalty spot more consistently. His crosses have had the tendency to be overly deep at times.
Being able to cross with either foot is a benefit of Sancho’s play seeing as it adds to the unpredictable nature of his attacks, and offers the potential to switch wings if required, or alternatively to go either way when on one wing.
Sancho is not greedy and is aware of when is the best option to offload the ball. Even though his style of play is mainly about directness and pace, he can also get his head up and play the right pass.
Decision-making will only improve with experience as he gets older. It must be remembered he is only 17, so a certain sense of exuberance and creative freedom often dictates his play. This does not mean that he always runs with his head down since he has the capability to play through-balls when turning defence into attack.
Sancho’s pace enables him to pick up the ball when his team are in attacking transition with space able to be exploited behind the defence. This is where he then puts himself in the position to be able to go alone or find a teammate.
During Borussia Dortmund under-19’s 5-3 win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League, Sancho played a perfectly-weighted ball into Alexander Isak’s path, allowing the forward to score Dortmund’s fifth after Sancho’s assist had bisected the Madrid defence. This was a perfect example of Sancho’s vision after using his pace to open up space in the attacking half.
He is still a raw talent with plenty of unfulfilled potential, yet Jadon Sancho is a player with a bright future ahead of him who has all the attributes of an all-round winger. Dortmund will be hoping that the ongoing Under-17 World Cup elevates his game to yet another level and that he will return to his club side with added experience and confidence to succeed further.
With his contract at Dortmund running until June 2020, he has an opportunity to target a first-team place as soon as possible.