When signed in late June on a five-year contract, Saints fans were optimistic that Mohamed Elyounoussi could replace the hugely influential Dusan Tadic, who had just left Southampton for Ajax.
The Saints parted with a hefty £16 million to bring Elyounoussi to St Mary’s. This was a player who had scored against Guardiola’s Man City in the Champions League as well as winning the top flight title in Norway and Switzerland, along with two cups.
Now eight months on and Elyounoussi has yet to register a single goal or assist in any competition, despite playing almost 1,000 minutes and playing in an advanced position behind the striker.
It’s fair to say Elyounoussi hasn’t had the easiest of starts in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Switching from the Swiss league to the Premier League, as well as having to adapt to the physical demands is a challenge in itself, especially when in a relegation battle.
Adding to this is the fact that Elyounoussi is now playing under his second manager in his first season at Southampton, rapidly having to adapt to Hasenhüttl’s high demands, a complete opposite to the style during Hughes’s previous regime.
However, Elyounoussi doesn’t escape criticism here. Not one goal contribution in 17 appearances is a dismal record, especially considering the Saints are in a relegation scrap and in dire need of quality up front.
Sofiane Boufal, for all his flaws, occasionally created something out of nothing. His great goal in the EFL Cup against Sunderland, the brilliant piece of skill to score against West Brom and snatch a late winner, these are moments that will long live in the memories of Saints fans.
Elyounoussi, in contrast, has shown no real quality when on the pitch with constant safe side-ways passing and losing the ball in promising positions. It’s no wonder the Southampton contingent now grumble when he is substituted on.
Transferring to England to play in the Premier League is always a challenge for any foreign player to adapt to. Perhaps this first season is Elyounoussi’s ‘settling in’ period and next season will be his chance to shine.
However, it looks more likely that Elyounoussi will be another player added to the list of poor signings made by the Saints in recent years. Boufal lasted two years before being loaned out, Hoedt a year and a half and Carrillo only six months.
Elyounoussi doesn’t seem to suit the type of football Hasenhüttl likes to play and, unless he dramatically improves his game from now until the end of the season, it seems likely that Elyounoussi will barely last a year at Southampton.