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Why Ryan Sessegnon should still be a priority target for Liverpool

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Despite reports of interest dwindling following the success of Andrew Robertson, Ryan Sessegnon should still be a priority target for Liverpool.

The Reds’ pursuit of Sessegnon was initially reported at the start of the 2016/17 campaign, with the teenager claimed to be Jurgen Klopp‘s primary target at left-back months later.

Sessegnon ultimately signed his first professional contract with Fulham last summer, ending speculation of a move to the Premier League.

With Robertson settling into the role of first-choice left-back under Klopp, Liverpool have faded into the periphery while Tottenham and Man United continue to be touted with moves for the 17-year-old.

But though the Scot has seemingly nailed down his place for the long term, Sessegnon should still be high on Klopp’s list of targets ahead of the summer window.

 

The Left-Back Battle

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 12, 2017: Liverpool's Alberto Moreno takes a throw-in during the FA Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Before the current campaign, left-back was rightly seen as one of Liverpool’s biggest problem positions.

Though James Milner performed admirably in the role in 2016/17, the veteran was not a long-term solution, and nor did he want to be.

Meanwhile, Alberto Moreno had spent the season out in the cold, making it onto the field on just 18 occasions, averaging 46.4 minutes per game and starting twice in the Premier League.

The arrival of Robertson from Hull City was met with a lukewarm reception, largely due to the Tigers’ limp performances on their way to relegation to the Championship.

But as the season draws to a close, left-back is arguably one of the strongest positions within Klopp’s squad.

Moreno excelled in his early-season run, including three assists in the Champions League and just two defeats in 12 league games before his untimely ankle injury.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 2, 2017: Liverpool's Andy Robertson takes a throw-in during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As Moreno’s fortunes dipped with a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Robertson’s soared, with the £8 million signing establishing himself as a convincing mainstay.

Progressively improving in his linkup play with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Robertson is now equalling Moreno’s attacking output but with an added defensive stability.

The 24-year-old is widely regarded as the best left-back Liverpool have fielded since at least the days of John Arne Riise, and in some quarters he’s considered the finest since Jim Beglin.

With Robertson cemented as first choice, and Moreno a more-than-able deputy, the Reds are in safe hands at left-back, with Klopp recently explaining how this healthy competition “keeps them awake.”

Unless Moreno agitates for a move having played just three minutes in the league since the turn of the year, there is no cause for Liverpool to target another left-back.

But Sessegnon can no longer be considered an out-and-out left-back, and this is why Klopp should still be interested.

 

Sessegnon’s Role Shift

Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon (left) celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game against Hull City

Sessegnon broke through at Fulham as a left-back, but that can only ever have been considered a nominal position.

In his Championship debut for the Cottagers, a 1-1 draw away to Leeds United at the beginning of last season, his average position was in the opposition’s half, only marginally deeper than the front four.

He spent a significant portion of the game on the left-hand side of Leeds‘ penalty area, only 20 of his 91 touches were in the defensive third and of Fulham’s 21 shots he had four of them:

This is a regular occurrence for Sessegnon who, for all intents and purposes, is another, vital component within Fulham’s multi-faceted attack under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Throughout his first season with the club, Sessegnon made 20 of his 31 appearances at left-back, with the remaining 11 coming further upfield on the wing, six of those from the substitutes’ bench.

And this term has continued that gradual shift from left-back to left winger, with the youngster again making 20 of his 41 outings in the former, and 21 so far in the latter.

Jokanovic has been wise to mould Sessegnon into a more attacking remit, as he has responded with a remarkable tally of 12 goals and three assists in 21 games in his new role.

There, he is averaging a direct goal contribution every 119.2 minutes, while only four players have netted more than his tally of 14 strikes for the season in the Championship.

It is telling that, when speaking to Sky Sports in February, Sessegnon confirmed that “left wing is my preferred position,” and though he has rejected comparisons with Gareth Bale in some respects they are valid.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 3, 2018: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

This is why Liverpool should maintain their interest, as while Klopp is able to call upon two of the best wingers in Europe in Mane and Salah, they still require competition.

At present there are few alternatives to the Reds’ wide duo, with both starting every league game since New Year’s Day.

In Ryan Kent, Harry Wilson and Sessegnon’s current team-mate Sheyi Ojo there are a handful of possibilities out on loan, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also available as cover.

But it is debatable whether any of Liverpool’s loan wingers have a long-term future at the club despite their promise, while Oxlade-Chamberlain is better utilised in the middle of the park.

Therefore strengthening out wide with the signing of Sessegnon, who can also provide healthy competition at left-back, should be a priority this summer.

 

Securing a Bright Future

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 17, 2018: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sessegnon’s rise mirrors that of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, and with the youngsters now team-mates with the England U21s this trajectory continues at international level.

Both are generational talents in the making, and the prospect of Klopp calling upon Sessegnon (18 in May), Alexander-Arnold (19) and Ben Woodburn (18) in one squad in the future is tantalising.

Add to that prospective group Kamil Grabara (19), Joe Gomez (21 in May), Curtis Jones (17) and Rhian Brewster (18 in April) among others, along with Naby Keita (23), and Liverpool could have one of the best young squads in Europe.

With half of this young group bolstering Klopp’s squad ranks behind the likes of Robertson (24), Mane (26 in April), Salah (26 in June), Loris Karius (25 in June), Virgil van Dijk (27 in July) and Roberto Firmino (26) the future would be in safe hands.

All but two of those would have been either signed or brought through the academy ranks during Klopp’s reign, with the German’s rebuilding efforts clear.

Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon - Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

The addition of Sessegnon would provide the Reds with arguably their most talented teenager, and as one who could fill a variety of roles as he finds his feet at Anfield, this should be considered essential.

He won’t come cheap, with Fulham turning down Spurs’ £25 million offer in August and subsequent reports pricing him at double that.

But given centre-back and holding midfield are arguably Klopp’s only priority positions for starting roles in the upcoming transfer window, Liverpool should be able to meet that valuation.

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