Steve Mounie: Huddersfield's ex-Ligue 1 forward aiming to follow in Didier Drogba's path
Huddersfield caused a major shock last weekend when they upset Manchester United 2-1 at home. It was their most notable scalp since they won promotion to the Premier League for the first time – and yet it was achieved without the man who has been arguably their best player in the opening weeks of the season.
When David Wagner does battle with Jurgen Klopp – the friend he was best man to at his wedding – he will have one of his most important players closer to full fitness.
Steve Mounie only made his return to action in the closing 20 minutes against the Red Devils, having missed out for more than a month due to a heel bone injury.
It did not take long for him to make an impression in the league, having moved from Montpellier during the summer. Indeed, 26 minutes were all he required to head his first goal in the competition as Huddersfield made a spectacular start to life in the top flight when they defeated Crystal Palace 3-0 away from home. Another goal followed with barely quarter of an hour remaining.
“Now people know who I am. I couldn’t imagine a better start. It’s a big confidence boost,” he admitted after the match.
Thierry Henry, Arsenal’s record scorer, warned opposing clubs: “He’s very, very good in the air.”
Palace, though, were caught off guard by the new arrival, who took the league by storm. Since then, he has not found the target, but his value to the side should not be underestimated.
How valuable is Mounie to Huddersfield?
With Mounie in their ranks, they have won three of their five matches, losing just one, and have scored six goals. When he has not been in the squad, they have failed to win any of their four fixtures and have mustered just a solitary goal.
When Huddersfield’s scouts were monitoring his progress with Montpellier last season, they would have spotted a man who operates in the style of an old-fashioned English centre forward. In Ligue 1 he scored 14 times in 35 appearances, having transitioned seamlessly from the second flight, where he had spent the previous season on loan at Nimes.
“Steve has real physical attributes that should be perfect for the Premier League,” Wagner said as he unveiled his new arrival in early July, having prised him from France for a club record fee of €13 million.
“At just 22 years old, he is only going to improve too. Given what he is already capable of, that is very exciting.”
The France-born Benin international’s value is more than the goals he scores; it is his all-round contribution to the team.
The 23-year-old is a figure who is purpose built to lead the line. His strength allows him to hold the ball up and bring others into the action, a vital asset to a team that is likely to come under long periods of pressure as the season progresses.
It is in the air, however, that Huddersfield will reap the most reward from Mounie’s presence. Last season he scored six headers in France’s top flight, a record that was only surpassed by five players in Europe’s major leagues, matching the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Olivier Giroud in this regard.
He is, therefore, a valuable weapon from set pieces, an area where Huddersfield will be eager to exploit, not to mention a useful presence in defending them – something his hero was apt at doing, too.
“My idol is Didier Drogba,” he said after scoring twice on the opening day of the season. “Sometimes I just watch video clips of him, scoring goals over here. I think I have a similar style with him. I’m big like him.
“What he did here is an inspiration to me. He is also African and we almost have the same story. He was born in Africa and came to France and then to England.
"I will try and follow in his footsteps. He is a great player and man. I’ve never met him but maybe I will in the future.”
Certainly, he has the attributes to give a Liverpool defence that is visibly toiling another tough afternoon, though due to a lack of match sharpness he may see fellow battering ram Laurent Depoitre have the opportunity to soften up the Reds first.
This combination of forwards show what Huddersfield are all about this season; they are hard-working, up for a fight and not to be underestimated.
Mounie, in particular, promises much. If he can achieve half as much as his idol Drogba, he will have enjoyed quite the career.