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Jesus dilemma, new Havertz role - Benjamin Sesko place in Arsenal XI decided for title charge

RB Leipzig forward Benjamin Sesko
-Credit: (Image: Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)


"From everywhere, because of the reality is we don't have a striker that is going to score 35 or 40 goals. So we have to live with that, we have many other qualities. Today is a day to stick behind the players, because they have given us so much and have taken us on this journey."

Mikel Arteta was clear in what Arsenal need after losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in April. His side had just been beaten across two legs by a clinical Thomas Tuchel outfit spearheaded by Harry Kane. The former Tottenham man only scored once across the tie, and that was from the spot, but the contrast was stark.

Arsenal started Kai Havertz as the No.9 in both games with two holding midfielders deployed. It was a safer ploy in Europe than the double No.8s that Arteta had planned for the season. Despite Havertz's introduction to the side they still only managed three more across the Premier League season.

During the December drop-off that ultimately made a big difference in the direction of the title, Arsenal missed chances left, right, and centre. The answer to the problems was deemed to be a lack of a true No.9. Not only does Gabriel Jesus fail to fill that role even when at his best - he is a roaming, space-seeking creator rather than clinical finisher or box presence - but his poor season left Arsenal lacking.

It is no surprise then that the club - pushed on by sporting director Edu Gaspar - are looking for new options. Last summer it was Ivan Toney, throughout much of the past 12 months Victor Osimhen has been a name mentioned too. But the new shiny striker is Benjamin Sesko.

RB Leipzig's young forward is on the radar of Chelsea and Manchester United with his agent having attended matches between all three teams in the last eight weeks. He finished his first year in Bundesliga with 14 goals and two assists from 31 games (17 starts), at A scoring rate of one every 110 minutes.

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Newly 21, Sesko is seen as one of the most exciting players in the world. Arsenal are said to be his preference as well with a release clause price this summer of £55million.

Here, football.london writers looks at just how Arsenal will fit him into their side should be join.

Tom Coley

Benjamin Sesko is a bit of an unknown quantity. He is raw but exciting. His profile as a tall, quick, powerful, and young striker makes him comparable from the outside to Darwin Nunez.

Is this really what Arsenal need? It's certainly a risk, but the reward with what is a relatively small investment for the times (£55million is less than what Manchester United paid for Rasmus Hojlund, and Sesko is more established) looks worthwhile.

It would allow the pressure to be taken off Bukayo Saka as a goalscorer and also give more freedom for Kai Havertz to roam. He is best when allowed to move across the field, ghosting around. It could see the end of Gabriel Jesus' Emirates Stadium career though.

How does he fit in with a group of younger, more promising options? As a very experienced and useful rotational option, sure, but would someone signed to take Arsenal forward accept that after two years?

Sesko would therefore be a cat amongst the pigeons. The thing is it might just be the injection that is needed.

Joe Doyle - Content Editor

Kai Havertz had a strong finish to the season in the No.9 role, and from the outside, at least, it feels like he's far more comfortable there than in a deeper role - at least against the top opposition.

As such, I think he'll be starting the season up top, regardless of whether Sesko does eventually arrive this summer. But when Sesko has had some time with the team, I think there will be a genuine challenge for the starting striker role, and he may just win it in the long term.

Sesko looks to have good link-up play that will suit the Gunners, and has similar physical attributes to Havertz in terms of his height and stature.

What puts him ahead for me is that he seems a bit more clinical than the former Chelsea star. Of course, smooth transitions cannot be guaranteed - Havertz's move from Leverkusen to Stamford Bridge gives a good example of that - so Gunners fans will have to be patient if Sesko does arrive.

Isaac Johnson

Given how well Arsenal played with Kai Havertz as the false nine last season, it would be no surprise to see Mikel Arteta continue on the same tack. Supporters will just hope it’s not a misjudgement.

The Gunners clearly lacked a natural goalscorer last season with the wingers doing most of the heavy-lifting. It seems wise to at least have a fall-back attack option and Sesko would fit the bill.

At 21, he would be more likely to be content at playing a rotational role initially and would offer something different, which is important in a title race. His presence would also ensure the likes of Havertz and Gabriel Jesus keep up their levels in order to secure game time.

Sesko will ultimately want to be first choice striker one day and Arteta will be mindful of that, perhaps morphing his tactics as the years roll on. The ultimate question for now is whether it is worth paying the reported £55m price tag for an untried Premier League striker.

Josh Holland

The strategy of investing in a striker who is yet to fully fulfil his potential is a risky, but smart, one by Arsenal. Even before the January transfer window, the likes of Ivan Toney and Victor Osimhen were linked as number nines as ready-made profiles for Mikel Arteta.

Kai Havertz's impressive displays in the second half of the season certainly softened the requirement for a goalscorer meaning the next-best thing is a player like Sesko.

Still only 21, the tall and powerful centre-forward will have to be integrated with consideration to ensure there isn't a case of highly-talented players losing confidence after a slow start.

Anyone who has played Football Manager will know Sesko has been on the borderline of a big-money move for some time. Arsenal, on paper, seems the perfect fit but will he be able to adjust to the Premier League well enough? It remains to be seen.

Hush Kerai

There is no Erling Haaland on the market for Arsenal to throw their money at, so the smartest thing they can do is invest in a player who is on track, with the correct development, to potentially reach the goalscoring level of Manchester City's leading man.

Kai Havertz will retain his position as Arsenal's starting striker but Sesko will be allowed to develop in the background and should over the course of the season provide more goals than Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus did last term.

Nketiah is largely expected to move on, if the correct offer arrives, while Gabriel Jesus is losing trust as a centre forward in the current Arsenal set-up. The Brazil star would be more useful as an option in either of the two wide areas where his lack of clinical finishing ability is less exposed and his energetic play in build-up phases is emphasised.

The long-term plan would be for Sesko to eventually take the reins and become Arsenal's superstar forward, but doing a deal this summer for the Slovenianian would allow Arsenal to make that transition a slow and natural process.

Amie Wilson

The benefit of bringing a young player into the club is that they have not reached their peak and therefore probably have more patience than players who are slightly older. This could be the case with Sesko who may come in at first as a rotational option with Kai Havertz.

Given the German’s form in the false nine position at the end of the season, it would be harsh to drop him from the starting XI. Sesko will therefore have to show some of that patience.

He would be an effective option to bring on if Arsenal are searching for a goal in the game or to try and kill off a game with another goal. The aim will eventually be for the 21-year-old to become first choice striker, a kind of succession planning by Mikel Arteta.

The move would however probably bring to an end the Arsenal careers of Eddie Nketiah, who is expected to move on this summer, and Gabriel Jesus. The move for Sesko could though potentially mean that the latter is used more often out wide.