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Liverpool’s defensive issues this season are well-documented. The Reds’ poor defensive record was one of the main reasons for the demise of their Premier League title challenge. So, it is not surprising that Jurgen Klopp is targeting several new defensive signings ahead of the next season.
One such defender who has been linked heavily (Liverpool Echo) with a £10million move to Anfield is Fulham’s 17-year old wonder kid Ryan Sessegnon. The teenage left-back has been a huge hit in his breakthrough season with the Cottagers and has had an excellent campaign in the EFL Championship.
Sessegnon played an important role in Fulham’s playoff spot finish, contributing with 7 goals and 4 assists across all competitions. But, with the London club losing to Reading in their Championship playoffs, another season in the second-tier beckons for Fulham, which has spurred Liverpool into action as they believe the promise of Premier League football may tempt the 17-year old into a move.
As the speculations continue to mount, let’s take a look at Sessegnon – his roots, his talents and his much-speculated-about future.
Born in Roehampton, London, on 18 May 2000, Sessegnon joined the Fulham academy at the age of 9 along with his twin brother Steven. Having impressed consistently with his performances year after year, he broke into the Fulham U-18 team in 2015 as a 15-year old and became a regular fixture in Steve Wigley’s side.
Fulham’s academy is one of the most renowned in England with some very good players at every age group. So, establishing himself as a regular in the U-18s at the age of 15 speaks volumes about Sessegnon’s abilities.
His performances for the junior team caught the eye of Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who called him up to the senior side for the pre-season ahead of the 2016-17 season, where he made a mark with a goal in a 3-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion. Having impressed the boss, he soon made his first team debut in a 3-2 win against Leyton Orient in the EFL Cup, before making his EFL Championship bow in a 1-1 draw against Leeds United.
Sessegnon scored his first goal for the club on August 20, 2016 in a 2-2 draw against Cardiff City, becoming the first player born in 2000’s to score in the Championship. As the season progressed, he grew from strength to strength and has made the left-back position his own. Sessegnon, till date, has 30 appearances for Fulham with 7 goals and 4 assists in return.
Sessegnon has represented the England National Team at the U-16 levels and was part of the England U-17 team for the U17s European Championships last year which the Three Lions exited at the quarter-finals stage. In October last year, he made his debut for the England U19s and has made 7 appearances so far, scoring a goal.
A modern day aggressive full-back in all aspects, Sessegnon is someone who loves to bomb forward down the left side from his position at each opportunity provided. The youngster can also play higher up the pitch as well.
His pace on and off the ball is something that helps him run up and down the flank all day long, allowing him to support his teammates in the attack, while also aiding him to cover the ground quickly while defending. The left-back, who turned 17 not so long ago, has shown great confidence in getting past his opponents, with the help of the speed that he possesses which makes him a huge threat while going forward.
Sessegnon attempted 44 take-ons in the Championship this season and tasted success on 19 occasions – a good return considering his age and experience at this level. His ability to play in his teammates behind the opposition defence is something that has caught the eye of many.
While his attacking intent is the biggest feature of his game, Sessegnon is no slouch defensively and has shown excellent work-rate in performing his primary duties of that of a defender. A strong tackler, the 17-year old has had a 55% success-rate in his 49 tackle attempts this season – not bad numbers at all, considering his age. Neat and tidy in possession, he can pick out a pass with fair accuracy as well.
However, the biggest flaw in his game at the time is his inability to deliver accurate crosses into the box. For any full-back, the ability to pick out teammates in the box with aerial balls is a must-have skill. But Sessegnon hasn’t been the most accurate crosser of the ball in his debut campaign. His physical frame is another thing that has been exploited by the robust Championship football. But at the age of 17, these things are acceptable as the player is still growing both physically and technically. The signs, though, are of a future star in the making for England.
Manager Slavisa Jokanovic rates the player very highly and has high hopes for him. He was quoted as saying by The Standard:
“He is only 16 and a few months. We feel he has a very happy bright future in front of him. Always when I give him a chance he performs enough to prove me right.
“If you are ready to play football, it is not important how old you are. Leeds was the first time he played in the Championship and he did a very good job.”
With Liverpool’s interest getting stronger, Sessegnon will have a decision to make, as he has turned 17 and will soon be signing a professional contract. While a jump to the top division may appeal, a lack of game time with the senior team may force him to think twice before considering any such move. Sessegnon has the abilities and the talent to shine on the stages of the Premier League. But he might be better served by putting off the big move for another year and gain some more valuable experience before entering the big leagues.