Coming off an 8-0 win at Newport County in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, expectations were high this weekend for Southampton. Making the Premier League’s longest away journey, the Saints marched all the way to North-East England to take on Newcastle United. Despite the recent good form, the match was always going to be a tough one for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
Playing extremely well early on, Southampton appeared to give away points when Newcastle took a 2-1 lead in the 90th minute. However, a 96th minute goal from the penalty spot by James Ward-Prowse would salvage a draw for the Saints. Despite this result, the match does represent a missed opportunity given Southampton’s early match form.
That said, a point is a point, and the result represents a good one for this Southampton side. What else was important from this match? Let’s find out and look at five takeaways from the Saints’ draw at Newcastle.
Southampton: Five Takeaways From the Draw at Newcastle
Mohamed Elyounoussi Finally Shines for Saints
Prior to Wednesday’s match at Carabao Cup match at Newport County, Mohamed Elyounoussi had failed to score a single goal for Southampton. In fact, prior to this week, Elyounoussi was viewed by some as one of the club’s biggest busts of all-time. Costing around £16 million back in the summer of 2018, the Norwegian international entered this season having played just 19 matches for the club.
Spending the last two seasons on-loan with Celtic, Elyounoussi earned himself a second chance with Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. So far, the Norwegian has taken advantage of it. Ending his Southampton goalless streak at 1,154 days, Elyounoussi has finally found his scoring touch.
Netting a hat-trick against Newport County, Elyounoussi scored the Saints’ first goal against Newcastle. More impressive, though, was the Norwegian’s positioning and skill both on and off the ball throughout the match. Creating a few opportunities for the Saints, Elyounoussi has finally begun to shine for Southampton. If he can continue this run of form, the 27-year-old may yet find a permanent role in the first team.
Saints Sport New Never Say Die Attitude
Since being appointed Southampton manager back in 2018, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s tenure can be simply summed up as the following. The good, the bad, and the ugly. While most immediately recalling the club’s two 9-0 defeats when hearing this, an even uglier stat has been the club’s record from winning positions.
Under Ralph Hasenhuttl, the club has dropped a Premier League high 60+ points from winning positions. In the past, the club would immediately fall apart after giving up a single goal. Confidence shattered, loss of energy, etc. All were visible symptoms anytime Southampton allowed a goal. This season though, that attitude appears to have changed.
Against Manchester United, Southampton fought back despite giving up the equalizer early in the second half. In this match against Newcastle, Southampton dominated early only to see the Magpies take the lead twice. Fighting back both times, the Saints refused to fall back into old habits. While it is still early in the season, this new resolve and attitude both show extreme promise for the remainder of the season.
The Curious Case of Moussa Djenepo
One of the first signings of the Ralph Hasenhuttl era, Moussa Djenepo has been both a curious and frustrating player for the club. Extremely quick and talented, Djenepo began his Saints career in style, scoring twice in his first two appearances for the South Coast club. Since then however, the Mali international has been plagued by injuries as well as extreme inconsistency.
While this normally would lead to a benching, Djenepo is a player that possesses true game-changing talent. Able to go one-on-one with defenders, he regularly accomplishes the hard part only to fluff his lines at the end. Similarly, Djenepo seems to possess chemistry with every full-back that he’s paired with, creating several chances each match only to come up short at the final step.
These miss-steps were once again on display against Newcastle. While the Mali winger is extremely skillful and talented, questions need to be asked over his regular contribution to the side.
Mohammed Salisu Becomes Star Southampton Believed He’d Be
Joining Southampton from Spanish side Valladolid, Mohammed Salisu was seen as a future star by many of the Southampton front office personnel. Based on his performance this season, it now appears that the future is now. However, based on the start to his Southampton career, this future was far from guaranteed.
The first signing of the summer 2020 transfer window, Salisu joined the South Coast side sporting an injury. The rehab and return from this injury kept Salisu out of the Saints first team until mid February. In fact, Salisu would go on to make just 15 appearances for Southampton last season. A far cry from what many expected of the Ghanaian centre-back.
That fortune quickly changed this season. Starting each of the Saints’ first three Premier League matches, Salisu has been one of the club’s most important players. Making a number of key tackles against Newcastle, the defender played a major role in helping the Saints secure a draw. Given these early performances, it’s clear that Salisu is hitting the lofty heights Southampton expected when they signed him.
Southampton’s Achilles Heal: Finishing
The talent up front for this Southampton side is undeniable. Che Adams, Adam Armstrong, Armando Broja are all amazingly skilled players that make up the Southampton attacking front. Even out wide, the talent is exceptional with the likes of Djenepo and Elyounoussi. However, despite all this quality, the club’s Achilles heal remains their finishing ability.
Take, for instance, Moussa Djenepo’s moment in front of goal against Newcastle. Left alone with the keeper out of position, Djenepo had what should have been the easiest goal of his career. Instead, the ball ended up flying high over the bar. This issue extends far past Djenepo though, with others also struggling in front of goal.
While the above players are extremely skilled and talented, they consistently lack true finishing ability. In past seasons, this issue was covered up by Danny Ings. However, with Ings now gone, this issue could quickly become a back breaker for Southampton this season.
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