Stats analyst Adam Darowski takes a look at Jadon Sancho’s numbers beyond his goals and assists to reveal how much of an asset the young Englishman is for Borussia Dortmund.
Last week, I wrote about the many new stats that came to FBref, including total yardage (for passing and carrying the ball) as well as progressive distance made toward the goal for both. I love these stats, but they require some context.
Jadon Sancho is an elite dribbler, so it makes sense that he ranks fifth in the Bundesliga in progressive carry yardage. But his progressive passing yardage ranks just 116th in the league. Is that bad? Is it actually good if you look at similar players?
For example, Borussia Dortmund’s progressive pass yard leader is Mats Hummels. The Bundesliga’s leader is Union Berlin goalkeeper Rafał Gikiewicz. It makes sense that the players with a ton of the pitch ahead of them are leaders in progressive yardage. I conducted a little exercise to see how Sancho compared with players who also played further up the pitch.
Step 1: Identify his peers
Who should I compare Sancho to? Do I just take other wingers? Should I include forwards? Should I do this more programmatically? I decided to look at FBref’s new “Touches” addition because they are broken down by five areas of the pitch: defensive penalty area, defensive third, middle third, attacking third, and attacking penalty area. I assigned each of these areas a rating of 1–5 and calculated roughly how high up the pitch a player usually makes his touches.
Sancho’s rating was 3.53, which feels right (since he’s an attacker but not a striker). For some context, Robert Lewandowski leads all everyday players with 3.83. Timo Werner is behind him at 3.77. The highest goalkeeper is Manuel Neuer at 1.59 while the lowest outfield player is Augsburg’s Jeffrey Gouweleeuw (2.19).
With Sancho at 3.53, I expanded our search to include all players above 3.40. This totaled 108 players, but only 31 played half their team’s minutes (these players will be include in rate-based rankings).
Step 2: Identify Sancho’s awesomeness
In our group of attackers, here are Sancho’s rankings:
- 1st in touches: 1,525 vs. Thomas Müller 1,183
- 1st in touches per 90: 75.9 vs Müller 68.4
- 1st in completed passes: 1,049 vs. Müller 732
- 1st in completed passes per 90: 52.2 vs. Philippe Coutinho 45.3
- 1st in pass completion rate: 83.1% vs. Marco Reus 82.8%
- 1st in total pass distance: 15,568 yards vs Müller 12,913
- 1st in progressive pass distance: 4,005 yards vs Coutinho 3,539
- 12th in progressive pass distance per completed pass: 3.8 yards, Christopher Nkunku ranks first with 6.2
- 2nd in progressive pass distance per 90: 199.3 yards, Coutinho ranks first with 229.8 (Josip Brekalo barely misses the minute minimum but has 203.3)
- 1st in carries: 1,264 vs. Serge Gnabry 928
- 1st in carries per 90: 62.9 vs Coutinho 54.7
- 1st in total carry distance: 7,999 yards vs. Gnabry 6,175
- 1st in progressive carry distance: 4,711 yards vs. Karim Bellarabi 3,690
- 12th in progressive carry distance per carry: 3.7 yards, Bellarabi ranks first at 5.4
- 3rd in progressive carry distance per 90: 234.4 yards, Bellarabi ranks first at 269.3 while Moussa Diaby is second at 239.0
- 1st in total distance (pass and carry): 23,567 yards vs. Gnabry 17,337
- 1st in total distance (pass and carry) per 90: 1,172.5 yards vs Coutinho 1,124.6
- 1st in total progressive distance (pass and carry): 8,716 yards vs Coutinho 6,233
- 2nd in total progressive distance (pass and carry) per 90: 433.6 yards, Bellarabi ranks first at 445.6
I think this pretty well illustrates Sancho’s dominance over other Bundesliga players who wreak their havoc in a similar area of the pitch.
With Sancho at 3.53, how far back do you have to go to find players ahead of him in some of these key categories?
- For total touches and completed passes, you have to go back to Achraf Hakimi (2,070 touches and 1,487 completed passes with a pitch position of 3.18).
- For touches and competed passes per 90 minutes, it’s Julian Brandt (79.3 touches and 55.9 completed passes per 90 at a pitch position of 3.25).
- Pass completion is Kai Havertz (86.4% positioned at 3.37).
- Total pass distance is Marcel Sabitzer with 16,195 yards (at 3.28).
- Progressive pass distance belongs to Filip Kostić with 5,354 yards (positioned at 3.36).
- Carries and carries per 90 minutes are also Hakimi (1,540 carries and 67.8 per 90).
- Total and progressive carry distance is once again Kostić at 8,304 yards total and 5,404 toward the goal.
- Total distance (of both passes and carries) is Hakimi with 31,044 yards.
- Total progressive is Filip Kostić and his 10,758 yards.
While many of these players fit an attacking profile, they each have a lot more space in front of them to accumulate those progressive yards. What Sancho’s doing so high up the pitch is remarkable.