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Jadon Sancho to Manchester United? Opta data exposes the gulf between BVB star and Red Devils attackers

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Jadon Sancho and Manchester United appear a good match, with the Opta data suggesting he’s a cut above the Red Devils’ current forwards.

Each close-season transfer window has a defining ‘saga’ and everything points to the next revolving around Jadon Sancho and Manchester United.

Media reports began to circulate on Wednesday claiming Sancho is set to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, having emerged as one of world football’s next great hopes since joining from Manchester City.

The England international seems likely to return home later this year and United are rumoured to be leading the chase, ready to pay £120million for his signature.

United’s issues on the flanks are nothing new. For several years they have seemingly operated with a bizarre square-pegs-round-holes policy, assigning numerous players who clearly aren’t wingers to wide roles.

We looked at the data to understand how Sancho stacks up with United’s current attacking options.

 

 

A PROLIFIC CREATOR

It’s difficult to imagine Sancho joining United and not having a swift and decisive impact. The only other genuine winger in their squad is Daniel James, and while the Wales international has enjoyed a solid debut season after a shock move, he has faded recently and clearly lacks a certain presence.

After Andreas Pereira (31), Fred (30) and Marcus Rashford (24), James (23) has created the most Premier League chances for United this term and his haul of six assists isn’t matched by any of his team-mates.

By comparison, Sancho has laid on 47 opportunities for team-mates in the Bundesliga this season, the fifth-highest in the division, and his haul of 13 assists is the same amount as James, Anthony Martial and Rashford combined.

 

 

SUBTLETY IN THE FINAL THIRD

The United squad isn’t exactly blessed with lots of physical attackers renowned for their aerial ability, which suggests hooking hopeful crosses into the box does not represent a fertile route to goal.

For the most part, United forwards aren’t desperate to cross, with Pereira (28), Rashford (19) and Martial (7) often looking for alternative ways to penetrate the box, but James (79) is the 11th most-frequent crosser in the league, even if he’s some way off Trent Alexander-Arnold (159).

Sancho fits in more with the former group, supplying only 22 crosses this season. Perhaps such a low figure is justified by the fact only five per cent were accurate.

Nevertheless, this does suggest Sancho is more subtle and deliberate with his creativity, and given he has crafted comfortably more chances and goals than the United contingent, it is difficult to argue he should alter his style.

 

 

A KEY INFLUENCE

As someone who creates so many opportunities, it wouldn’t be unusual to expect Sancho to be somewhat wayward in possession, given the necessity to take risks.

But 80 per cent of his 496 passes into the final third have been accurate. Of the 284 Bundesliga players to play at least 50 passes into that part of the pitch, only 11 have greater accuracy than Sancho, though none of those attempted more than 308.

Martial, Fred, Mason Greenwood, Luke Shaw, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all been more accurate in the final third, but Sancho has attempted far more passes, while none of them have got anywhere close to the Dortmund star’s chance creation record.

 

 

DEADLY WHEN IT MATTERS

Sancho’s not just a creator, however.

As well as his 13 assists, Sancho has also chipped in with 12 Bundesliga goals this season, a figure bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (22) and Timo Werner (20).

Those 12 goals came from 37 attempts, meaning he is averaging almost a goal every three shots, comfortably better than Martial (17 per cent of 48 shots) and Rashford (19 per cent of 74 shots).

A complete player in attack, Sancho offers an all-round threat that United simply do not possess.

He also appears to be the ideal player for United stylistically, with his attributes and dynamism similar to the likes of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, around whom club seem intent on building their future.

Will Sancho be the next to join that trio?

 

 

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Premier league

Chelsea confirm five-year deal for Hakim Ziyech

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Hakim Ziyech was described as “one of the most dangerous attacking players in Europe” after finalising a contract with Chelsea.

Chelsea have confirmed Hakim Ziyech has agreed a five-year contract and will join from Ajax at the end of the season.

Ajax announced last week that the 26-year-old would be moving to Frank Lampard’s side in a deal potentially worth €44million.

The forward, who will spend the rest of 2019-20 with the Eredivisie champions, told Chelsea’s official website: “I am delighted and proud to have signed for such a huge club as Chelsea. I am looking forward to next season and hope we can achieve great things together.”

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia made clear the club’s delight at signing a player who has taken the Champions League by storm in recent seasons.

“We are delighted Hakim will be joining us in the summer, having been a key target of the club’s in this last window,” she said.

“He has consistently been one of the most dangerous attacking players in Europe in recent years, which we saw first-hand in our two games against Ajax in the Champions League.

“We wish Hakim and Ajax all the best for the rest of the season and look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge in the summer.”

 

Ziyech joined Ajax from Twente in August 2016 and was a star performer as Erik ten Hag’s men reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and secured a domestic double last term.

