Why Arsenal's reported interest in Benjamin Sesko makes sense

  • Arsenal are considering move for RB Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko
  • Sesko is a project forward that needs refinement
  • Kai Havertz's form as striker reduced need for finished product
Arsenal are keeping a close eye on Benjamin Sesko
Arsenal are keeping a close eye on Benjamin Sesko / Luciano Lima/GettyImages

For many Arsenal supporters, January's FA Cup defeat to Liverpool was the final straw. The club had to make a winter move for a striker.

The Gunners had scored just one goal in their previous three games, and their ability create chances at will suggested that this was not a chance creation issue. They needed someone to convert.

However, in that cup exit to Liverpool, Mikel Arteta had already stumbled upon his solution. Gooners just hadn't quite realised it yet. This was the first time Kai Havertz started a game as Arsenal's #9 having enjoyed some success over the winter operating as a faux forward off the shoulder of Gabriel Jesus.

Kai Havertz has reduced the need for an elite striker to arrive this summer

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz is enjoying a strong end to the season / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Against Liverpool, Havertz was utilised in his most advanced role yet, and while the rewards weren't reaped on that rather sombre January evening, the Gunners would swiftly benefit from the German's position switch.

Financial constraints and a lack of genuinely elite options meant Arsenal never truly considered the purchase of a #9 in the winter, and there's no doubt that some would've ridiculed the decision once the January window slammed shut. Since then, though, Havertz has reinvented himself as a match-up nightmare for opposing centre-halves.

The German has 13 goal contributions in his last ten starts as Arsenal's #9. He's not merely in the side to win headers and around a bit without the ball, Havertz is doing it all.

The former Chelsea star had impressed so much in his new role that reports started to emerge regarding a change in Arsenal's transfer priorities this summer. Perhaps a #9 wasn't so important after all, with a winger instead emerging as the potential position of desperate need given Gabriel Martinelli's tough season and Bukayo Saka's lack of competition.

And while such reports might be accurate, that's not to suggest Arsenal won't make a summer move for a new #9. In fact, Fabrizio Romano recently noted the club's interest in Victor Gyokeres, while Benjamin Sesko is a name gaining plenty of traction. Arsenal are said to be the favourites for the Slovenian international's signature this summer, although Leipzig, who acquired him ahead of the 2023/24 season, have bumped up his release clause to £64m.

Arsenal would be buying elite potential in Benjamin Sesko

Having excelled in Austria with FC Salzburg, Sesko has enjoyed just one campaign in a top-five league; scoring 13 times in the Bundesliga this season. Considering where Arsenal are in their project with Mikel Arteta, the acquisition of a talent so raw could be regarded as risky, but Havertz's ability to perform the #9 role for Arteta so well has reduced the need to sign what you might call a 'finished product'.

If it wasn't for Havertz's strong end to the season, Victor Osimhen, Dusan Vlahovic, or the pricey Gyokeres may have been targets considered with greater vigour. Alexander Isak, also. Sesko's a forward with immense upside, but one that probably wouldn't be ready to contribute regularly right away.

The 20-year-old is a towering forward with freakish athleticism for a player of his size. He's rapid and loves to run in behind, while his xG overperformance this term points to an efficient #9 with supreme ball-striking. He can score an array of goals and is prolific in the air.

""Benjamin Šeško is among the game’s top young talents and has enormous potential to become a top player. He has all the qualities to do that. He’s extremely quick, has a great jump on him and is strong in the air. Benjamin is a real goalscorer, who despite his 1.95m (6'4") is mobile and technically strong. His abilities make him a special player with a special profile.""

Leipzig director Christopher Vivell

The raw attributes are striking and Sesko's drawn comparisons to Manchester City's Erling Haaland as a result. "Such comparisons motivate me and give me energy," Sesko once said on being likened to the Norwegian goal machine. "I will listen and learn so I can be even better than he is. My teammates at the club tell me that Haaland and I are very similar, especially in terms of speed. Most of them even tell me that I’m better than him!"

Sesko is no Haaland just yet, and even saying he could reach such heights would be optimistic. Still, there's no doubt he has a shot of emerging as one of the world's leading forwards before he hits his peak.

But, as I noted, he's not there yet. He's not yet a slick combiner in and around the box, with Sesko struggling to manipulate deep-lying defences. That's where the improvement must come if he's to blossom in north London. However, with Havertz shining, there wouldn't be a huge amount of pressure for the 20-year-old to hit the ground running despite Arsenal's lofty ambitions.