Ryan Sessegnon – Scout Report
With the ever-reliable Nacho Monreal now past his 30th birthday and summer free agent signing Sead Kolasinac enduring a quiet second half to the season, Arsenal are rumoured to be in the market for a new left sider. The Gunners are said to be one of many top Premier League teams monitoring young Ryan Sessegnon, and with the club’s track record of developing young talent, could he soon be lured across London to The Emirates Stadium? A raw talent and a lad with a big future ahead, Sessegnon is the closest thing Arsenal would have had to Ashley Cole since allowing him to leave back in 2006. Although Sessegnon is clearly more capable of going forward than Cole ever was, Arsenal have never really replaced his combination of defensive speed, grit and winning mentality.
Who is Ryan Sessegnon?
In Roehampton, Southwest London, on the 18th of May 2000, twins Ryan and Stephen Sessegnon were born into the world. Joining Fulham’s youth academy aged nine, both boys developed playing alongside each other through every age group until Ryan made his senior professional debut on August 9th 2016, aged just 16 years and 81 days. Ryan has since gone on to shine and break several records in his short yet illustrious career including; becoming the first player born in this millennium to score in any of England’s professional football leagues, as well as being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award earlier this month. The key for Ryan is that he is the first nominee of this prestigious award that plays outside of the Premier League – no mean feat for a certain future star. Although Leroy Sane eventually won the PFA Young Player award, Sessegnon has still brought home a number of Football League awards for his outstanding season.
Already, we have seen adaptability, durability and flexibility from young Ryan Sessegnon across his 60+ first team appearances for Fulham. Having just broken into Aidy Boothroyd’s England U21 side, he is a stylish left-footer most comfortable on the left-side, hugging the touchline. Able to play both left wing and left back he has scored 21 goals so far this season, showing he clearly has an eye for forward productivity. Lightning quick, he is a decent dribbler capable of a step-over or two, and relies on his pace to make things happen. Surprisingly, based on his impressive attacking exploits, Sessegnon is most effective at left back as he is a strong tackler who can use that lightning pace for timely recovery challenges. Recently sweeping personal accolade after personal accolade, Sessegnon has drawn a very large following even prior to this impressive season; with some really big fish said to be interested.
The archetypal Arsenal left back of years gone by, Ryan Sessegnon is built much like Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy; lightning pace with high intensity. Extremely effective going forward and backward, Sessegnon can beat a fullback just as well as he can match any winger step for step. Although his impressive stats this season have come in the second tier of elite football it is clear that even at such a raw age, he could so easily make the jump to the Premier League. FIFA 18 gave Sessegnon an acceleration of 82 and a sprint speed of 86 as standard – stats very much beyond a kid in only his first full professional season. The Premier League now requires athletic full backs, capable of being attacking outlets, sometimes more so than the wingers themselves, with them cutting-in creating space. Sessegnon fits the bill 100%. Top level full backs are often converted wingers (Valencia and Young to name a few), Sessegnon is equally capable playing as either; flexibility that will suit him well going forward.
Although his long term, top level future may lie as a full back, Ryan Sessegnon has showed an unprecedented skill in goal scoring. His finishing is up there with the best in the division, if not the Premier League. Much like most left-footers, Sessegnon is very left footed and uses this well in a multitude of different finishes; lace and pace, instep and curve, and side-foot slot – he has showed it all. Although finishing prowess is not vital for a full back, it highlights his incredible versatility and only adds to his value. This season, all Ryan’s goals have come in the league, and from 44 appearances he amassed 15 goals from 1.3 average shots per game. Bearing in mind some of these games have been played at left back, a better than 1 goal in every 3 games is outstanding. Some strikers, at any level, would be happy with that – let alone a young Championship full back, craving the next big step.
One other strength of note is Ryan’s defensive play. He is renowned for not diving into tackles and it good at timing if and when to make a move. His concentration levels are extremely good, and much like his other strengths, will only improve the more he plays, and the higher levels he plays at. In the Championship this season, Sessegnon has attempted an average of 2.4 tackles a game and of these, he wins an average of 1.5. Again, stats an accomplished international centre back would be happy with.
