Sessegnon starts afresh at West Brom

Posted by Martin Laurence, WhoScored.com

Stephane Sessegnon put West Brom in front against Sunderland, scoring on his debut against his former club.GettyImagesStephane Sessegnon put West Brom in front against Sunderland, scoring on his debut against his former club.

Stephane Sessegnon may not have celebrated his goal against Sunderland on his debut for new club West Brom this weekend but it was clear that his menacing glare after scoring the opener was meant for one man.

There were rumours that the relationship between the Benin international and the then-Black Cats boss Paolo Di Canio came to a head when the 29-year-old was arrested for allegedly drink-driving when off duty on the night of a cup game. The fiery Italian had enforced rules whereby players were not to go out on match days, whether they were in the squad or not, and he saw Sessegnon's offence as a lack of respect to the team among other things.

“It means you don’t care. It means you don’t care about the club so your time is gone," Di Canio stated shortly after selling what most would agree was one of the club's prized assets. "Once we spoke and I said 'I want to keep you,’ then I had a player whose performances were not good in front of everybody.”

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The decision to let the attacking midfielder leave was one that immediately came to haunt the former West Ham icon.

Sessegnon was a Steve Bruce signing, arriving on Wearside from the infinitely more glamorous Paris Saint-Germain having fallen out with then-manager Antoine Kombouare. From that, not to mention his recent issues, it is pretty clear that the player is no angel himself but the £6 million deal in January 2011 was seen as something of a coup for the club.

After a slow start he ended the season with three goals and three assists in 14 league appearances and was beginning to settle into the side by the end of the 2010-11 campaign. During his time under Bruce he was a modest performer in general, accruing an average WhoScored.com statistical rating of 6.76 in his 27 league games prior to Martin O'Neill's arrival.

However, it wasn’t until the Ulsterman took charge -- having previously been interested in taking the playmaker to Villa -- that Sessegnon began to truly emerge as a top player for the Black Cats. He'd netted twice and picked up a further two assists in 13 appearances at the start of the 2011-12 campaign before Bruce's departure, but under O'Neill those tallies had risen to seven and nine respectively by the end of the season.

The impact O'Neill had on the diminutive African did wane somewhat, as it also seemed to over the rest of the squad as the ex-Celtic boss' reign ended poorly. Indeed Sessegnon netted just five times and picked up a meagre two assists in his final 31 league appearances under O'Neill's tutelage. He went on to score in two of Di Canio's first three matches in charge (in the victory over bitter rivals Newcastle, then against Everton), which effectively secured Sunderland's top-flight status, but the honeymoon period evidently didn't last long.

While Sessegnon's average WhoScored.com rating under O'Neill petered out somewhat to a moderate 6.76, in just seven league games under Di Canio it had dropped significantly to a fairly tame 6.50. It seems that the Italian's claim that his performance levels were not of the right standard had weight to it, but Sessegnon proved under the previous management that he could offer a sizeable contribution to the side's goal tally.

Indeed, during his time at the club, no player scored more league goals than Sessegnon's 17, while his tally of 15 assists is almost three times that of any other player in the same timeframe (Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson - six). Of the players to make at least 20 appearances during his spell in Sunderland, only Johnson averaged more key passes per game (1.53) and only Nicklas Bendtner averaged more shots per game (1.92), while he topped the charts by some distance in terms of successful dribbles per game (1.72).

It's clear that Sessegnon's influence at Sunderland in the attacking third will be missed, particularly given the Wearsiders’ struggles in front of goal since the turn of the year. Only Stoke, Fulham and Norwich have netted fewer, of the sides to remain in the Premier League over the two campaigns, than Sunderland (22) and, as highlighted at the weekend, their loss looks likely to be West Brom's gain.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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