Luke Weir gives us his thoughts on todays #SaintsFC win
It hasn’t taken long for Moussa Djenepo to become a fan’s favourite after injecting Saints with some much-needed life in their 2-0 win at Brighton.
This result got Saints off the mark for the 2019/20 Premier League season after collecting three valuable points following back-to-back defeats to begin the campaign.
The game also featured a shocking red card for Brighton, a goal disallowed by VAR and a well worked second goal to wrap up the game which featured an excellent assist for Sofiane Boufal.
A 3-0 defeat at Burnley and a 2-1 loss to Liverpool would not have been the start that Ralph Hasenhuttl would’ve wanted after a summer and pre-season that featured plenty of optimism for a successful campaign.
The manager had experimented with different variations of a five at the back formation with a 5-2-3 system used at Burnley with it tweaked to 5-3-2 for the Liverpool clash.
It was therefore somewhat of a surprise to see the team sheet with four recognisable defenders on there, some thought that it could still be a back-five with James Ward-Prowse filling in at left wing-back but that was not the case.
The manager instead went for a 4-2-2-2 formation that he has been itching to use for some time; this meant that Kevin Danso came in for his Saints debut to play at left-back with Ryan Bertrand out after sustaining an ankle injury in training.
I thought Danso performed admirably in an unfamiliar position and on his less favoured side, you could see his height and strength will come in handy when he eventually makes the transition to playing at centre-back.
Brighton’s new era under ex-Saint Graham Potter had began well with a 3-0 win at Watford and a 1-1 draw with West Ham and you could see some of that new confidence and new style in their play.
However, the game began in a scrappy way with neither side really creating any clear-cut chances before the course of the game changed on the half-hour mark.
Brighton were reduced to 10-men after an absolutely shocking challenge by Florin Andone, the Romanian went in late on Yan Valery and planted his foot on Valery’s outstretched lower leg.
It was so bad that Potter even came out afterwards and apologised to Saints for the tackle, although that didn’t stop some Albion fans booing Valery for reasons that I can and never will understand.
I’m just glad that Yan was able to walk away from what was a horrific impact on his leg that could have done plenty of harm to the youngster.
The next big talking point came around 10 minutes later when Lewis Dunk headed home from a corner before it was ruled out following a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review.
Brighton defender Dan Burn was backing into Angus Gunn as the corner was taken which knocked the Saints goalkeeper down as he watched the ball fire past him into the back of the net.
Not only was it a foul by Burn but he was also standing in an offside position so it was inevitable that the goal would be ruled out, another instance in which VAR has been used correctly despite still having its critics.
So, a let off for Saints against 10-men and they weren’t creating much at the other end either which would have concerned Hasenhuttl and led to an early change in the second-half.
Moussa Djenepo came on for Valery which was a bold showing of intent by the gaffer who bought on an exciting attacking player for a defensive one.
Just two minutes later and the magic moment of the match came to spark Southampton’s season into life; Djenepo picked up the ball on the left, cut inside and curled a superb effort into the far corner.
Djenepo had a 15-minute cameo against Liverpool the previous week and I would have described it as erratic, he looked incredibly lively going forward but was also suspect of a mistake and silly foul.
You could see signs of that again at the Amex, although this time it was almost all positive. His performance reminded me of a very raw Sadio Mane when he first arrived at St Mary’s, a rough diamond that is a polish away from being a very good forward. One thing seems certain – he’s going to be rather fun to watch.
The Mali international’s goal also continues an impressive record of scoring from outside the penalty area since the start of last season, only Spurs (17) have scored more than Saints (15) in that time.
Soon after and another change was made by Hasenhuttl and another positive impact. Sofiane Boufal’s Saints career had been under question after being loaned out to Celta Vigo last season, however it appears that the winger is being given another chance to impress and show his qualities on a more consistent basis.
There was one run that Boufal made at the Amex that reminded me of his wonder goal against West Brom a couple of seasons ago, although this time he didn’t get into a shooting position.
We now had two players that weren’t afraid to run at the Brighton defence on the pitch and despite fans now claiming that both should start in upcoming games, I believe that they would be better utilised as ‘super subs’ as they were today and to test tired legs.
There were plenty of nervy moments while the score was at 1-0 although Gunn was rarely tested to a great degree, the nerves were finally settled when the game was sealed late on.
Moments after another substitute, Stuart Armstrong, tested Mat Ryan in the Brighton goal, Boufal went on another run down the left before playing the ball across goal for Nathan Redmond to slot home.
Last year’s player of the season put in another stellar performance as he looked the most likely to cause problems for the opposition defence and was duly rewarded with his late goal.
This was by no means a pretty performance from Saints, but it certainly was effective and it showed a clinical side that we don’t often see from the side.
The league table looks a bit better now as it shows the number three next to Southampton’s name and we are out of the relegation zone for the time being.
We return to St Mary’s for the early kick-off next Saturday to face Manchester United with an opportunity to cause a bit of an upset and to keep this momentum going.
Main photo credit: Matt Watson Southampton FC