Slavisa Jokanovic urges Ryan Sessegnon to drive Fulham’s top-flight return

Dominic Fifield
The Guardian

Slavisa Jokanovic believes Fulham can lean on the prodigiously talented Ryan Sessegnon as they seek to adjust to life back in the Premier League, with the teenager’s presence in the side providing some continuity after a summer of lavish transfer spending.

Sessegnon made his first top‑flight appearance in the 2-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace last weekend and will confront Tottenham Hotspur, one of the elite clubs who has closely monitored his eye-catching progress over recent seasons, at Wembley on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, who could be fast-tracked into Gareth Southgate’s England set-up for the autumn internationals, attracted tentative interest from rivals over the summer but Fulham never considered selling their prize asset before their return to the top division.

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“I must be happy [he’s still here] because Ryan Sessegnon is one of the most important players from last season,” said Jokanovic, who saw the club spend more than £100m on 12 new players in the summer window. Eight of those signings played a part last Saturday.

“We trust he can help us in this challenge that is immediately ahead of us. He’s one of the longest-serving players to play in this team, so he is one man who doesn’t give you so many problems [in terms of integration].

“Sometimes you don’t know if he is on the pitch because you don’t hear so many times his voice but his work is really good. He always pushes really hard, he wants to improve himself, his teammates and the team. I don’t remember any mistakes. All of us can make some mistakes during training or in a game but this kid is always focused on trying to improve, trying to learn, trying to adapt himself for each situation.”

Fulham will travel to Wembley, where they won the play-off final in May, with defensive concerns. Denis Odoi is completing a two-match ban, while neither Tim Ream nor Alfie Mawson has been able to train as yet after injury problems. The latter, a £15m signing from Swansea City, will join the group for the first time on Tuesday.

André-Frank Zambo Aguissa, secured from Marseille as one of a quintet of new arrivals on deadline day, has trained and could be involved, and Joe Bryan is fit despite limping off on Saturday. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, loaned from Manchester United, may also feature.

“We need time, like all the teams, because it’s not easy,” said Jokanovic, who remains in talks with the club over a new contract. “We must be patient and let the new players adjust. I believe we signed quality players but, without any work in our style or with their teammates, it’s so complicated for them. Step by step we expect we will improve.”

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