5 Jadon Sancho alternatives United should consider

There is one name which is always on the tongues of the Manchester United fanbase – “Jadon Sancho”. The charismatic winger has been one of the most consistent players in the German Bundesliga ever since he made his senior team debut in front of the famed “Yellow Wall” of Borussia Dortmund. He may be just 20 years of age but he is already at the top of his game at such a tender age, creating havoc from the right wing under Lucien Favre, the manager who is instrumental in giving him a run of games at his new position. Sancho has made the position his own and there is no looking back for the London-born Jadon who started his football journey at now-relegated Watford, and then jumping ship to Manchester City before fate brought him across the English Channel right into the heart of Ruhr Valley in Germany. 

A full time England International, the 20-year-old adaptive hardworking winger is dedicated to the project. Dubbed a “generational talent” second only to wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, Sancho ticks all the boxes for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s cultural rebuild at Manchester United and there is a reason why the red devils are ready to spend a huge sum of money even in a post-Covid market which has derailed the financial stability of even the elite clubs. But the past few days have resulted in a widely-reported ‘impasse’ over the transfer business between the two clubs with a good amount of difference in what the English club is offering and what amount the German club ideally wants for their gem – as reported by famous transfer expert, Fabrizio Romano, who plies his trade for Sky Italia and The Guardian. 

With Manchester United passing the stage 1 of their cultural rebuild with flying colours, now comes the stage 2- to bring in quality and remove the deadwood in order to make space for future additions- which can be brought from academy or any other quality signing according to the need and demand of the manager. But with serious question over Jadon Sancho deal looming over and an already shortened transfer market coupled with a post Covid scenario bringing more instability when it comes to financial aspects of running a football club, club must bring to use their state of the art Data Analytics team and scouting network to look for alternatives if they plan to actually cut the gap between their arch rivals: Manchester City and Liverpool FC who actually have been ruling the domestic scene for quite a while with Liverpool even finding success on Continental Stage. 

In this article we will cover 5 alternatives for Jadon Sancho, giving you a step-by-step detailed analysis using data to explain how these exciting alternatives can actually replicate the output Jadon can deliver.

Why are United chasing Jadon Sancho?

But before we actually come to the alternatives, an intricate detail on The Man, The Myth, The Legend (soon I hope) is needed. With the sudden emergence of Mason Greenwood, a burst in the output of both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – all thanks to Ole releasing the shackles which were present under previous managers – and summer signing Daniel James’ impressive first half of the season, Manchester United look like a deadly attacking force – but in phases. The left wing has been the main source of creativity for Manchester United with 41.45% of assists in the Premier League coming from that side. Although the red devils have a relatively good output from the right flank (a position lacking in quality since the Sir Alex era) with 34.77% of assists coming from that side (16 assists), most of these have been courtesy Daniel James first half season burst in what was his second season at senior level and first in the Premier League, that too at a club of Manchester United’s prestige. The lack of genuine quality and injuries to players capable of playing in the same position saw Daniel James being over-utilized and his performances fizzling out over the course of the season. Doubts over his productivity in the final third also remain with many sub-par games from the Welshman like the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford.

(chance creation outlets- Credits to Laurie Whitwell of The Athletic)

This is where Jadon Sancho comes in, bringing in much needed quality and giving an “unpredictability” to Solskjaer’s team in the attacking department which may just prove to be the missing link in Manchester United’s long-lost attacking identity over the years.  Jadon not only lights up the stadium with his unpredictability and dexterity but also puts up pretty good numbers in the defensive aspect of his game, recording an average of 2 interceptions and 3.4 recoveries per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga as compared to Marcus Rashford’s 1.8 interceptions and 2.1 recoveries per 90 minutes. He will be an asset to any team which has marauding fullbacks and promises to improve creativity in the final third. Sancho is an excellent ball-carrier and capable of opening up chances through his passing with 7.7 dribbles completed per 90 minutes at a 48.6% success rate averaging 3.6 “progressive runs” (10 metre dashes in the opposition half). 

