After a difficult and uneventful 2017/18 campaign, this season, Nathan Redmond means business.
During sections of last season, the weight of fans’ frustration fell on Nathan Redmond’s shoulders, as he was arguably targeted as the scapegoat for Saints’ misfortunes. The pressure of replacing Sadio Mane looked to be hindering and holding back his talents.
The Englishman started life perfectly at St Mary’s by netting the equaliser in Claude Puel’s first game in charge against Watford. However, following his goal against Manchester City in October, Redmond went 15 games without scoring; his next coming in March as Saints faced Watford at Vicarage Road.
At the end of his first season at Southampton, Redmond registered seven goals and one assist in 37 league appearances. As a young, promising winger in his debut season, it wasn’t a bad return by any stretch of the imagination – but the club had wrongfully given him the responsibility of being our second largest goal threat.
We were demanding all too much from Redmond all too soon, and we desperately needed another attacking threat; for the benefit of the team and Redmond’s own development.
Last season, as Mauricio Pellegrino’s turgid, defensive football dragged Saints into a relegation battle, the lack of results and performances effected no player more than Redmond. Under the Argentine, Redmond failed to score in the league and it took until Saints’ trip to Everton in May until he bagged his first goal.
The 2017/18 campaign was the worst in Redmond’s career and, at times, he deserved the criticism from fans after failing to show his talent on a consistent basis.
In some ways, Redmond has been an embodiment of Saints’ transfer policy across the past few seasons; sell high and buy low. And when you’re seeing Mane reach a Champions League final, while Southampton scrape for their Premier League status, it leaves somewhat of a bitter taste in the mouth of the St Mary’s faithful.
He knew he had to improve, and as a result he made his way to a training camp in Los Angeles prior to pre-season training. Alongside Daniel Sturridge, Redmond kept fans posted on Instagram of his hard work stateside; a far cry from his cryptic posts during last season’s disappointment.
Heads began to turn after seeing Redmond work vigorously during the off season and the hard work paid off in pre-season, as he grabbed back-to-back goals in Southampton’s matches against FC Schalke 04 and Jiangsu Suning in China.
Redmond looks a completely different player from that of last season and he’s been one of our most consistent performers during the opening five games of the season. So far in the league, Redmond has averaged 2.3 shots and 2.3 successful dribbles per game, which is far better than what he averaged during the last campaign when he averaged 1.4 shots and 1.8 dribbles per game.
However, these stats need to be taken with a pinch of salt due to how early we are into this season.
Examining his promising start to this season, it appears that this could become a defining year for Redmond at Southampton. As his confidence has grown under Hughes, he’s started to utilise his pace and dribbling ability. A fine example of this is against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Carabao Cup, as he undoubtedly ignited our forward line when he was introduced from the bench.
Deep into the second half with penalties looming, Redmond cut inside, beating two Brighton defenders, then delivered a perfectly chipped ball into the box for Austin to head home the winner.
It’s great to see Redmond playing with a smile on his face again, as Mark Hughes seems to have inspired confidence into our forward, but he’s still yet to register a goal and an assist this season; something he’ll desperately be wanting to add to his game.
The talent is there, so let’s hope that he can build on these promising signs and become the player we know he can be.