The Morocco international is the first major signing confirmed by Chelsea since Lampard took over as head coach from Maurizio Sarri prior to the start of the season.

Deals to bring in Christian Pulisic and loanee Mateo Kovacic permanently had been agreed prior to Lampard taking charge, and the Blues were then forced to endure a one-window transfer ban after they were found guilty of breaching FIFA rules regarding the signing of minors from overseas.

Their initial two-window suspension was reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in December, however, allowing Chelsea to sign players in January, but they failed to secure any new arrivals.

Speaking at the start of this month, Lampard said his side had become “underdogs” in the battle to finish fourth in the Premier League because their rivals had strengthened their own squads.

 

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Manchester United 3-0 Watford: Bruno Fernandes’ masterclass sends Red Devils fifth

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Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood fired Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal for Manchester United and created two more as the Red Devils extended their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions with a 3-0 Premier League victory over Watford.

The £62million January signing from Sporting CP put in a performance that made his fee look like a bargain, winning and scoring a first-half penalty to break the deadlock against a battling Watford team before creating superbly taken goals from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

United survived some nervous moments and Watford had an equaliser ruled out for handball before Martial doubled their advantage, but the invention and craft of Fernandes has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men an edge they lacked for so much of this season.

Defeat leaves Watford in the relegation zone and without a win in six matches in all competitions, but manager Nigel Pearson will take some comfort from a strong attacking performance that might have delivered a different outcome but for some poor finishing.

 

Troy Deeney might have put Watford ahead after three minutes when Nemanja Matic and Harry Maguire allowed Victor Lindelof’s blocked pass to run through to the Hornets captain, but he hesitated, and Luke Shaw dispossessed him just in time.

Abdoulaye Doucoure hit the side-netting from a tight angle as Watford continued to prise open a faltering United defence and, when the hosts countered, Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed from 12 yards after Ben Foster parried Dan James’ angled drive.

The pace of the game slowed before exploding into life five minutes before half-time when Fernandes burst into the Watford box where Ben Foster sent him sprawling, and the Portuguese midfielder’s hopping run-up and cool low finish put United ahead from the spot.

Watford had the ball in the net five minutes after the restart when Maguire lashed it into the roof of his own net under pressure from Deeney, but Craig Dawson playing the ball with his arm in the build-up meant the goal was ruled out.

Six minutes later, Fernandes turned provider, threading a pass through to Martial whose drag-back fooled Etienne Capoue before his immaculate chip saw him beat Foster at the second attempt.

United’s third was the pick of the goals, Greenwood starting a move that ended with Fernandes rolling the ball to him just inside the box and he cracked an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net off the frame of the goal.

Solskjaer sent on Odion Ighalo for his home United debut against his former club and he hit the post six minutes from time but by then the game was comfortably won as hopes of a possible Champions League return continued to grow around Old Trafford.

What does it mean?

One win in three home league matches hardly feels like great form but United are just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea, while Watford, who are 19th, remain one point adrift of safety and still without a league win at Old Trafford in their history.

Fernandes brings out United’s best

The arrival of Fernandes has given the likes of James and Greenwood a creative lynchpin and, after showing his finishing prowess, the 25-year-old brought the best out of Martial and Greenwood.

Deeney made to rue early miss

Sluggish and sloppy in the opening 20 minutes, Deeney eventually grew into the game but only after he had missed Watford’s best chance of the game.

What’s next?

Watford host champions elect Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday before United’s trip to Everton on Sunday. The Red Devils are in Europa League action against Club Brugge at Old Trafford three days earlier.

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Wolves 3-0 Norwich City: Five in two games for in-form Diogo Jota

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A Diogo Jota double and Raul Jimenez’s second-half goal gave Wolves all three points as Norwich City’s woes continued.

Diogo Jota capped an excellent week in front of goal with a double as Wolves boosted their Champions League aspirations with a 3-0 win over bottom club Norwich City.

Jota was on target with a hat-trick in Wolves’ 4-0 victory over Espanyol in the Europa League on Thursday.

The forward opened the scoring after 19 minutes at Molineux on Sunday, firing in a low finish on the turn after being teed up by Matt Doherty.

His second came 11 minutes later as he tapped in from Romain Saiss’ low cross.

Tim Krul produced heroics to turn Ruben Neves’ free-kick onto the bar before the interval but he could do nothing to prevent Raul Jimenez from making it 3-0 on the rebound after Jota had struck the post.

Wolves are eighth, two points behind Manchester United, who occupy fifth, which would be good enough for the Champions League following Manchester City’s two-season ban from European competition.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men gained ground on Tottenham and Sheffield United after both dropped points on Saturday, meaning they trail that pair by just a point. Norwich, meanwhile, are still seven points adrift of safety.

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