This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Attacking players win you games, right?
One may argue that you can never have too many quick-thinking forwards capable of that moment of brilliance, the flash that can turn one point into three.
However, having such an embarrassment of riches prompts the question: How can they all fit into the side and get a sufficient amount of game time?
In Southampton’s case, Ralph Hasenhuttl has this same dilemma on his hands.
The former RB Leipzig boss doesn’t necessarily have Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez at his disposal, but he still has plenty of game-changing attackers who can’t quite all fit in the same XI.
Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings, Che Adams, Sofiane Boufal, Moussa Djenepo and Michael Obafemi.
Six forwards. Just three attacking positions up for grabs – if Hasenhuttl continues with his 3-4-2-1 system which he used last time out against Sheffield United, that is.
It should be mentioned that James Ward-Prowse also took up one of these positions against the Blades, so you could argue that seven players are vying for three positions – however, a bold move from Hasenhuttl looks to have helped solve this huge selection headache somewhat.
Whilst some at Southampton may have been scared to see the 21-year-old – making just his fourth appearance in English football – play as part of the backline, Djenepo didn’t let them down.
In fact, he performed brilliantly.
Before being moved further forward later on in the game, the former Standard Liege man registered two tackles, one interception and two clearances, proving to be a capable pair of hands in the new role.
Upon being moved further forward, he then performed a bit of magic to sidestep Oliver Norwood, before dropping a shoulder and slotting home into the bottom corner.
When asked about the tactical decision, Hasenhuttl said: “I tried to have a right-footer on the left side to come inside and create and go into the red zone.
“Moussa showed against Liverpool in the last ten minutes that he can play this position in an offensive way but it was sure a risk, but I wanted to take this risk.”
Although Djenepo won’t be involved against Bournemouth on Friday night due to injury, that self-proclaimed risk may have just solved a huge selection problem for Hasenhuttl in the long-term, especially when all his options are fit.
Let’s just try to sum up how tough this situation is.
In Redmond, the Saints have a man who was their main attacking outlet last term with six goals and four assists to his name, so it would be a questionable decision to drop him.
Boufal has steadily become a starter once again since returning from his loan spell at Celta Vigo, with Hasenhuttl stating how important the Moroccan’s ability to carry the ball up the field is after the 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
Elsewhere, Adams – a £15m signing from Birmingham – has got himself into promising positions despite not scoring. it would be a huge call to drop him so soon into his Saints career – especially given the price tag he commanded.
Ings, a striker of real pedigree having turned out for Liverpool and England, commanded a £20m fee this summer and would certainly feel hard done by if he was dropped for a long period of time – the former Burnley man also hit seven goals last season.
Every player involved in this selection headache – perhaps excluding Obafemi given his inexperience – has some sort of case to start.
However, by finding Djenepo a spot at left wing-back and discovering that the Malian is a capable option there, Hasenhuttl has freed up more space in attack, thus reducing the dilemma on his hands.
Ironically, it solves a problem at left-back too. With Ryan Bertrand injured and apparently out of favour – Hasenhuttl said he would’ve dropped the occasional England man regardless – Kevin Danso filled in there against Manchester United only to be sent off in the second half.
Djenepo represents a solution there as well, an alternative for the left side of the St. Mary’s defence, albeit as a wing-back rather than a traditional No.3.
The summer signing is already ticking a lot of boxes for the Saints boss, albeit perhaps not in the way he expected when he arrived on the south coast, and much of it owes to Hasenhuttl’s willingness to take a tactical gamble away from home.