(Jadon Sancho’s Heatmap in Bundesliga- from Wyscout)

(Marcus Rashford’s heatmap in Premier League- from Wyscout)

(Jadon Sancho’s successful take-ons in Champions League) 

Now we will look at our 5 alternate choices who can replicate such behemoth numbers and bring similar quality to Manchester United and help them in their quest to reach back on the “Perch”

1. Federico Chiesa (ACF Fiorentina)

(Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Son of famed Italian footballer Enrico Chiesa, a cult icon at Stadio Artemio Franchi who enjoyed good spells with Parma and Sampdoria, Federico Chiesa may just be on the verge of replicating his father on the pitch and maybe even do better than him over the course of his career. As compared to his father who played as a striker, Federico plies his trade at right wing and is also capable of playing on the left wing, where he has played for the Azzuri at youth and senior level. He can also pull off the ‘advanced forward’ role if needed. Like Jadon Sancho, Federico Chiesa also brings a good amount of unpredictability and flair which the Norwegian manager craves for in his forward line. Questions have been raised over Chiesa’s productivity in the final third, but most of it has been due to the volatile environment around the “La Viola”, with many managerial changes over a short period. This has curtailed the Italian’s growth to an extent but the potential is still there to be seen.

Federico Chiesa averages a NPxG+xA (non penalty expected goal and assist) per 90 minutes of 0.52 despite various role changes. The winger averages a 3.58 SCA (Shot Creating Actions) per 90 minutes along with a 0.48 GCA (Goal Creating Action) per 90. When it comes to possession, the 22-year old is on the receiving end of  passes for 72.9% of the number of passes attempted by the team on an average over 90 minutes, meaning majority of the game at Fiorentina runs through him. This is also supported by the fact that the xG (expected goals) remains at 44 when he is on the pitch but drops to 35.1 when he isn’t playing, bringing a huge positive of +8.9. This positive change in xG per 90 accounts to 0.30 . With Fiorentina dropping hints in the past that they can part ways with their ‘wonderkid’ for a sum above €40 million mark, he may prove to be a good alternative to Jadon Sancho. Some coaching and tactical consistency can further improve Chiesa’s underlying numbers and unleash his full potential.

Positions: RW/LW/CF

Price: €40-50M 

Tactical fitment: 10/10

Cultural fitment: 8/10

Devil’s DNA priority score: 9/10

2. Milot Rashica (SV Werder Bremen)

(Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Kosovo International has been a beacon of light in these dark and gloomy days at the Northern Germany club, saving them from near relegation for 2 seasons in a row now. Starting his career at Vitesse Arnhem and then jumping ship to the greener pastures of the Bundesliga, Raschica’s direct gameplay, burst of pace coupled with a good eye for a pass and composure in front of goal makes him an asset for any team which relies on fluidic transitions during counter attacks – a certain element observed at Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His 14 G+A contribution last season was equivalent to 45% of the total goals scored by Werder Bremen over the course of the season, which saw them secure their stay in the top division for one more season via a relegation play-off victory against 2. Bundesliga side FC Heidenheim. His contribution alone resulted in Bremen winning more than 50% of their total points tally. It is evident that he can be the clutch player United badly need in the final third. In addition to his clutch gameplay, he brings a lot of energy on the flank bringin explosiveness in the final third and his work done off the ball is impressive too. He averages 16.28 ‘pressure actions’ (which brings about a change in possession) per 90 minutes at a success rate of 31%, with most of these ‘pressure actions’ being applied in the middle of the park. This indicates that he is more efficient in pressing the second or third man – a good asset for any team which wants to execute intense counter-pressing in the middle of the park and release the ball as soon as possible to ball progressing attackers to initiate fluid counter attacks. With a release clause of € 38 million in his current contract, the energy and clutch mentality the 24-year old brings in a team along with his unpredictability in the final third can be an asset for Manchester United in the long term. There is a good chance his numbers will improve with better players around him. Ole’s system can let his potential unravel since he is at a stage in his career where a switch to a bigger team can make his career. Having played most of the current season on the left wing and striker positions, there might be a slight doubt over his ability to play right wing all the time but given his talent and flexibility, we don’t think that should stop him from becoming the Red devils’ right winger for the next few years.

Positions: RW/LW/CF

Price: €38M 

Tactical fitment: 7/10

Cultural fitment: 9/10

Devil’s DNA priority score: 8/10

3. Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna)

(Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

This may come as a shock to some but Riccardo Orsolini has been fulfilling his potential ever since he has joined the Northern Italian side, Bologna FC, making his switch a permanent one last season with the Italian side shelling a club record figure of € 14.5 million, continuing the cultural reboot at the club, overseen by Sinisa Mihajlovic, by giving preference to younger players making them one of the youngest squads in Serie A. He falls under the category of a modern day “inside forward”- a left footed forward playing on the right flank looking for opportunities to cut in while giving space to the right back to use the width and make overlaps into good crossing areas – while Orsolini looks to progress the ball more into central areas, looking for either a pass or ‘go for glory.’ The latter usually implies an aesthetic curling goal straight into the top corner – a tool Orsolini favours given his athletic and nimble body. He ranks 5th for players dribbled past in the league and 8th in number of fouls drawn. The 23-year old averages an xG+xA of 0.5 per 90 minutes and his non penalty figure of xG+xA per 90 also stands at 0.5, meaning that he is a massive threat from open play. Orsolini averages a good sum of progressive runs into the final third per 90 minutes, standing at a figure of 150 yards. He has a SGA/90 mins of 3.66 and a GCA/90 of 0.40. The talisman of his team, he ends up at the receiving end of a whopping 82% of the passes during the match, clearly implying he is the fulcrum to Bologna’s attack. If a player can deliver such impressive performances for an underperforming team, imagine the increase in output if he makes a switch to a team which suits his playing style needs and improves the quality of his game too – a win-win situation for all parties if Manchester United are taking notes. Bologna’s sporting director Walter Sabatini claimed this season that Orsolini would cost nothing less than €70M, but with his contract ending in 2022 and Bologna underperforming as a sporting project, he may not cost that much in the current post-covid market. 

Positions: RW

Price: €40-60M 

Tactical fitment: 8/10

Cultural fitment: 7/10

Devil’s DNA priority score: 8/10

4. Calvin Stengs (AZ Alkmaar)

(Photo by Ed van de Pol/Soccrates/Getty Images)

A product of the famed AZ Alkmaar academy, Calvin Stengs has made his breakthrough at first team level this season with the young attacking trio of Oussama Idrissi, Myron Boadu and Stengs winning laurels in their native Netherlands and also making a name at the continental stage, going from the qualifying rounds to delivering impressive performances in the Group Stages of Europa League – with Stengs being the star performer in their 0-0 draw against Manchester United, described as being a ‘thorn in the bush’ on the right flank. The 21-year old averages a non penalty xG+xA of 0.5 meaning he is a good threat from open play which is pretty evident from the ‘offensive actions’ which has won his team an average of 2.23 points/match (since Eredivisie was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic so the average has taken for 25 matches – the amount of matches AZ Alkmaar had played till 12th March). Technically sound, nimble, athletic, good both on and off the ball and a good eye for a pass- Calvin Stengs terrorized the defences in Eredivisie which kept the young AZ Alkmaar side; coached by a charismatic Arne Slot, in contention of a historic league title before KVNB declared the league null and void due to Covid-19 pandemic. With a good track record of Dutch players in both England and Manchester United, this Flying Dutchman can again dock on the shores of England and do justice to his talent for a relatively cheaper price.

Positions: RW/CAM

Price: €30-40M 

Tactical fitment: 7/10

Cultural fitment: 7/10

Devil’s DNA priority score: 7/10

5. Viktor Tsygankov (Dynamo Kyiv)

(Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

The 22-year old is widely regarded as one of the best talents to come out of Ukraine. The athletic player is equally adept as an ‘advanced forward’ as well as an ‘inside forward’ and even capable of playing the role of an ‘inverted winger’, cutting in from right wing – very similar to his fellow National team Mate, Andriy Yaormalenko. Despite being just 22 years of age, he has accumulated a good experience at the first team level at Dynamo Kyiv, making his debut for the first team as a 17-year-old back in the 2016-17 season. Now a main player at Dynamo, his impressive tally of 14 goals and 5 assists in 27 league matches has helped Dynamo to the runners-up position in Ukranian League, losing to eventual champions and Europa League semi finalists, Shakhtar Donetsk.  But Tsygankov had an even better outing on the continental stage, registering 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 matches. His underlying numbers are what set him apart from his team mates as the X-factor of Dynamo Kyiv. A SCA of 31 and GCA of 4 may look a bit less given the small sample size but Viktor did show glimpses of his immense talent against quality sides at European Stage and he has already gained a lot of first team experience at first team level, now is the time for him to move forward and maybe make a big jump in his career which can be a career defining moment for him.

Positions: RW

Price: €25-50M 

Tactical fitment: 8/10

Cultural fitment: 6/10

Devil’s DNA priority score: 7/10

Honourable Mentions:
Ismailla Sarr (Watford)
Ralphina (Stade Rennais)
Marcel Sabizter (RB Leipzig)
Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen)
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal) 

(All the data has been taken from FBREF and Statsbomb. The heatmaps are courtesy Wyscout)