Why Saturday's display proves Southampton's Nathan Redmond has a future as a striker
Southampton are entering into a new era under Claude Puel and they were unlucky not to beat Watford on the opening day, after dominating the match. They played a narrow 4-3-1-2 with the full backs providing the width and early signs were encouraging. They had significantly more possession and had 25 shots in the match. Although they didn’t take the three points, there were a lot of positives for Southampton to take into their next few matches.
Their best player on Saturday was arguably Nathan Redmond, who was deployed as a striker. Throughout his career, he has played primarily as a winger and it was surprising to see Puel use him as a striker, but he did well and suits the role.
He was always likely to be an important part of the Southampton attack this season after another summer of change at the club. Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle both departed, which has left a big hole in their attacking options. Between them, they scored 22 of the club’s league goals last season, showing the task ahead of Redmond. He has been the only forward signed this summer, which highlights the belief that the club have in him to perform.
Redmond repaid that faith during the opening fixture against Watford, as he scored a crucial equaliser. He was a constant threat all afternoon and was involved in a lot of what was good about Southampton in the final third. It was clear that he was still getting to grips with his new position, as he wasn’t making the types of runs that a traditional number nine makes, but that unpredictability made him difficult to defend against.
He looked to drop deep at times against Watford with Shane Long making the dangerous runs in behind, which he is known for. Redmond was given a free role and he relished the freedom given to him. Throughout his career, he has looked to run with the ball using his pace and skill to beat defenders. This can be even more threatening in central areas.
The England Under-21 international was direct and tried to get a shot away whenever the opportunity presented itself. He had five shots throughout the game and scored once. If he continues to get shots in on goal at this rate, he will score a lot as the season progresses. The goal he scored on Saturday was well taken. The ball was awkwardly punched out from the corner and dropped to Redmond, who was composed in volleying past Heurelho Gomes. It was a difficult finish, but he made it look easy and he was unlucky not to score again.
His overall game was excellent and he linked up the attack well. In terms of passing, he kept things simple and rarely lost possession. Against Watford, Redmond finished with a 90.3% pass accuracy, which is superb for a striker given most of his possession came in the final third. He also showed that he can influence the game with his passing, making four key passes on Saturday.
Southampton look like they have done a great bit of business by bringing Nathan Redmond to the club. He has been around the English game for the long time, but he is still very young and he has the potential to become an excellent attacker. The early indications are that he will be given a bigger role at St Marys’ than he was with Norwich and he is brimming with confidence as the season begins.
It will be interesting to see if he is used as a striker for the rest of the season as there are rumours that Claude Puel wants to bring in a replacement for Graziano Pelle. If they continue to line up in a narrow formation without wingers, Redmond has the potential to be one of the surprise stories of the season. He enjoyed the freedom to roam and was a constant threat against Watford. The real test for him will be to perform at that level consistently and emerge as a key player for Southampton.
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