MATT BARLOW: Sessegnon is finally living up to his billing as English football’s ‘next big thing’

by: fifa2022newsnet


Three weeks before Ryan Sessegnon sparkled in Tottenham’s stylish start to the new campaign he was in Seoul and explaining why he was sure this season would be different.

Sessegnon told how he had built strength into his body during the summer, especially around his hamstrings in a determined effort to end the muscular injuries that have frustrated his progress at Spurs.

He knew Antonio Conte had signed Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan with a view to installing him at left wing-back.

Ryan Sessegnon scored Tottenham’s first against Southampton after thriving at wing-back



Lloris 6; Romero 6.5, Dier 7.5, Davies 7 (Lenglet 86min); Royal 7 (Doherty 87), Hojbjerg 6.5, Bentancur 7 (Bissouma 86), Sessegnon 8 (Perisic 66, 6); Kulusevski 7.5 (Moura 86), Kane 6, Son 6. Scorers: Sessegnon 21, Dier 31, Salisu 61 (og), Kulusevski 63. Booked: Sessegnon, Bentancur, Bissouma. Manager: Antonio Conte 7.

Southampton (3-5-2)

 Bazunu 5.5; Valery 6 (Stephens 46, 6), Bednarek 6, Salisu 5; Walker-Peters 6 (Redmond 90) Ward-Prowse 6.5, Lavia 6.5, Romeu 6 (Diallo 75, 5), Djenepo 6 (Perraud 72, 5); Aribo 6, A Armstrong 5 (S Armstrong 46, 5). Scorer: Ward-Prowse 12. Booked: None. Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl 5.5. 

Referee: Andre Marriner 6.5. Attendance: 61,732.

This meant fierce competition because Conte trusts experience, but Sessegnon vowed to learn from the 33-year-old Croatia international, promising to tap into his vast knowledge for support and advice.

On Saturday, he proved he was serious about what he said in South Korea, and the early signs in his relationship with Perisic are encouraging.

‘He’s a great player who has won a lot of titles,’ said Sessegnon, after heading in Tottenham’s first goal of the season in the 4-1 win over Southampton.

‘He’s also a great person who helped me a lot already. Even the goal, he told me to get in at the back post and score. Before the warm-up, he came to me and said Kyle Walker-Peters is quite small so if the ball goes into the back post make sure you are there to head it. I took in on board.’

Beyond the goal, which hauled Spurs level, he caused many problems for Saints by raiding into the space behind Walker-Peters.

When Perisic came on to replace him in the 66th minute, the home crowd rose as one to applaud him from the pitch.

It really did feel like a fresh start for Sessegnon, three years after his £15million transfer from Fulham, where he scored 15 goals operating as a wing-back or wide attacker in their promotion campaign of 2017-18.

His pace and eye for goal won him the Championship’s Player of the Year award and he became the first player from the second tier nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, won by Leroy Sane. He was a star of England’s Under 21 team and prominent in those popular online lists of football’s hottest talents and ‘next big things’.

The long-anticipated switch to Spurs came in 2019, as the club tipped from five years of stability under Mauricio Pochettino into a turbulent whirl.

It was bad timing, and Sessegnon disappeared out on loan to Hoffenheim in Germany as Jose Mourinho spent £28m on Sergio Reguilon, now cast aside by Conte.

Boss Antonio Conte opted for the English left-back over new summer signing Ivan Perisic

Boss Antonio Conte opted for the English left-back over new summer signing Ivan Perisic 

It was not until the second half of last season that he enjoyed another run in the team, but that did not stop Conte making Perisic a priority signing.

More than three years after his move, the 22-year-old still has more appearances and goals in the Premier League for Fulham than for Tottenham.

‘Since I signed it’s the first time I’ve actually had a proper pre-season under my belt with no problems,’ said Sessegnon.

‘So that probably made a difference for me today, and I just want to continue. Every game you have to treat it like it’s your last, and that’s what I’m trying to do.’ The wing-backs are vital to Conte’s system. They have to eat up the miles raiding up and down the flanks, and are as influential in attack as they are important in defence.

Wing-backs have been a fundamental part of Conte's system at Spurs, Chelsea and Inter Milan

Wing-backs have been a fundamental part of Conte’s system at Spurs, Chelsea and Inter Milan

The Italian had moulded Victor Moses into the role at Chelsea. He did the same for Antonio Candreva and Perisic at Inter. He develops effective wing-backs if they are prepared to listen, learn and yield to his barrage of instruction.

England manager Gareth Southgate could be tempted to call up Sessegnon at left-back

England manager Gareth Southgate could be tempted to call up Sessegnon at left-back

Emerson Royal is improving on the right, developing an understanding with Dejan Kulusevski. 

On the left, Sessegnon has the intelligence to realise he is in good hands without getting ahead of himself.

During that conversation in Seoul, where Tottenham spent a week training and playing two friendlies, he was asked about using the World Cup as motivation. 

Eric Dier, also among the Spurs scorers on Saturday, has made no secret of his desire to impress England boss Gareth Southgate at the start of this season.

Sessegnon, uncapped at senior level, said he had not thought about it but Southgate, playing the same system as Conte at Spurs, does not have a wealth of natural left-sided options.

but Southgate, playing the same system as Conte at Spurs, does not have a wealth of natural left-sided options.

Last season, with Ben Chilwell injured and Luke Shaw out of favour, the England boss went for right-footers on the left. Turn this flurry of form into something more, however, and Sessegnon will provide him with food for thought. Just as he has Perisic for competition at Spurs, Chilwell has Marc Cucurella, the £62m signing at Chelsea.

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