Could Southampton's new signing emulate one of the Premier League greats?
Thierry Henry is one of the finest strikers to grace the Premier League in its 24-year history. His plaudits are endless, his goals were numerous and his talent was seemingly limitless.
Alan Smith: “I haven’t seen a player like him. He’s an athlete with great technical ability and a tremendous desire to be the best.”
He began his career as a winger during his youth at Monaco and with his second club Juventus, but Henry truly became the player he was under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage at Arsenal. The Frenchman was purchased as a replacement for Nicolas Anelka and despite a significant £11 million transfer fee at the time, Wenger maintained he was worth every penny.
Arsene Wenger: “Thierry Henry could take the ball in the middle of the park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score.”
He went onto score 175 goals in 254 Premier League appearances for the club and remains the 5th highest scorer in the league’s history.
Nathan Redmond, on the other hand, is yet to make such a significant impact. The 22-year-old joined Southampton this summer for, rather coincidentally, a fee of around £11 million after plying his trade at Norwich for the past three years.
Redmond featured almost solely on the wing for Norwich and proved perhaps their most significant attacking outlet as they laboured to a disappointing relegation. Despite being relegated, the Birmingham Mail said “Redmond’s form over the last three months was as good as it ever has been,” and Saints fans will be hoping it carries on into this campaign.
Claude Puel certainly has faith in his new signing. He fully believes that Redmond could follow in Henry’s footsteps and become a top class striker given the right education.
Puel: “They have the ability to shoot with their right foot and to curl the ball. Redmond can feel the play and can combine with his partner. It is a good surprise to find this player.”
But is it too audacious to make a claim like that over a player who, while impressing in an unimpressive Norwich side, hasn’t exactly dominated the league?
A trait of Thierry Henry’s football was his calm finishing. Despite his incredible speed with the ball at his feet, Henry dispatched goal after goal with a degree of composure that some players only dream of.
While Redmond isn’t close to that level yet, he has shown some promise in the goal scoring department. He slotted six goals last season in a team that only managed to net 39 times in the whole campaign, which is a decent return for a wide midfielder that only started 24 games.
Redmond also averaged a 45% shot accuracy over the course of the campaign. 45% may not be the clinical finishing some may expect, but remains one of the highest totals for a Norwich City player last season.
Perhaps the defining characteristic of Henry’s football was his incredible dribbling technique. Henry used his incredibly fleet feet to dive between opposing defenders, outmanoeuvre defensive systems like the offside trap or completely dazzle with his rapid, intricate footwork. He didn’t need to rely on teammates to score, creating opportunities for himself with surging runs often starting from near his own half.
Alan Hansen: “And then there is the magnificent Thierry Henry – someone who has blistering pace and is unbelievable when he is finishing at his best.”speeds. The delicacy and subtlety isn’t quite there yet, but there’s plenty of time for it to develop.
Alex Neil rarely encouraged direct dribbling last season, preferring to create a culture of tight passing and off the ball movement. Despite that, Redmond still managed nearly two attacking dribbles per game, an indicator of his inclination to make driving runs at the opposition defence.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Henry’s game was his ability to create for his teammates. Henry was attributed for his teamwork and unselfish play between 2002 and 2005 especially, a period within which he racked up almost 50 assists alone.
Redmond’s time as a winger has resulted in a similar attitude. He’s known for laying balls off to teammates and crossing from deep. If he can maintain those important aspects of his game as a centre forward, he could emulate Henry’s creative talents as a striker.
He was one of Norwich’s most creative influences last season, creating 45 chances for teammates across the course of the campaign, an implication of his creative talents.
While aiming for Thierry Henry’s level of influence may be a little ambitious by Claude Puel, Nathan Redmond certainly shares some of the legendary striker’s characteristics. It’s unlikely that Redmond will ever truly emulate the success of Henry, but with serious commitment and dedication he could become a similar kind of player for Southampton.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Fourfourtwo
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