Opinion: Still hope for Sessegnon’s Spurs career as he faces make-or-break season

Ryan Sessegnon
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

There was a time not so far in the past where Ryan Sessegnon was one of the most sought-after young players in world football.

Sessegnon broke into the Fulham first team at the age of 16 and made his 50th appearance for the club well before his 18th birthday.

He then became the first Championship player to be nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award as Fulham were promoted to the Premier League in 2017/18.

Speculation of a £50 million move to Man Utd was dampened by a relegation-tinged 2018/19 campaign from the versatile left-footer. However, at 19 he still secured a £25 million move to Tottenham where he was expected to take the next step in his career.

An injury-hit start to his time at Hotspur Way meant that by the time Sessegnon was fully fit to pull on a Spurs shirt, the man who had signed him, Mauricio Pochettino, had been sacked.

Under Jose Mourinho, Sessegnon struggled to make an impact, making just 6 Premier League appearances as he failed to cement a place in either the left-back or left-wing positions.

The England U-21 international was loaned out to Hoffenheim for the 2020/21 season where he played as a wing-back for much of the campaign, making 23 appearances and scoring twice.

The left-wing back role would probably best suit Sessegnon at Premier League level as it would give him more freedom to create going forward while also making use of his defensive capabilities.

However, while Nuno Espirito Santo looked favourably upon playing with wing-backs during his time at Wolves, his team selection against Man City suggests that Sessegnon will have to adapt to playing as either a winger or full-back.

It was apparent that Mourinho did not trust the 21-year-old defensively throughout the pair’s season together, with Ben Davies being a regular starter after the January window.

Going forward, it was never realistic for Sessegnon to displace Son Heung-Min on the left flank, but just 1 goal in all competitions, albeit an impressive strike against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, meant that by the end of the season his first-team opportunities had completely dried up.

Having returned from Hoffenheim, he must now contend with not only Davies but also Sergio Reguilon for a starting spot at left-back. Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn and Bryan Gil will provide competition for a space in the front three.

So is there space in the Spurs squad to accommodate a player once tipped to be one of the best in the league? I am still optimistic that there is.

Although he didn’t catch the eye against Pacos de Ferreira on Thursday, the form that saw him score 15 goals in a Championship season at 17 years old cannot simply have evaporated.

Sessegnon told Bundesliga.com in February that he believes the defensive side of his game and his presence in the dressing room has been improved by his loan spell in Germany, and he was voted the club’s Player of the Month in November.

Hopefully, these defensive improvements will provide more balance to his game, and could make Sessegnon the answer to a problem that troubled Spurs for much of last season.

Mourinho struggled with his left-back options last season, with Ben Davies being used as a defensive option while providing little going forward and Sergio Reguilon showing promise offensively and vulnerability defensively.

Reguilon is undoubtedly here to stay but Davies has had plenty of opportunities in a Spurs shirt and it is time for the squad to be refreshed.

Sessegnon may take time to re-adapt to English football but will be a more energetic presence on the left and his versatility off the bench can help Spurs late in games.

It is a risk as Davies would arguably be a more dependable option, but the Welshman has clearly reached his ceiling whereas Sessegnon has only scratched the surface of his potential.

Entering his third season at the club and fourth at top-flight level, Sessegnon needs to show Nuno he can be trusted otherwise he will find himself facing another loan spell or worse this time next year.

This will involve patience on Nuno’s part but the performance put in by Japhet Tanganga against City should serve as encouragement that providing Sessegnon with more minutes will benefit Spurs in the long run as they aim to regain their place in the top four.

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