Lots of Sancho talk lately and I’m here to set the record straight in this mega-thread…
Sancho is a complete wide player in the sense that he ticks every single box. There’s nothing he cannot do. However, complete ≠ guaranteed success, as performing a role is often more valuable than completeness (see Pogba in central midfield vs the likes of Fred and McTominay).
So, with Sancho, does his complete skillset correlate to his role as a wide player in a 4-2-3-1? Yes, it 100% does.
Sancho is more in the ilk of a Ribery than a traditional direct, electric, hit-the-byline winger. He primarily relies on skill to beat his man as opposed to pace.
Sancho is one of the cleanest technical attackers in the sport. Attackers often come across as technically inconsistent despite being technically proficient because they’re playing in high-risk areas where they have to be creative & take those high risks, so things can go wrong.
However, this is certainly not the case with Sancho. Sure, he won’t always be clean technically considering the conditions within his role as outlined above, but the player doesn’t force play with his actions so is less prone to making technical errors than a Salah, for example.
Outlets are also renowned for being penetrative players in the final third, and that’s exactly what Sancho is too. Sancho makes those diagonal runs into the box enabling him to score goals.
Again, directly in relation to his shooting, his ball striking on either foot is fantastic. Sancho has a similar shift in his game to Willian which enables him to get a yard of space to get a strike off on either foot.
So, on paper, he’s the dream on-ball attacker.
Off the ball, Sancho is a diligent presser who blocks space in an intense manner on the outside of a 4-4-2 block along with tracking back and pressing his pressing triggers. He also can act as an outlet when a turnover occurs. So he’s a top defensive player too.
Right, so now we have established that Sancho is a Frank Ribery esque special technician who has a top combination of playmaking, creativity, athleticism and work rate, it’s clear he’s a top player from a qualitative perspective.
So, this begs the question as to why has his start not been absolutely electric because he’s so good? Well, life isn’t linear. He missed a large part of pre-season, has just joined a new team with fierce characters such as Ronaldo and B. Fernandes, & is only 21, which are four big factors.
Sancho is currently a reductionist version of himself because he lacks confidence. He is primarily a combiner, and that makes him one of the most useful players in world football vs low blocks when combined with his creativity + runs off the ball. However, he lacks directness.
This is not because he lacks directness as a player, because he doesn’t, but because it’s difficult to take risks when you’re 21 and just made a multimillion pound move to Manchester United. Again, most of his football at BVB was without fans – there’s so many factors here.
Yes, other players would come in and excel straight away thanks to a superior mentality (assuming they had the same skillset), but not everyone is the same, and some people take longer than others, and that’s okay. Sancho is a special boy – give him time.
The current tactical environment at Manchester United doesn’t suit him within his current mental state either. United’s games largely lack control and are end-to-end. When a player like Sancho lacks confidence to partake in direct/aggressive actions, that doesn’t suit him.
It’s no coincidence his best games and moments in general have came against low blocks and within combination play. Sancho is elite at combining and makes runs off the back of that combination play but most of United’s games have been transition-based – he’s not direct right now!
Sancho is elite at every facet of play and will only improve as he grows mentally. If he has the mentality to be the main man at Manchester United he can be that and that’ll see his game & style commanding authority enabling him to dictate attacks as opposed to being a sidepiece.
However, even if he doesn’t have that main man mentality, his quality is so good that he can still be a massive success for the club. Not all creative players have to control attacks to be elite – his quality is so good that he can be the elite sidepiece in attack – that’s okay!
Either way, overall, it’s clear Jadon Sancho will be successful at Manchester United sooner rather than later provided he continues to work hard. He excels at every facet of attacking play & is superb defensively too. Once he grows in confidence, he’ll soar.
Watch this space…