Two weeks ago, Southampton announced the signing of Moussa Djenepo on a four-year contract from Standard Liege. At 21 years of age, Djenepo has plenty of development left. He comes to Southampton on the back of 39 appearances, totalling 11 goals and six assists.
This scout report and tactical analysis will delve into what Saints fans can expect of the Malian winger. In detail, it will look into whether Djenepo is a good signing for the saints. Furthermore, it will include a statistical comparison to Southampton’s current midfielders.
Djenepo spent the majority of his teenage years in Mali. Up until eighteen, Djenepo played for Malian side, Yeelen Olympique. Djenepo scored six goals in three matches for the Mali U20 national team. As a result, Standard Liege moved in for him securing a loan move in 2018. Liege took up the option to make the loan permanent later that year.
Move to Southampton
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s analysis of Djenepo was that he is an “exciting player with tremendous pace and good finishing”. Djenepo fits the mould of a typical Southampton signing. Southampton are amongst the best in terms of their recruitment in recent times, securing huge profits on players such as Gareth Bale, Virgin Van Dijk, and Sadio Mane to name a few: they will be looking to do the same with Djenepo.
Hasenhuttl is an ex-Red Bull manager. We tend to see major similarities between such managers who have crossed paths with Red Bull and it’s key influencers such as Ralf Ragnick. Therefore it is no surprise to see a signing such as this made. It buys into both the Southampton and Red Bull philosophy of buying low and selling high.
Southampton are wary that without the recent transfer activities in the past, they wouldn’t have been able to operate as they have. Much like Ajax, they rely on a big outgoing every few years for their financial stability. Transfer tactics as such have proved extremely successful in the modern era.
Offensive playing style
Djenepo has played the majority of his games on the left-wing for Standard Liege. As a right-footer, he favours cutting inside or operating in the half-space on the left-hand side. He has impressive tactical awareness. In the situation below, Djenepo recognises that both centre backs are occupied by the striker. This creates a 2v1 situation with the opposition full-back. Djenepo moves inside knowing that he can most likely receive the ball with time and space. If the opposition full-back steps onto him, then his full-back is free in the space behind. Djenepo checks his shoulder, orientates his body and receives the ball. Driving into the vacated space, he creates a shot on target. This was a perfect example of Djenepo’s tactical nous.
Again, Djenepo uses his knowledge of the game to create problems for the opposition. In the instance below, Djenepo notices the higher and disjointed positioning of the left centre back. This positioning has create a pocket of space. Djenepo runs into space and creates another goal-scoring opportunity. The Malian regularly makes these types of penetrative runs from the inside of the field. Subsequently causing problems for opposition sides.
Whilst he does favour his right foot, he is also adept with his left. This makes Djenepo unpredictable in his 1v1 play as he can dribble to both sides. Djenepo tends to use trickery regularly in order to free himself from tight spaces when he is outnumbered. He is quite imaginative in this sense.
Dribbling is undoubtedly his main strength, winning three penalties in the process for Standard Liege this year. His dribbles originate from both inside and wide areas. Additionally, he can dribble well in counter-attack situations as well as situations such as below against a deeper defence. Therefore Djenepo adds an extra dimension to a side as he is effective against both deep compact defences and teams in which there is more space to attack.
Djenepo’s offensive style of play makes him quite complete in terms of being a winger. He has the ability to stand people up and beat players 1v1 as eluded to before. Therefore if needed, Djenepo can play high and wide on the touchline in a 4-3-3 type set up. However, he is also equally adept at playing a more inside orientated role such as in a 4-2-2-2 or midfield diamond. In this type of set up, Djenepo can adapt his game to make penetrative runs from the inside and beyond the striker. Furthermore, he can also receive it in half-spaces and drive at the defence.
Djenepo described himself as a “hard worker with a good mentality”. He isn’t wrong. The youngster will track back when required. He will follow an overlapping fullback and is intense in pressing situations in which he has a clear instruction. For example, from goal kicks, Djenepo is adept at pressing intensely up the pitch. He will show centre backs or full backs into dangerous areas with his approach through the use of his body positioning. As he is quick and athletic, Djenepo can put opposition defences under considerable pressure.
Moreover, Djenepo has a good understanding of the defensive structures of his team. He has the awareness to fill in for the full-back when needed. Illustrating this furthermore is the fact he has played as a wing-back on occasions in a 3-5-2.
In the instance below, Djenepo’s full-back has been caught out on the counter-attack. He recognises the immediate danger and fills in as a full back in the meantime. He slows the opposition winger down showing him the line. In doing so, Djenepo demonstrates an awareness of the role of the full-back in this situation. Djenepo is aware to not let the winger inside into a dangerous area. Eventually, Djenepo tackles the ball out for a throw-in, successfully dealing with the counter-attack.
At 21 years of age, Djenepo isn’t yet at his physical peak. He is actually quite gangly and uncoordinated in certain respects due to his long skinny legs. However, this is also his strength. On the counter-attack, once he gets his speed up, Djenepo is lightning quick. Many of his goals this year have come from counter-attacks in such a manner. Furthermore, Djenepo has good work rate for such a pacey player. He is fantastically enthusiastic in defence, which is possibly also a reason for his poor disciplinary record.
Areas of Improvement
Djenepo’s physical profile means he can often get the ball caught in and around his feet. Occasionally this adds to a lack of composure which he seems to exhibit. He has lacked end product at times for Standard Liege this year., which is something that Southampton will be hoping shall come with age. Finally, he has eleven bookings and one red card in 39 matches. The Saints will hope to curb this trend, all the while keeping his eagerness, which seems to have a large part to play in the matter.
When comparing to the current players at Southampton, Djenepo holds a similar statistical output. He tends to be more involved in goal creation statistics and could offer a greater goal threat than the current midfielders listed below. It must be noted that the Belgium league is a step down from the Premier league obviously. Furthermore, he was playing for a team closer to the top of the table.
Cross league comparison
We can compare different clubs in different leagues through their respective ELO ratings. ELO ratings are calculated using European competitions and how teams perform in these. Their performance in Europe is then used to judge the other teams in their respective leagues. Standard Liege and Southampton are not so far away in this respect. This adds weight to the idea that Djenepo has the ability to hold his own at Southampton.
Southampton fans will hope however that Djenepo takes the step better than Mohamed Elyounoussi. Coming from a similarly comparable league, Elyounossi didn’t register a single goal or assist in his maiden Premier League season. It must be noted though that it takes time for players to adapt to new systems and styles of play.
As stated previously, Djenepo fits the mould of a Southampton signing perfectly. Additionally, Hasenhuttl has reportedly been looking for a player who excels on the counter-attack. Djenepo fits these tactics well. The fact Djenepo is adept at playing inside as well as outside means he could fit into a 4-2-2-2, 3-4-3 or even 3-5-2 system. His penetrative runs from inside would work well in a 4-2-2-2. This is a formation Hasenhuttl has used throughout his career. Whilst not used regularly so far at Southampton, this could easily have been down to personnel. Djenepo could aid in providing the required personnel for this system.
Additionally, Hassenhuttl asks much of his players In both moments of the game. Hassenhuttl traditionally has adopted an intense pressing approach. Djenepo further fits this style and therefore is a well-suited signing in this respect as well.
There is so much upside to this signing from Southampton. A player with plenty of potential and mentioned as an unpolished diamond by some. Southampton fans will be hopeful that Djenepo can be just another player to fly off the Southampton production line. In this respect, he has a lot to live up to. But from what we’ve seen so far, he certainly has the ability to do so.
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