In Focus: How Malen can step into Sancho's boots at BVB
Jadon Sancho’s summer switch to Manchester United always felt inevitable — but who Borussia Dortmund would replace him with was far less clear.
After being linked with a host of players throughout the transfer window, BVB eventually pipped Liverpool to the signing of Dutch starlet Donyell Malen in a £26million deal.
The former Arsenal youth player is one of the hottest prospects in European football.
Ahead of Dortmund's DFL Supercup clash against Bayern Munich tonight, we examine how he will fit in at the Westfalenstadion.
Big shoes to fill
England international Sancho was a force of nature for Die Borussen.
During his three seasons as a starter in Germany, the 21-year-old scored 37 Bundesliga goals and chipped in with 47 assists.
He played across the front line, operating on the left as often as he did the right.
The one-time Manchester City youngster would regularly go from creator to goalscorer in the same match, consistently putting in the kind of all-round performances that ultimately earned him a move back to the Premier League.
That sort of flexibility and fluidity is one of the key parts to his game — but replacing his actual output will have been at the very top of Dortmund’s list of priorities.
Dutch sensation Malen came through the ranks at Ajax before joining Arsenal in 2015.
The 22-year-old turned out for the youth team and was included in the first-team squad for a pre-season tour before returning to Holland in 2017 to join PSV Eindhoven in the quest for regular game time.
Malen spent the majority of his first season back in his homeland operating as winger with the reserve team but made enough of an impression to break into the senior side ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
The explosive forward went on to make 31 Eredivisie appearances, scoring 10 goals in the process, before a positional change saw his game go up a level.
Deployed as a centre forward, Malen struck 11 times in 14 appearances, only for injury to bring his 2019-20 season to a premature end.
The versatile frontman picked up exactly where he left off, registering 19 strikes in 32 Eredivisie outings last term, as well as scoring seven times in 10 European games.
Frank de Boer was impressed enough to name him in the Netherlands’ Euro 2020 squad, which has only added to his burgeoning reputation.
Malen is joining a Borussia Dortmund side in transition.
Rose joined from Borussia Monchengladbach this summer and, unlike many coaches, he is married to a philosophy and not a system.
We may only be in the early stages of his BVB managerial career but the German tactician has already used a number of different formations.
He used a diamond in a recent cup game and switched to 4-2-3-1 in the 5-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt as Die Borussen kicked off the new Bundesliga campaign in emphatic fashion.
How Malen fits in at BVB
If the 13-cap international is going to fit in at Dortmund, he is going to have to be flexible in order to meet the demands of Rose.
It is clear the BVB boss has a specific role in mind for Malen.
Speaking before the deal was announced, Rose detailed exactly what he wants from Sancho’s replacement.
He said: "If you lose a player like Jadon, then you have to look for a winger with pace who can take players on one-on-one. That’s certainly a position where we are still looking to do something."
What Malen can do for BVB
Malen has played in a two-man attack for club and country, where he has been both the main attraction and the supporting act.
In truth, he will also be asked to fulfil both roles in Germany.
Erling Haaland is the star of the show for Rose’s side and he has started the season in fine form, netting five times and assisting three in two outings.
Simply put, the BVB No21 will have to be whatever Rose needs him to be.
It will depend on the scenario but at times he will need to be a flying winger, attacking the full-backs and creating space.
And on occasion, he will be Haaland’s strike partner and will switch between playing on the shoulder of the last man and dropping deep to link play.
Malen will not be a like-for-like Sancho replacement but he could still be an upgrade for Borussia Dortmund.