Moussa Djenepo 2019/20 – scout report
The last few seasons have been a nightmare for Southampton. In 2017/18, they were only four points safe from playing in the Championship. Later that year, their board appointed Ralph Hasenhüttl to replace Mark Hughes as the Saints’ manager. The Austrian didn’t give an instant impact though, as he only succeeded to help Southampton finish just five points above the relegation zone.
Soton’s journey with Hasenhüttl improved a lot in 2019/20. If we look at the final Premier League table, they finished in 11th spot – just seven points from the European zone. That partly happened because of their successful summer recruitments. One of them was Moussa Djenepo, who arrived from Belgian side Standard Liege for a reported fee of £14 million. Without further ado, this tactical analysis will dig deep into the Malian’s role for his club.
Djenepo is a versatile winger who can play on both flanks. Not only that, but Hasenhüttl has even deployed him as a wing-back or an inside forward whenever Southampton played in a 3–4–2–1 system. Djenepo hasn’t been able to break into his team’s regular lineup, but he seems to efficiently use the chances given to him. If we look at the numbers, Djenepo has only played 925 minutes in the league last season. However, he was able to produce two goals and two assists from those limited minutes.
As a winger, Djenepo is gifted with quick feet and blazing pace. Those enable him to excel in one-versus-one duels against the Premier League’s elite full-backs. It doesn’t stop there. The 22-year-old’s explosiveness is also useful in Southampton’s aggressive defending tactics under Hasenhüttl. This scout report will examine further about his impact for the Saints.
Hasenhüttl primarily instructed Southampton to attack conservatively. It means that they would try to play directly to their centre-forwards rather than taking unnecessary risks by building from the back. The statistics prove this, as Soton averaged about 67 long balls per league game in 2019/20.
In the direct approach, Djenepo mainly acts as a potential lay-off receiver. That’s because the task of winning aerial duels was given to Long, Danny Ings, and co. i.e. the strikers. To help win the second ball, Soton’s target man would get support by nearby teammates. Those include the ball-side winger (including Djenepo), his partnering attacker(s), and at least one of the central midfielders. After winning the ball, the Saints then will try to attack quickly through one flank before sending a cross into the box.
However, sometimes Soton also liked to play with more patience. They would try to spread the playing field as wide as possible whenever they enjoy possession. One thing that occurs mostly in Hasenhüttl’s attacking tactics is his reluctance to give his players a lot of freedom with their positionings. It means that the outfield players would stay in their designated areas instead of roaming freely to disrupt the opponents.
As a winger or a wing-back, Djenepo is tasked to play wide and hug the touchline. The objective behind that was to provide the width and stretch the opponents’ defensive line. However, when he plays as an attacker in the 3–4–2–1, Djenepo would tuck inside and play in close proximity to the centre-forward.
As mentioned in this analysis, Djenepo is blessed with a pair of quick feet. He would utilise this ability by starting from the touchline before driving into the box. By deliberately starting wide, it gives him ample time and space to engage with the defender before beating him.
One particular aspect that Djenepo likes to use is a sudden change of movement in the last second. It means that he would like to make a sharp turn when the defender is attempting to tackle. This particular tendency would most likely send his marker off-balance, allowing Djenepo to attack the opposite direction quickly.
Sometimes, Djenepo could also continue his run and drive more centrally. This would happen mostly when he plays as a left-winger. Because of his right-footedness, Djenepo would try to cut deeper inside before making a shot from the central area. However, this feat is more like an unpolished potential, and he needs to use it more often.
Djenepo does not only excel in driving from wide areas. His quick feet also enables him to get past opponent(s) in congested space. He could use la croqueta, push the ball into space and run around his marker, or any trick that would help him beat the defender and move forward.
Djenepo’s on-ball ability is proven by his high rate of successful dribbles. The stats show that Djenepo averaged 4.3 (67.19%) accurate dribbles per 90 minutes in the league. That’s one of the best among his teammates last season.
Suits Southampton’s aggressive defending
Under Hasenhüttl, the Saints have become somewhat notorious when not having the ball: just ask Manchester United when both teams met last July. To be more specific, Soton would press their opponents up to their penalty box and prevent them from playing smoothly from the back.
Usually, Southampton would press in 4–3–3 or 4–2–3–1. The main centre-forward would press the opponents’ on-ball centre-back (even the goalkeeper at times), as well as limiting the space and time for the defender. The striker would be supported by his wingers next to him, and the midfielders in behind.
As a winger, Djenepo is mainly instructed to stand close to the nearby opponent — usually the opponents’ full-back or wide centre-back — and prevent the defender from being accessed. This would provoke the on-ball player to send direct balls up front or play negatively to the goalkeeper. If the on-ball opponent persists to pass the ball to his teammate nearby, Djenepo would immediately press him. When doing so, the Malian would also try to force the opponent in front of him to play backwards or even commit an error.
The aggressive tendency doesn’t mean Soton could not defend in a more conservative way, though. When the opponents have the ball for a prolonged time, Hasenhüttl would ask his men to sit in a compact 4–4–2 block. The objective was to control the central spaces and force the other team to play through the flanks. They would continue to press with aggression when the ball has moved to the wide area.
Djenepo indeed is a versatile player who can play not only as a winger in both flanks but also as a wing-back. However, the defensive role seems not to suit his game at the moment. Djenepo still lacks defensive discipline and awareness that sometimes allowed the opponents to enjoy huge space inside Soton’s defensive block.
To be more specific, in those moments he could be found closer to the midfielders rather than to his fellow defenders, despite playing as a wing-back. This particular weakness is also one of the reasons why Djenepo has collected four yellow cards and one red card despite having only played in less than 1,000 league minutes.
As a winger, the 22-year-old is not perfect, either. Currently, Djenepo lacks quality in his delivery. Those include crosses as well as through-balls from deeper areas. The stats prove this finding as he only averaged 0.4 (19.04%) accurate crosses and 0.6 successful through-balls in every 90 league minutes.
Djenepo is an exciting prospect in English football. He has a pair of blazing feet as well as lots of tricks under his belt, all are crucial to excel as a one-versus-one specialist. However, he needs to add more to his game if he wants to be an elite winger: mainly his passing ability, especially in making crosses.
The Malian is quite fortunate, though. That’s because Hasenhüttl has the tendency to play fast-paced offensive football as well as giving chances to young players. Under the Austrian’s leadership, Djenepo can surely be one to watch in 2020/21.