Benjamin Sesko RB Leipzig
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Benjamin Sesko: The Slovenian Sensation Attracting Premier League Teams

Benjamin Sesko has been one of the most talked-about young players over the past few seasons, with his breakout season at RB Salzburg and then his latest move to RB Leipzig last summer. Sesko has struggled to become a starter in Germany, with the Slovenian appearing 31 times in the Bundesliga and only 17 of them being starts. The presence of Lois Openda, who arrived in Germany from RC Lens in 2023 and has made a quick impression, has hindered his involvement from the beginning of this season.

Despite struggling to make many starts in the league this season, Sesko still returned 14 league goals in 17 starts. RB Leipzig poached the forward from feeder club RB Salzburg last summer for around £20 million and according to reports, the German side are actively listening to offers for the striker, with Arsenal being the most likely destination.

The Backdrop to Benjamin Sesko

Sesko was born on May 31, 2003, in Radece, Slovenia. He started his younger years with Radece and eventually moved to Domzale in 2018, which is where Salzburg picked him up when he was just 16 years old. Sesko signed a three-year deal with the Austrian side in the summer of 2019 but would not make his first team debut for another two years when he featured in a 3-0 win over TSV Hartberg in January 2021.

The striker was sent out on loan as soon as he arrived in Austria and spent two seasons on loan at Salzburg’s feeder team FC Liefering and the loan move was incredibly beneficial for the striker, with him netting 21 times in 29 games in the 2020–21 season. 

The Slovenian then spent the 2021/22 and 2022/23 campaigns with Salzburg, with him being involved in 18 goals in 37 games through his first season and then his breakthrough campaign arrived in the 22/23 season, with the striker returning 22 goal involvements in 41 appearances. The striker also hit form for his country in the most recent EURO 2024 qualifiers, with his country making the tournament for the first time since EURO 2000. Sesko netted five times in nine appearances across the qualifiers and led the team to finish second in the group, only behind table-toppers Denmark. Unfortunately for the Slovenes, they have been handed a very tough group at the tournament, with them facing England, Denmark, and Serbia.

In the summer of 2022, Sesko was touted as one of the most promising young talents in the world, with many clubs interested, one of those being Manchester United, before they moved towards Rasmus Hojlund. It was then announced in July 2022 that RB Leipzig had agreed a deal with their Austrian counterparts and the striker would be joining the club in the following summer after the Red Bulls loaned him back for the 22/23 season. The official transfer fee was confirmed at £20.5 million and the Slovenian signed a five-year deal lasting until 2028. A £55 million release clause was inserted into the 21-year-old’s contract, with many around Europe looking to trigger that this summer. 

Sesko made his debut for Leipzig at the beginning of the 23/24 season in a 5-1 victory over VFB Stuttgart but only appeared as a late substitute, with the striker receiving just ten minutes of game time. The 21-year-old scored his first goal for the team in a 3-0 away win against Union Berlin, with the forward scoring a brace in just 15 minutes and subsequently ending Union Berlin’s 24-game unbeaten streak. Just two weeks after his first league goals for the club, Sesko netted for the first time in the UEFA Champions League after a 3-1 away win over BSC Young Boys.

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At the end of the campaign, Sesko had 20 goal contributions in just 22 starts, which is one of the most impressive goals per minute ratios across Europe. Sesko also completed the league season as a record-breaker, as he became the youngest player to score in seven consecutive matches at just 20 years old.

A Physical Anomaly 

In recent times, there seems to be a trend of tall strikers that have a rapid turn of pace, with the likes of Erling Haaland, Alexander Isak, Victor Gyokeres, Victor Osimhen, and now Sesko. The Slovenian is six feet four and has an incredible turn of speed, which gives him a large advantage when up against defenders. He has the prowess to hold the ball up with his back facing play due to his size but also possesses the ability to hurt defences with his runs in behind with his freakish speed. His role for both Red Bull clubs in his career has relied on runs behind the backline and typically, he features in a striking partnership.

There have been few examples of him playing as a lone number nine. Most notably, he has linked up with Openda at Leipzig and Noah Okafor at Salzburg and both players are of smaller builds and possess more technical attributes than Sesko, so the 21-year-old has normally absorbed the responsibility of running the channels and leaving gaps for his striking partner, with both Red Bull clubs opting to play narrow and very rarely use wide players. Sesko still manages to use his size admirably and has netted five headed goals this season but the majority of his goals this campaign have arrived with his feet.

Sesko is one of the biggest anomalies when it comes to physical build because he shows incredible touch, flair, skill, and turns at times, which is not usual for someone of his size, and when watching him, it can be easy to forget that the youngster is 6’4 and his athleticism has been the catalyst for many of his goals this season with his willingness to throw himself at the ball and score with any part of his body. 

