In the career of a professional footballer, there are many periods during which not everything goes according to plan, and Borussia Dortmund's England international Jadon Sancho is not immune to the thing they call form.
You no longer get the breaks, the ball bounces awkwardly, your shot hits the post, is scrambled off the line or goes agonisingly across the face of goal, begging for a touch which, when things are going well, teammates are lining up to provide.
Sancho stormed onto the scene for Dortmund in a breakout 2018/19 season, providing a league-high 17 assists and scoring 12. His involvement in more goals than anybody who does not have the name Robert Lewandowski on his birth certificate came off the back of his promising first steps in the Bundesliga following a move from Manchester City, when he made 12 league appearances in an injury-hit first year in Germany.
Watch: All of Sancho’s assists in 2019/20 so far
While he featured in all of Dortmund's 34 Bundesliga fixtures last season, sustaining a similar level for much of the campaign and earning his first caps for England, it was inevitable that a blip would arrive. There was no indication it was coming when he almost single-handedly dribbled Dortmund to Supercup success over Bayern Munich in August, and started the season with three goals and five assists in his first five league outings.
Having established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet for club and country, Sancho's season was on course to eclipse the last one up until he was disciplined for returning late from international duty, and dropped for Dortmund's 1-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach in October.
"Jadon's a great kid, but he's still very young," said Dortmund's director of football Michael Zorc of his club's decision. "He's grown up very fast. He perhaps sometimes tests the boundaries. The decision was not easy, but there was no other choice. We have a responsibility to ensure the health of the squad."
In reminding Sancho of those boundaries, Dortmund probably did the nascent star a favour. After a few weeks trying to regain his feet after being brought crashing back down to earth, and subbed in the Klassiker defeat to Bayern, Sancho has rolled up his sleeves and is now back to producing the goods that could indeed see him better his statistics from last season.
Unsurprisingly, Sancho's return to form – with four goals and two assists in his three most recent Bundesliga outings – has coincided with a much-needed revival for the Westphalians, who are back up to third off the back of their Sancho-inspired 5-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf, five points behind the league leaders Gladbach and, pertinently, two ahead of Bayern.
Sancho's third brace of his Bundesliga career extended his purple patch to four straight games in which he has found the back of the net – a new personal best. "We've been training really hard and today we showed it," Sancho humbly told bundesliga.com. "We've just got to carry on this form and give the fans what they want to see."
What the Signal Iduna Park faithful like more than anything is the sight of Sancho bursting down the wing, dribbling past defenders and supplying deadly balls into the danger area. The youngest player to reach 11 Bundesliga goals is reaching top speed once again, and that can only mean bad news for opposition defenders.
The 19-year-old has a spring in his step, covering more ground (7.32 miles) than any other Dortmund player against Fortuna on Matchday 14 and making more sprints (40) and intensive runs (95) than anybody else on the Signal Iduna Park pitch.
And what of his performance against Slavia Prague in the UEFA Champions League? The 11-time international provided the opening goal and an assist for Julian Brandt as BVB got the victory they needed to reach the competition's knockout stage for the sixth time in eight years.
Those are all indications of a man in form, and Dortmund will be delighted to have Sancho on such a streak once again. All the signs point towards the Englishman's recent dip being a mere blip in a career which has pursued a near vertical trajectory.