It would be harsh to say that Leroy Sane has had a bad season so far. He hasn’t. In general, it’s been quite a satisfactory one for the winger.
But when Bayern Munich agreed a deal with Manchester City worth a potential €60m in search of Arjen Robben’s successor, they didn’t have satisfactory in mind.
It initially looked as though they’d found the right man. In 2017/18, the Germany international bagged ten goals and 15 assists in the Premier League for City, and in the following season he managed another ten strikes with a further 11 assists. Despite his 2019/20 campaign being written off with a torn ACL, Bayern looked to have struck up a good deal in the summer of 2020.
Sane’s debut didn’t do anything to ease the pressure. A goal and two assists saw him light up the Bundesliga in an 8-0 trouncing of Schalke on matchday one. But in his 20 subsequent league appearances for Bayern, the winger has chipped in with just three goals and five assists.
Not disastrous, but not good enough. By comparison, his opposite number Kingsley Coman has 12 goal contributions in 18 Bundesliga appearances.
It’s not just the major stats that have been underwhelming, though. For the majority of the season, his performances have been subpar. Up to this point, no Bayern player has given the ball away more than his 4.1 times per 90 minutes, and he ranks third worst at the club for percentage of dribbles completed, with 55% of those he attempts actually coming off.
When he eventually does find himself in front of goal, he doesn’t fare much better. Of the 52 shots he’s attempted in all competitions this campaign, eight have resulted in goals, while only 36.5% are on target. To compare, Coman’s tally is at six from 46 shots, but 41.3% of his efforts test the keeper.
However, it seems as though the German is now past the mostly drab, lifeless and unproductive performances. In his last four, Sane has three goal contributions (one goal and two assists). But, more impressively, he has been involved in 22 shot creating actions and seven goal creating actions in those four games, showing the influence he is capable of having.
The former City man has visibly had a more confident and threatening attitude about him in recent weeks, seemingly much more clinical and precise with the ball at his feet – whether he’s driving at his opposition, unleashing an effort on goal or, more likely, pulling the ball back for Robert Lewandowski.
Sane starred for the Bavarians in their Champions League round of 16 first leg victory over Lazio. He was on the scoresheet for the third goal in a 4-1 win, while also spearheading a ruthless counter attack before forcing an own goal for the fourth with a brilliant cross.
Most recently, the winger was once again a standout in his side’s 5-1 trouncing of FC Koln in the Bundesliga. Sane managed more progressive carries of the ball (five) than any other forward, more shot creating actions (five) than any other player, and only Leon Goretzka – who bagged a hat-trick of assists – claimed more goal creating actions.
Replacing Robben at Bayern won’t be easy. In fact, it’s probably impossible. The Dutchman racked up 144 goals and 101 assists in 309 matches for the Bavarians, so inheriting his shirt number carries with it a lot of weight and expectation.
But in recent weeks, Bayern’s new number ten has demonstrated his quality and potential. The winger visibly has the capabilities to move forward and become an influential member of the Bayern team. At 25 years of age, he has the time to establish himself as a major part of the club.
While no one may ever be the same number ten Robben was for Bayern, Sane has shown glimpses of turning a banal season into an excellent one.