It may be hard to believe, but Jadon Sancho went four months without a Bundesliga goal to kick off his 2020/21 campaign.
In fact, the England starlet managed just four assists over an 11-game period and the media started to imply his head had been turned following interest from Manchester United.
Since the turn of the year, however, he’s involved himself in 16 goals in 14 appearances. In his last five starts, Sancho has scored five and assisted a further four. He’s stepped up when Borussia Dortmund have needed him most.
Heading into matchday 30, Edin Terzić’s men found themselves four points outside of the Champions League places. The 3-1 win over Mainz on Saturday, a game in which Sancho finished with two assists, guaranteed them a place in the top four. It rounded off a memorable week for die Schwarzgelben.
BVB ran riot in the DFB Pokal final with Sancho and Erling Haaland both scoring braces in a 4-1 win over RB Leipzig.
So why has Sancho exploded into life during the second half of the 2020/21 season?
It is a subtle yet transformative tweak.
Earlier in the campaign, the 21-year-old was being deployed primarily on the right. This year, however, Terzić has shifted him to the opposite flank. On the right, he’s more of a creative menace. On the left, he’s an all-round goal threat. The numbers back that up.
Pre-New Year, the former Manchester City youngster had an expected goals (xG) average of 0.22 and an expected assists (xA) average of 0.27. Since the switch, his xG average has risen to 0.38 while his xA has remained at 0.27.
On a per 90 basis, he’s taking fewer shots (2.02 down from 2.31) but they’re better quality efforts. Furthermore, Sancho is adding value to his efforts now, with his post-shot xG per 90 average now standing at 0.45 compared to the 0.14 it was in the earlier stages of the campaign.
Using a right footer on the right side of the attack limits what they can do as a goalscorer. Sancho is by no means one-footed, but he’s a lot more predictable when on the right. The opposition know he’s going to look to go on the outside, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they can stop him.
However, it does negate him as a goal threat and you can see that in the above shot map. The majority of his shots come from the right side of the box and as a right footer, there’s only so much you can do when it comes to shot placement. There’s a reason so many teams now play with inverted forwards.
Sancho’s shot placement map when he starts on the right is underwhelming, but expected. He rarely hits the corners and the majority of his efforts that do hit the target are in central zones which tend to favour goalkeepers.
On the left, it is a completely different story. He’s able to cut inside onto his stronger side and he’s hitting the corners with his efforts with greater regularity. Of his on target efforts, only 27% hit the centre of the goal.
The same thing happened with Sancho last season as well. When used on the left, he racked up eight goals and seven assists in 11 matches. He’s a much more potent weapon when he’s allowed to drift inside.
Terzić hasn’t done much with the BVB No.7, he’s just backed him to deliver when playing in more of a free role on the left. He’s now reaping the rewards.
All the graphics and visualisations in this article use Wyscout data and were produced in the Twenty3 Toolbox.
If you think the Toolbox could help your organisation, you can request a demo here.