Ryan Sessegnon: Who is the young Fulham starlet and why are comparisons with Gareth Bale warranted?

Ryan Sessegnon: Who is the young Fulham starlet and why are comparisons with Gareth Bale warranted?

All fans love seeing a young player make their professional debut. Excitement, thrill and anticipation of seeing a potential new star. Also a sign the academy is producing the next generation.

We have seen plenty of famous professional debuts from young players of recent: Macheda & Rashford are two prime examples of dreams literally being made on the pitch. These two both scored and won their sides important games. Both these two were barely out of school before doing this.

We have seen players score in the premier league before they have even sat their GCSE’s – James Vaughan the man on that occasion. Most youngsters go into obscurity after their debut for a few years and are seen later or not seen again in some cases. Not many force their way into the first team regularly after their debut, especially defenders. There is one man in West London who is bucking all trends about breakthrough stars that we know.

That man is Ryan Sessegnon.

The wing-back is one of English football's brightest prospects

The wing-back is one of English football’s brightest prospects

This young man is Fulham’s buccaneering full back, who doesn’t turn 17 until May. A young man who has made 14 appearances in the rough and ready Championship. A young man who doesn’t look and play like he is 16 years old, first year of college/sixth form to put that into perspective. let’s get down to business, let’s analyse this young man and see what he is all about.

So what do we like about him…well there is a lot.

Because he is a defender, let’s start there. Ryan is very tenacious in the tackle, winning 75% of the tackles he attempts, highest for any defender at Fulham this season, whilst also giving away the fewest fouls per game of anyone playing 10+ games this season (0.3).

He has a good defensive understanding for someone so young, he is as happy to tuck in as a centre half as he is to engage the football. Having watched the young man vs Hull in the FA Cup recently, he played against a very experienced player in Lazar Markovic.

He dealt with him perfectly, used his athleticism to keep up with him, and tremendous recovery runs when he had just been putting a ball in at the byline. What he did well is that he didn’t give him space, so important when playing against good players, much like Ashley Cole used to. Of all the times I’ve seen him, he doesn’t dive in, another fanciful trait to have. He is also more than happy to go toe to toe on a physical sense, commendable for his age.

With defensive ability boxed off, let’s look at his attacking ability.

Like many modern full backs, his attacking ability is as strong if not stronger than his defensive ability. He always wants to attack and drive at teams, using his good body positions and first touch to open play up and set him on a stride, much like Gareth Bale. He has quick feet when attacking and forces defenders back when he is on a dribble.

When attacking he doesn’t come inside, he stretches the play which allows more space for Fulham’s Tom Cairney to create goalscoring opportunities. He is an adept finisher, as evidence in the FA Cup tie Vs Hull, which a classy finish at the end of a great team move. He is a confident dribbler, with the 6th most dribbles per game for Fulham (0.9) this season.

From the above, he seems like the real deal & I am confident he will be. Like all young pro’s he has things to work on. Like 99% of full backs, he doesn’t like it when the winger comes inside, although this is a game wide issue. Azpilicueta is the only player who did, but that was because he was coming onto his stronger side (playing at LB as an RB). He has to learn to pass the man over immediately or track him inside – a difficult decision to make & one I have seen him hesitate when thinking of.

Read more: Big scores in youth football: What they mean and what do you get out of them?

The modern game at the highest level allows no time for hesitation, you will get punished. From an attacking viewpoint, he tends to dribble with his head down a little bit, he doesn’t utilise the one two enough – when he has it has been impressive. Moving off the ball is quicker and harder to stop than moving with it, an idea I’m sure he understands and hope he will use a lot more in future. Finally, he needs to work on that end product and getting the ball in the box more often. He averages 0.4 crosses a game, whereas Fulham’s other left back Scott Malone averages 1 every game.

Defends like Ashley Cole & attacks like Gareth Bale, high praise indeed. So far this kid has deserved it. He does have a long way to go before being truly in the bracket of either of these players. For me, I see him as a winger in future and not a LB, possibly a LB if playing for a top team. I would say he is like Gareth Bale before he started to play centrally. I am unsure that Ryan has the game intelligence like Bale to play infield (Although none of us have been able to base any evidence on this).

The rate that he is going, he will be commanding huge fees like Gareth very soon!

About Lee Clark

Growing up into a football orientated family, it was inevitable that Lee would become engrossed in the 'beautiful game'.Having represented Middlesex U16's, U18's,hovered around pro clubs growing up & followed Arsenal from day one, Lee understands football and all of its aspects. Since studying psychology at university, Lee has been analysing performances of teams and individuals with an eye on the 'psychological' aspect of these teams and players.

One comment

  1. Have you done your research? When has he ever played centre half? I quote ….. “he is as happy to tuck in as a centre half as he is to engage the football.”

    Generic journalism….

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