Southampton have added to their attacking options for next season with the capture of winger Moussa Djenepo from Standard Liege.
The 21-year-old Mali international was signed for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £14m.
Djenepo has been priced up at an appealing £5.5m in Fantasy Premier League.
A pacy wide-midfielder who is fond of a dribble, the predominantly right-footed Djenepo played the bulk of his games at Standard on the left flank as an inverted winger.
That would perhaps give an indication that Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is looking to use his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation more often in 2019/20, having settled on a 3-5-2 for much of last season – the wing-back system not leaving any space for wingers.
Upon signing for the Saints, Djenepo said:
I have a good mentality, I never give up and always work hard. I’m quick and I enjoy dribbling with the ball. That’s what the fans can expect of me and I will give my all for them.
Hasenhüttl said of his new signing:
He is an exciting player, with tremendous pace and good finishing abilities, who we have watched closely for some time.
He combines his quality with a good mentality and he is the right profile of player that we want to sign – still in the early part of his career, already with a lot of talent, but also with a great amount of potential that I believe we can help him to fulfil.
I think he will be an excellent fit for our style of play and shape, and these are the important characteristics we must look for.
In an interview with Read Southampton, Belgian football journalist Bob Faesen added:
I would say you can use him in a counter-attacking formation and in an attacking formation as well since he’s fast, but also a good dribbler and pretty calm in front of goal. He even played a couple of games as a wing-back in a 5-3-2 system.
He would often surprise you with his dribbles: for example, his dribble against Ajax in the Champions League qualification stage which resulted in a penalty.
Plus, he’s pretty effective and very fast. He is your typical right-footed winger on the left flank.
The History and Statistics
Born in Bamako in June 1998, Djenepo plied his trade with Malian side Yeelen Olympique before Standard Liege snapped the then 18-year-old winger up on a loan move in January 2017.
The half-season trial was successful enough for the Belgian club to make the move permanent that summer, despite Djenepo not featuring for the first team during that time.
Djenepo’s senior debut arrived in August 2017, as a substitute in a 4-0 defeat to Club Brugge.
The Malian was only used as an impact sub in his first full season in Belgium.
All 33 of his appearances in the Belgian top flight, the end-of-season league playoffs and the domestic cup came off the bench, his one and only goal of 2017/18 arriving in a 3-2 win over KV Oostende in March of last year.
The 2018/19 campaign was Djenepo’s breakthrough year, with positional rival Edmilson Junior having departed for Qatari club Al-Duhail SC in pre-season.
Making his first Standard start in the season-opening Jupiler Pro League match against KAA Gent in July, Djenepo became a semi-regular fixture in his side’s starting XI and went on to make 32 appearances across the regular season and the subsequent playoffs – although eight were as a substitute.
Djenepo scored eight goals and recorded two bona fide assists in those 32 fixtures, although did win a further three penalties for his team – fouls that would have led to Fantasy assists in FPL had, as they were in this case, the spot-kicks been converted.
Tasting only five minutes of Champions League football in the third qualification round defeat to Ajax in August (the new Southampton signing winning a penalty in that cameo appearance), Djenepo made his mark on the continental stage in the Europa League, where he scored three goals in five group games.
Having played for his country at under-20 level, Djenepo made his senior international debut in a World Cup qualification match in October 2017 and is a part of the Mali squad at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Twelve months ago, Southampton welcomed another promising young left-winger with an eye for goal from a ‘lesser’ European league.
A year on, Mohamed Elyounoussi (£5.5m) – who reportedly cost the Saints more than Djenepo – finished his debut Premier League campaign without a single goal or assist to his name in 785 minutes of top-flight football.
Priced up by FPL at £7.0m at the start of 2018/19, Elyounoussi ended the season at £6.5m and in 0.1% of Fantasy squads having made only one league start this calendar year.
Caution is always advised with a Premier League rookie such as Djenepo, then, although unfortunate circumstances – a change of manager and formation midway through the campaign – contributed to Elyounoussi’s woes as much as his own indifferent form.
The difference here is that Djenepo is very much Hasenhüttl’s man and would presumably have been targeted for his capacity to slot nicely into the Austrian head coach’s system as much for his potential and – being cynical – maybe even his sell-on value.
FPL have generously priced him at £5.5m, too, about as cheap as we could have hoped for a winger of this calibre.
Scrutinising Djenepo’s fairly decent underlying stats in 2018/19, he still has something to prove if we Fantasy managers are to look beyond Nathan Redmond (£6.5m) and James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m) as our go-to Southampton midfield options:
|Player||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in box||Mins per shot on target||Mins per big chance||Mins per key pass||Mins per big chance created|
Redmond’s minutes-per-shot average narrowly trumps Djenepo’s, although the Malian has a definite edge when it comes to quality of chances (shots on target, efforts in the box and big chances).
Weighting has to be applied to Djenepo’s statistics, though, given that he was playing in a title-chasing outfit in the Belgian top tier and his new teammates were part of a Southampton side that finished 16th in a superior competition.
In a wider context, Djenepo’s underlying goal threat wasn’t too noteworthy: Richarlison (£8.0m), for example, averaged a big chance every 167.4 minutes, an effort on target every 95.6 minutes and a shot in the box every 41.2 minutes.
Djenepo’s creativity stats were well below what Ward-Prowse was offering and two regulation assists in 32 league appearances underscored this.
As we mentioned in our Scout Report of Daniel James, though, the ability to draw fouls and win penalties could compensate for a lack of creativity: Djenepo won three spot-kicks for his side in the league last season and drew 70 fouls in 2064 minutes – a higher rate than even Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) managed at Crystal Palace.
The general consensus is that the Malian is still very much a raw talent. In the aforementioned interview with Read Southampton, journalist Bob Faesen added:
I would say consistency [is where he could improve]. You can see him as a bit of an unpolished diamond. Maybe one more year in Belgium wouldn’t have been bad for him, but he really improved a lot – maybe he can surprise again.
But he lacks consistency, even though his potential is clear. At the start of last season, he made quite a clumsy impression; as if he was too enthusiastic, but you could see he had something. For example, he took some stupid yellow cards early on.
Sometimes he lacks the ability to see team-mates in the box.
We might not see much of Djenepo in pre-season as he is currently in action with Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations, which finishes three weeks before the start of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, and will presumably be handed a post-tournament breather by the Saints.
Mali could, of course, be on a plane home before the tournament final on July 19 but have made it as far as the round of 16 at the time of writing.
We may get a glimpse of Djenepo in a Southampton shirt in the friendlies against Feyenoord or Koln, then, should Mali bow out early.
If he is used as one of the two supporting midfielders in Hasenhüttl’s narrow 4-2-2-2, then we could see Redmond playing alongside Djenepo behind a strike duo – though Ward-Prowse will expect to be crowbarred into that system, too.
Redmond could continue ‘out of position’ up front, of course, but bona fide strikers Danny Ings and Che Adams (both £6.0m) have already been snapped up over the summer.
It may be that Hasenhüttl has other ideas up his sleeves, with Redmond perhaps in a more central supporting role in a 4-2-3-1.
Barring some sensational form for Mali, interest will likely be limited from a Fantasy perspective anyway.
While Southampton have some appealing early away matches at Burnley, Brighton and Sheffield United, they also face all of last season’s top nine in the first 13 Gameweeks of 2019/20 and sit bottom of our Season Ticker over this period as a result.
We’ll therefore get a good look at Djenepo before Southampton’s fixtures turn for the better in Gameweek 14 and we face any kind of decision about his Fantasy appeal.
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