Ryan’s build is yet to fully develop and as such strength is the first weakness of note. He is athletic but slender, and although both aid his speed and acceleration strengths, once he joins the Premier League, he could be exposed to somewhat much stronger players. Wide players in the mould of Valencia, Welbeck and Sane – powerful and quick men with big frames who may pose Ryan some serious threats. Even the likes of Hazard and David Silva, both strong on the ball with low centers of gravity could prove tough to knock off the ball. However, as he matures and (if/when) he joins a Premier League big boy (hopefully the Gunners), he will have access to better coaches and better training regimes. Added to his natural physique growth and maturity, I don’t foresee a lack of strength being an issue for too long.
As a wide player, attacking or defensive, Sessegnon gets the opportunity to cross the ball a lot. As much as this is an issue for a lot of full backs, even in the Premier League, his consistency of good delivery from crosses is not that great. You can count on one finger the amount of Premier League full backs who are actually renowned for a good crossing delivery (Trippier, Young, Alonso) – there aren’t many who are top class crossers. Even some of those that are, are failed or converted wingers so in Sessegnon’s defense, he isn’t alone in this category by any means.
As much as versatility is a positive and a good asset to possess, Sessegnon’s versatility could play against him if things do not go his way. Gareth Bale is a great example of an emerging versatile youngster who then went onto carve his own path as a world class player in one position but for every Bale there is an Armand Traore, a Fran Merida or a Luke Freeman – all versatile players of varying positions that ultimately never broke into Arsenal’s team in any one position, of any noteworthy level. The hope is that a big move for Sessegnon would end the debate and set his position from the outset, enabling him to hone his skillset and develop into the world class player he certainly can become.
How Would Sessegnon Fit in At Arsenal?
In every Arsenal formation that utilises a back four, Sessegnon would be best placed at left full back. Depending on the opposition and the full back behind him, he could also be deployed on the left side whether that be a left winger or as an orthodox left midfielder. He is ideally suited to a ball playing back four and would be at home playing alongside ball players like Koscielny and Chambers.
In every variation of the back three with two defensive wide men, Ryan Sessegnon would fit in extremely well as the left sided option. Perhaps best for him, wing back comprises of all his strengths; defensive responsibility and the need to tackle and track back, as well as the duty to get forward and supply an attacking threat.
Overall, Ryan Sessegnon would be a fantastic addition to the Arsenal squad. His versatility would serve him well as the new manager would be able to ween him in through a variety of positions. However, this would not be great for his development in particular as he has shown that even at such a young age, he is more than capable and extremely ready to play ninety minutes every week. Would he get this at Arsenal right away? In short, no. Although, recent media outlets have speculated that if Arsenal are to buy young Sessegnon this summer, an immediate loan deal back to Fulham could be a big possibility. If Fulham get promoted to the Premier League, this could become even more likely. What is clear right now though is that Sessegnon is ready for the big time, and would need to play week in week out to truly develop. He has the potential to be the best English full back in well over a decade and should he go the way of Ashley Cole then we’re onto something big. But, should he go the way of Luke Shaw, developing slowly in an injury-hit, stagnated career then England will need to wait for its next left full back saviour.
Arsenal however, should be fishing, and fishing now. In keeping Sessegnon’s best interests at heart, the Gunners should be packaging a deal that includes his immediate return back to Craven Cottage; he is at home there and without doubt delivered there. Nacho Monreal will not go on forever, and excluding Sead Kolasinac, Arsenal only have last summer’s non-league acquisition Cohen Bramall (on loan at Birmingham) in their ranks. Sessegnon would walk in ahead of Bramall at present, and in my opinion, would start ahead of Kolasinac also.
Cost is a stumbling block in any transfer though, as is the scheduling of any payments. Only hypothetical (currently) of course but this is due to Fulham’s progress in their push for promotion; should they go up they will either want to keep Sessegnon to play and build around, or will cash in early and use the huge funds received to assemble a squad capable of Premier League survival. Ifs, buts and maybes yes, but what does remain is the undoubted talent this young lad possesses and this should not go under the radar. His raw pace, smart left-footed technique, versatility and desire hold him in good stead for a big future – whether that’s at Arsenal or not is up to Mislintat, Sanllehi and co. Make it happen, chaps!