EPL

Some people lose patience a little quickly – Klopp backs Sancho to fulfil 'world-class' potential at Man Utd

By Sports Desk October 24, 2021

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists Jadon Sancho can prove himself as a "world-class talent" at Manchester United, despite a slow start to his Old Trafford career.

England international Sancho has been restricted to three Premier League starts since joining United from Borussia Dortmund in an €85million (£73m) deal ahead of this season.

The 21-year-old featured in all but one of the Red Devils' 12 games this term, starting half of those, but is so far without a goal or an assist for his new club.

That is in stark contrast to Sancho's form across his four seasons as part of Dortmund's first team when scoring 50 goals and assisting 57 more across 137 appearances.

Sancho has gone from averaging 2.59 chances per 90 minutes with the German side to 1.91 for United, leading to inevitable suggestions that he may be a flop signing.

But former Dortmund boss head coach Klopp has no doubt the Manchester City academy product will come good if given time to adapt on his return to English football.

"Jadon Sancho is a world-class talent, definitely," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's huge showdown between Liverpool and United.

"He has all the things you need to become really one of the best players in the world in the future, that's how it is. But he's still very young.

"At Dortmund they were full of praise about him and rightly so. I saw a lot of games of him playing outstandingly well.

"Some people lose patience a little bit quickly – and don't forget the options United have in this position."

Sancho will be pushing for a starting spot when United host Liverpool but faces competition from the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

In the Premier League era, only Wayne Rooney (six goals) has scored more times for United against Liverpool than Rashford, who has four goals in eight appearances.

Greenwood has impressed with four goals in eight league games this season, meanwhile, and Klopp was full of praise for the youngster.

"Wow! What a talent he is," the German said. "I think he has maybe pushed Jadon out of position. 

"Mason can play in the centre, but there is no space any more, so maybe they will share. It's a problem that you want to have as a manager, 100 per cent."

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    The Blues agreed to terms for the sale of the club to an ownership group led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss for £4.25billion earlier in May.

    The takeover, which promises investment of £1.75billion into the club, was expected to be completed later this month, but recent reports have suggested Roman Abramovich could scupper the deal by refusing to the sale structure.

    Speaking at a media conference ahead of Chelsea's game with Leicester City, Tuchel simply said he wanted things to happen sooner rather than later.

    "I'm aware [of the reports] but I've no new information," he said. "I've not been informed about the character of the issues that have arrived. So let's wait.

    "I'm still convinced it's in good hands, not my hands. Hopefully, it will go through as quickly as possible."

    Chelsea agonisingly lost the FA Cup final on Saturday to Liverpool in a penalty shoot-out, the second time they have been beaten in such fashion by the Reds having also been denied in the EFL Cup final in February.

    However, Tuchel was keen to dismiss the idea that losing two shoot-outs makes the season a failure for his team, who also fell away in the Premier League title race after a run of games between December and January that saw them win only one of seven outings (D5, L1).

    Chelsea will confirm third place in the league should they beat Leicester at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

    "I refuse to judge the season by two penalty shoot-outs," Tuchel insisted. "If we won both, it would be one of the most successful seasons with four titles [after winning the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup].

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    "We maybe compete against the best teams to play in this league. So from there we go. There is no need to lose sleep and think we should've done this and this.

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  • What Luka can learn from LeBron, Harden and Warriors' other superstar playoff foes What Luka can learn from LeBron, Harden and Warriors' other superstar playoff foes

    Michael Jordan has company at last.

    The Chicago Bulls legend was for a long time the only player to average more than 30 points per game in the NBA playoffs, yet Luka Doncic is now writing his own name into the history books in Dallas.

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    As the tournament heats up, Doncic will need all the assistance he can get – but any Mavericks title run surely depends on their main man being the best player in every series.

    That becomes a little tougher when Dallas are faced next with playoff veterans the Golden State Warriors.

    This is the 10th year of the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors, in which time they have been to five NBA Finals, won three championships and seen off a whole host of superstars.

    There are plenty of examples for Doncic to learn from then as he prepares to take on the greatest team of the past decade.

    LeBron James (33.0 points per game, 7-15 record)

    Ja Morant, who scored 35 points against Golden State in last year's play-in tournament, averaged 38.3 points across three games in the 2022 second round until a knee injury ended his series and, ultimately, the Memphis Grizzlies' season. That is the highest mark posted against the Warriors in the past 10 years, albeit with a limited sample size.

    Among those to play 10 or more games, James (33.0 points per game) leads the way. Equally as impressive, the four-time MVP has the most total playoff points versus the Warriors since 2012 (727) – despite spending the bulk of his career in the Eastern Conference.

