Has Nathan Redmond been Southampton’s most impressive performer this season?
Southampton have made an acceptable start to life under Claude Puel, but by no means anything more than that. The South Coast outfit have drawn twice at home, both rather uninspiring 1-1 draws against Watford and Sunderland, with a commendable 0-2 away defeat at Old Trafford sandwiched between.
The Europa League group stage draw has provided a welcome and pleasant distraction, with plans of trips to Milan, Prague and Israel deflecting focus from early mediocre league form.
However, in the three games so far, which Saint has done the most to get the St. Mary’s crowd on their feet?
Nathan Redmond is one such candidate. The 22-year-old flyer was signed from Norwich City on the opening day of this summer’s transfer window and helped alleviate worries of outgoings such as Wanyama and Mane.
The Birmingham-born winger scored on his debut to rescue a point against Watford as he guided a volley through a boxful of players following a corner, which went someway to repaying the rumoured £10 million fee paid to the Canaries for his services.
Redmond has played every minute of Southampton’s season so far, and has contributed exactly half of their goals – one out of two. Does that make him the Saints’ most impressive performer? It certainly puts the Birmingham City academy graduate in contention, but there is rather a drab offering on display.
Jay Rodriguez is the other player I would put in contention to challenge Redmond for the crown of Southampton’s most impressive performer so far this season. Rodriguez’s injury problems of the past few seasons have been well documented. A fan’s favourite, he was greeted to rapturous applause when he made his comeback last season, and despite his playing time being limited to mainly cup fixtures, so far this term he has chipped in with a vital goal to earn a point and save a rather embarrassing home loss to Sunderland.
Rodriguez’s future was unclear going into the last few days of the transfer window, with reports suggesting he may go out on loan. That said, the Burnley-born 27-year-old stayed on the South Coast, and looks set to try and fight his way into Puel’s first team plans. With a lack of goals evident thus far in the Saint’s Premier League campaign, Puel and the red half of the south coast will be hoping Rodriguez can re-ignite the form he enjoyed before his long injury lay-off.
Honourable mentions at this point must go to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for his growing contribution to Southampton’s creativity in midfield, and also to Oriol Romeu for his solidity at the base of Puel’s diamond, but neither of these impacts have been quite enough to gain traction in the ‘most important player’ stakes.
So, in conclusion, Southampton’s most impressive performer this year?
It probably is Jay Rodriguez, but realistically no single player in particular has stood up to be counted so far this season. The fact he has a better goals per minute ratio than Redmond at this embryonic stage of the season edges him to win this; albeit made up, award.
The international break may come at a good time for Puel, who can re-group and collect his thoughts to figure out his most dangerous starting XI going forward. Next up is Arsenal away – no easy task – but Puel knows he needs to register a league win, sooner rather than later, especially with a European campaign on the horizon.
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