Patrick Mills runs the rule over Jadon Sancho, one of the best U18 youngsters in England right now.
Despite heavy investment in their youth system, Manchester City are yet to bring through ‘one of their own’ into the current first team. This summer, however, teenagers Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz impressed greatly during City’s pre-season tour of the United States. In addition, England U-17’s finished runners up to Spain at the European Championships last month with 4 of their regulars hailing from the Citizen’s academy. Their most impressive representative at the tournament was undoubtedly winger Jadon Sancho, scoring 5 and assisting 5 more of the young lion’s 15 goals.
The 17 year old was voted player of the tournament, an award previously won by the likes of Toni Kroos, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas. Despite this, Sancho didn’t join his young teammates in flying out to the states to take part in Pep Guardiola’s preparations for the new campaign. In fact, it looks increasingly likely that the youngster will be on his way out of the club before the end of the current transfer window after reportedly refusing to train during recent weeks.
Who is Jadon Sancho?
Originally from South London, Sancho left Watford’s academy in 2015 to join Manchester City after catching the eye of their scouts. Excited by the prospect of learning his trade in state of the art facilities and under top-class coaches, he made the move up north with ambitions of becoming a Premier League player at the Etihad. Furthermore, Sancho felt his hometown of Kennington didn’t provide the ideal setting for someone trying to become a successful footballer.
“After school I would just be playing football and other people around me would be doing bad stuff and I didn’t want to get in to doing that.
“When City came along I thought it was a good opportunity to get out of the hood. There were a lot of bad influences.”
Since joining up with City’s youths, Sancho began to impress immediately and last season took huge strides towards the first team. He managed 15 goals in 19 starts for the U18’s last term before being adding 5 in 12 appearances for the U21’s later on in the campaign. As mentioned earlier, Sancho has also been impressing on the International front. After scoring 6 in 7 for the England U16’s, he has gone on to score a total of 13 times in 16 games for the U17’s.
What is his Style of Play?
Sancho plays primarily on the left side of a front three, for both club and country. Although, he can also play on the right or behind the striker. His preference is to receive to feet with space to run at his fullback before crossing to a teammate. Because he is right footed, he also likes to cut inside and shoot or play a through ball in behind the opposition’s defence. He has said in the past how the story of Raheem Sterling has inspired him and the fellow Londoners have very similar games. At 17, Raheem Sterling was regularly criticised for his lack of end-product and his poor decision making in the final third. This doesn’t appear to be as much of a problem for Sancho and the comparisons between the pair are based more on their dribbling abilities and low centre of gravity.
What are his Strengths?
According to Sancho himself, his main strength is in 1v1’s. His pace and close control allow him to take advantage of isolated duels with defenders. He spoke recently about how he likes to draw them into making a move before dribbling past them;
“When I get the ball 1v1, I’ll just tease the defender and wait for him to stick a leg in. Then I’ll go past him”
On the regular occasions that he does beat his man, Sancho has the composure to find a teammate with a cross or cut-back. When he opts to dribble infield, he has the vision and the finishing ability to either create a chance for a teammate or take a strike on himself.
His attributes make him a valuable asset not just when his team have established an attack high up the pitch, but also when transitioning from out of defence. For England and City last season, Sancho consistently used his pace and dribbling to break at speed and take advantage of the open space available to him on counter-attacks.
Sancho is a versatile player from a tactical point of view given his wide-ranging skillset. His close control and low centre of gravity means he can operate well in tight spaces while his pace and dribbling ability allows him to flourish equally well in larger spaces.
What are his Weaknesses?
Quite often with young players who have the ability to beat defenders at ease, they will look for the ball constantly and attempt to do everything themselves. Sancho’s assist stats, however, show that he has the awareness and intelligence to know that he must be a good creator as well as goalscorer if he is to make it at the top of the game.
Sancho believes his main deficiency is his weaker left foot. As a right footed player playing on the left, he must become proficient at using both feet. At senior level, where teams generally know the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents before playing against them, Sancho will find himself being forced onto his left at every opportunity. Additionally, the pace of the senior game means that he won’t always have the time to shift the ball onto his preferred foot.
Another potential threat to him fulfilling his potential is his attitude. If reports this summer are to be believed, the young winger has refused to turn up for training this pre-season. The rumours are that, despite being offered a new 30,000 a week contract to stay in Manchester, Sancho has doubts over whether a pathway exists for him into the first team. A move back to London appears most likely with Spurs and Arsenal both viable options. Some might argue that declining big money in favour of more playing time would be admirable. However, at just 17 it smacks of impatience and in any case, refusing to train isn’t the professional or mature way to go about it. As I touched upon, fellow City youngsters Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz have gone on the tour of the US and worked hard to impress Guardiola while Sancho was also asked to come on the tour but apparently declined.
As things stand, Sancho is an extremely talented youngster with huge potential and who knows, maybe he simply wants to move back home for reasons unknown to the media. He must now either gain assurances about being given opportunities to impress at City, or find a manager elsewhere who is willing to take a chance on him at such an early stage of his career. If he continues to improve as a player and has the focus, motivation and patience needed to become successful in today’s game, Jadon Sancho undoubtedly has the capacity to develop into one of Europe’s best attackers.
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