Why Benjamin Sesko is NOT the answer to Man Utd's problems

Neel Shelat
Neel Shelat 1 Aug 2022 15:06 BST 4 min read
Benjamin Sesko, Slovenia, 2022

Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for Red Bull Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko before the end of the 2022 summer transfer window.

The Austrian side’s recent track record with young strikers is incredibly impressive. Sadio Mane, Erling Haaland and Karim Adeyemi are just a few forwards who spent some of their formative years in Austria and have since gone on to sign for some of the best clubs in Europe.

Sesko’s stats in the 2021/22 season

The next one off the production line appears to be Sesko. The 19-year-old striker was signed by Salzburg in 2019 from the youth academy of Slovenian top-flight side NK Domzale for €2.5m and has been in Austria ever since. He has spent time playing for FC Liefering, Salzburg’s reserve team, in the second division, scoring 22 goals in 44 appearances.

Last term, he was promoted to the first team under Matthias Jaissle, who deployed him for close to 1000 minutes in the league besides using him semi-regularly in the Champions League.

Sesko started just a third of his 24 league matches last season as he faced stiff competition for the two striker spots in Jaissle’s 4-3-1-2 system from the likes of Karim Adeyemi, Chikwubuike Adamu and Noah Okafor. He ended the season with five goals and an assist, but the underlying numbers suggest he should have had more as his xG tally for the season was 9.6.

Nevertheless, he had a better season than the goal-related numbers suggest, and this claim is backed up by his pizza chart.

Benjamin Sesko stat1

Evidently, Sesko is an all-round talent, with much more than goals to his game. For example, he features heavily in his side’s possession-play and is a strong aerial presence. Of course, the context of his team’s tactics should be considered while looking at his stats, as Salzburg’s direct style of play combined with the positional freedom afforded to their forwards help boost his overall statistics.

Zooming in to his shooting, Sesko’s shotmap in 2022 shows his tendency to get into really good shooting positions.

Sesko gfx

His finishing is sub-par, though, as is proven by the fact that his xGOT (Expected Goals On Target) total was only 6.0 last season, meaning he underperformed his xG by 3.6 in this regard.

Why a move to Manchester United doesn’t make sense

Sekso has been making football transfer news lately due to his linked with Manchester United. Salzburg’s asking price reportedly is £55m (€65m), which is undoubtedly way too high. While the Slovenian forward certainly has a lot of potential, there is a lot he has to work on, so he is worth half that value at best. In fact, our model values him at a maximum of €22m.

Besides questions over Sesko’s finishing and his ability to perform at a much higher level in the Premier League, the 19-year-old forward does not appear to be a stylistic fit to Erik ten Hag’s system either. As aforementioned, Sesko operated in a front-two at Salzburg and was asked to drift out wide, but Ten Hag has only used a one-striker system at Manchester United, which requires the striker to stay disciplined with their positioning. The Slovenia international is yet to consistently show such qualities.

From the player’s point of view as well, this transfer would probably not be the best for his development. At 19 years old, Sesko is in his formative years and would be best served with regular game time, which he will certainly not get at Manchester United. At Salzburg, on the other hand, he appears to have locked down a position in the first-choice XI after Adeyemi’s move to Borussia Dortmund, so spending at least another year in Austria should be the best way forward for the Slovenian.