    James did score 22 in a Lakers play-in win over the Warriors in 2021, but all of their 22 postseason encounters have come across four Finals series. Unfortunately, while James has excelled, his teams have not fared quite so well.

    Prior to Morant's explosion, James accounted for three of the four highest series averages against the Warriors over this period – 35.8 in 2015, 34.0 in 2018 and 33.6 in 2017 – but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on each occasion. Their one Finals win came in 2016, when James scored 29.7 points per game.

    James had a little more help in 2016 – we'll come on to that – and the Cavaliers' various failures perhaps best illustrate the folly of Doncic attempting to take on a super-team alone.

    The 51 points James scored in Game 1 in 2018 were the most against the Warriors in a single playoff game in the past 10 years, but he was let down by his team-mates – we're looking at you, J.R. Smith – and Cleveland not only lost that series opener but were then swept.

    James Harden (29.8 points per game, 7-16 record)

    Harden's playoff career is best known for his repeated failures to get the better of the Warriors, losing all of his four series against Golden State while on the Houston Rockets, yet only James has scored more points in such matchups since 2012 (685).

    Counted among Harden's 23 postseason games against the Warriors in the past 10 years – only Iman Shumpert (24) has played more – are three 41-plus-point performances. James alone can top that (five games).

    However, Harden has also failed to reach 20 points on five occasions, twice shooting worse than 20 per cent from the field in 2015. Consistency is the key at this time of year, and Harden has not had that.

    The Rockets blew their biggest opportunity to make a first Finals since 1995 in 2018, when they led the Warriors 3-2 in the Conference Finals before Chris Paul went down injured. Houston lost Game 6 and Game 7, collapsing dramatically in the first of the two defeats as Harden did not contribute a single fourth-quarter point.

    Doncic, unsurprisingly, has never shot worse than 20 per cent in the playoffs, while his best shooting performance (63.2 per cent) came in Game 7 against the Suns and his career-high points total came in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers (46).

    Kyrie Irving (27.7 points per game, 5-8 record)

    Given Irving was the Cavaliers' second man behind James, it is difficult to draw a direct comparison with Doncic. But the point guard's performances show the sort of levels Dinwiddie or Jalen Brunson may have to reach to beat the Warriors if they are at the top of their game.

    Irving's 2015 Finals debut ended in Game 1 when he sustained a fractured kneecap, but he returned in 2016 and played a huge role in the Cavaliers' historic win.

    Cleveland were trailing 3-1 heading into Game 5 – a deficit that had never previously been overturned – only for Irving and James each to score 41 points, becoming the first team-mates to both top 40 in a Finals game. Irving shot 70.8 per cent from the field.

    As the Cavaliers recovered to win 4-3, with Irving shooting a decisive three late in Game 7, his usage rate was a lofty 30.7 per cent for the series, taking responsibility off James' shoulders. Brunson is the Mavericks' second man, although his usage rate of 29.7 per cent was boosted a little by playing three games without the ball-dominant Doncic.

    Damian Lillard (27.6 points per game, 1-12 record)

    If nothing else, Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers provide an example of how not to play the Warriors. Only former Blazers team-mate Rodney Hood (0-12) has a worse record in playoff games against Golden State in the past 10 years.

    A 43.7 per cent career shooter, Lillard has averaged 38.7 per cent from the field against the Warriors in the postseason. Sure, he has scored 27.6 points, but it has taken him 22.1 field goal attempts per game.

    When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are on the other side of the floor, you cannot afford to be so inefficient. Lillard's sole victory in 2016 came courtesy of his one 40-point performance – while Curry was out injured.

    Only Allen Iverson (26.5) and Jordan (25.1) have attempted more field goals per playoff game than Doncic (24.3), so there is definitely scope for the Warriors to profit if he cools off – not that there has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that is likely.

    Kawhi Leonard (21.9 points per game, 8-5 record)

    The man who has occupied Doncic's playoff nightmares in the previous two seasons surely provides the blueprint for how to enjoy postseason success against the Warriors.

    Leonard has played on two of the four teams to eliminate Golden State from the playoffs in the past 10 years; he has not lost a series to the Warriors – missing the entirety of their 4-1 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in 2018 – and boasts the best winning percentage of any player to face Steve Kerr's winning machine on more than 10 occasions over this period.

    The 2019 Finals showed the sort of standard that has been required to get the better of the Warriors in the past decade, with Leonard dominant as the outstanding player on the Toronto Raptors. He led the Raptors in points (171), rebounds (59) and steals (12) versus the Warriors, ranking second in assists (25) and blocks (seven).

    Doncic made strides on defense over the course of the Suns series, but whether he is capable of such an all-round display is very much up for debate.

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