Technical Quality

The 6″4′ Slovenian has unusual technical quality for someone of his size and his first touch along with his array of long passes is something that can be utilised more often but he has not been able to showcase these attributes as much this season due to his instructions to run in-behind. Sesko also has a brilliant knack of knowing where to be in the box and when to be there; with his awareness of his surroundings and his in-box movement, he is a real handful for any defender.

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The striker also has great anticipation of what angle the ball is coming at, so he positions himself to take the ball in the best way possible so that he can either get a shot off or play in one of his teammates.

When dominating possession, as Leipzig like to do, Sesko is incredibly useful with his positional awareness because when they are facing a team that likes to sit deep and soak up pressure, he typically remains in a central position, whereas when they are breaking, he will normally drift wide to use his speed and size. The benefits of him staying central against a deeper defensive line are that he is always in a good position to receive a through ball or an aerial delivery from the creators in the side. 

Moving onto his finishing, Sesko has this ability to find the bottom corner almost every time he has a sight of goal, making it so tough for a goalkeeper to stop his shots and he has the ability to do this on both sides. Although he is right-footed predominantly, he has more than enough technical capacity to be as effective on his left foot, which adds another string to his bow when it comes to facing defenders, as they cannot anticipate which way he is going to take the ball.

Another impressive statistic that backs up his finishing ability is the fact that he has a 30% strike rate in the Bundesliga this season and has outscored his expected goals by seven. He was expected to score 7.66 goals and has returned 14 in the German league this campaign.

National Team Success

Sesko could have represented Bosnia and Herzegovina but opted to stick with his Slovenian roots. He has played for the Slovenes in the Under 15, 16, 17, and 18’s, so it was only natural that he would remain in his home country. Sesko appeared for the Under-19 side for the first time in 2020 and that would end up being the last time that he featured for the Under-19’s because in 2021, Sesko was called up to the first team for a couple of friendlies and he made his debut for the senior team in a 1-1 draw against North Macedonia.

At the time, he had only just turned 18 a day before the match. Three months later, Sesko netted his first goal for the senior team in a 2022 World Cup Qualifier against Malta and in turn, he became the youngest ever goalscorer for Slovenia at the age of 18.

During the 2022–23 Nations League campaign, the striker stopped his country from being relegated to the lower division of the competition after he scored the winner against Norway in a 2-1 win back in September 2022. He then scored in the 1-1 draw with Sweden a few days later and it was seen as one of the best goals of the tournament. He further proved his technical prowess with an incredible left footed volley from an audacious angle and I would encourage anyone to look up his goal against Sweden because it is well worth watching.

Saving the best until last, Sesko has managed to lead his country to EURO 24 after scoring five times in nine games, which saw Slovenia finish second in the group and be drawn in Group C against Denmark, England, and Serbia. It will take some form of miracle for the Slovenes to progress to the knockout phase but they have proven before that they are capable of causing upsets and with the likes of Sesko, they have every chance to find a way out of the group.

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What is on the Horizon for Sesko?

A few people have claimed that Sesko is interested in moving to the Premier League, with Arsenal appearing to be the most likely option this summer. Sesko and his agent are reportedly in favor of moving to North London. There seems to be a swarm of clubs around the striker but according to the Mirror, Sesko is said to be favouring a move to Arsenal after finding himself in the middle of a transfer battle. 

There are slightly less reliable reports that suggest Arsenal have lowballed Leipzig and made an offer of £47 million but if that is to be the case, they remain eight million short of the 21-year-old’s release clause, which seems to be a very viable deal in today’s market for strikers.

So that’s the general overview of his current situation but it is important to figure out how the striker would slot into this Arsenal side and how Mikel Arteta would bring the best out of the 21-year-old. Firstly, he would need reassurance over his game time and he would be relying on becoming a regular starter after struggling to find that in Germany. The likes of Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard would relish the chance to link up with the striker and the one piece that Arsenal appear to be missing is the clinical striker and someone like Sesko would fill the void perfectly.

With his size and speed, he will be a real handful for Premier League defenders and he will add another dimension to the Arsenal side. It feels like the Gunners are just missing that number nine who is going to get them over the line in the crucial moments after coming so close to the Premier League title over the last two seasons.

The big gamble for the Gunners will be that Sesko is still incredibly young and so he will need ample amounts of time to adapt to the league and to new surroundings but there is also the gamble of whether he can perform over the course of the season due to the lack of existing evidence of him starting consistently.

There is also the pressure of playing in England and for a team that should be challenging for the league title, it is yet to be seen whether the youngster can handle that kind of pressure and expectation but with the right environment and management, it could be dangerous for the rest of the league if Arsenal do sign him.

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