Claudio Ranieri says Ryan Sessegnon is simply not playing well enough to start games at the moment – and is still adapting in his first venture into Premier League football.
Sessegnon was sensational in last season’s charge to promotion, but has made a fitful contribution in the top flight.
In recent matches, the Fulham boss has opted to start him on the bench – even though Whites fans are frustrated not to see him pitched in at the start.
“Ryan is a good player, but in this moment, he’s not at the best of his fitness and form. For this reason I play Joe Bryan,” said Ranieri, who once again only brought him off the bench late on during Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Manchester United.
“He is working at it. It’s the first time he plays in the Premier League and it’s not possible always to play at a high level all the whole season. It’s just a little recovery [period] for him.
“He’s not in the good, good form. For this reason I put him not from the beginning, but during the match. I consider him an important player for us – for now and for the future.”
Ranieri’s omission of Sessegnon was one of several personnel decisions which drew a negative response from home fans, some of whom booed the boss at the end of Saturday’s defeat.
“I understand the fans,” said the Italian. “They want always to see that the players fight until the end. Of course we lost 3-0 and it’s not an easy result [to take].
“We are in a dangerous situation [in the league] and I told my players that it’s important to show to our fans we are alive and try to do our best until the end.
“We started very well. We created two great chances to score a goal, but suddenly [Paul] Pogba scored, and I think: ‘OK, stay calm and we can continue to play and to find a solution to draw the match.
“But my players are very, how can I say, not anxious, but they want to score immediately to draw the match. But against the big teams, it’s difficult and we conceded to them again on the counter-attack. At that point it was more difficult.
“I had the soldiers, because until the end we wanted to score when we were down 3-0. But when you play against champions, you have to try and stay calm – don’t lose our composure.
“That’s the real problem. They willed [themselves] to do something, but you have to stay calm and think.”