Tactical Watch: Moussa Djenepo

By SFC Media time Wed 18 Sep Tactical Watch
Photo by Matt Watson | Moussa Djenepo

Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe takes a closer look at the impact made by Southampton summer signing Moussa Djenepo, after the Malian winger followed up a spectacular first goal for the club at Brighton with an even better solo effort to see off Sheffield United...

How many times have you watched Moussa Djenepo’s winning goal against Sheffield United back? Be honest; it’s nothing to be ashamed about if you’ve hit triple figures.

First the strength and perseverance to escape an incredibly cynical hold from Oliver Norwood, plus the footwork to beat him again once he’d hauled the Malian to a standstill.

Second, the quick feet to send John Egan to the deck and fool Jack O’Connell. And finally, the cool, crisp finish that left goalkeeper Dean Henderson no chance.

Another Southampton away day, another magical Moussa moment.

It was undoubtedly the best individual goal scored in the Premier League so far this season, the way he scrambled defenders’ brains evoking memories of Sofiane Boufal’s incredible solo effort against West Bromwich Albion in 2017.

It also represented the second successive away game in which Djenepo essentially took matters into his own hands and settled a tight game, his slaloming run and finish against the Blades handing the club three points in the same way his bending strike from distance did against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium in August.

a direct runner and a nifty dribbler - two things defenders absolutely hate facing. djenepo is both.

sam tighe
tactics writer

While fans and casual observers have been surprised by the sheer level of impact Djenepo has had, Ralph Hasenhüttl and his staff won’t: the 21-year-old showcased this sort of game-breaking ability at Standard Liège in 2018/19, hence the purchase, while Ché Adams has admitted he does it in training all the time.

He adds something different to Southampton, something no one else can: a will and a want to do almost everything at hyper speed. 

In every appearance so far, from his late cameo debut against Liverpool through to his star showing at Bramall Lane, he has ducked and dived, twisted and turned, spun and splayed all with remarkable agility and quickness. 

A direct runner and a nifty dribbler – two things defenders absolutely hate facing. Djenepo is both.

Liverpool found him so difficult to pin down or shepherd, with Jordan Henderson being left flummoxed by step-overs at one stage, and Sadio Mané struggling to press him too. 

Brighton learned how dangerous it is not to close him down, as it was his strike that swung the game in Saints’ favour.

Fulham – and specifically Joe Bryan – witnessed how destructive he can be in one-on-one scenarios, with the full-back ending up in a real tangle having attempted to get close to Djenepo while surging into the box.

And Sheffield United learned that even if you do ruffle his feathers, foul him or disrupt his stride, it can only make him more determined to deal you damage.

With Nathan Redmond, so often the X-factor in attack last season, out injured, Djenepo’s emergence could hardly have been timed any better. 

Both he and the returning Sofiane Boufal have softened that blow considerably, providing Hasenhüttl with the sort of one-on-one ability his side needs.

In typical Hasenhüttl fashion, he’s measured his praise of Djenepo equally between his work on the ball and his work off it. 

After both Fulham and Sheffield United, when asked about the 21-year-old’s performance levels, the manager first praised his defensive work before going into his attacking contributions. 

Against Fulham his work “against (off) the ball” was specifically referenced, while against Sheffield United his “pressure” and “ball wins” on the left flank were noted just as much as the dribble and strike.

Football is a team game – that fact is rarely more apparent when Hasenhüttl is your manager – but even he will admit you need individuals to provide moments that make the difference. 

“They (referring to Djenepo, Boufal and Redmond) are hard to read,” he admitted. “When they have the ball, they are dangerous.”

Dangerous perhaps doesn’t quite cover it; lethal is more like it. If he continues in this form there’ll be plenty more magical Moussa moments – not just on away days, but at St Mary’s too.


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