Following an impressive start to the season, our tactics writer, Sam Tighe, assesses the reasons behind Nathan Redmond's excellent opening to the campaign...
Nathan Redmond has looked a player reborn and re-inspired so far this season.
One of only five players to complete all 360 available Premier League minutes this term for the club – alongside figures such as captain Ryan Bertrand and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy – it’s clear he’s one of the players Mark Hughes has truly chosen to lean on during his first full campaign in charge.
Recently, Redmond detailed how last season was “one of the worst I’ve ever experienced, personally,” as a struggle for form led to him starting less than 60 per cent of the team's league games.
That’s all changed now, though, and here are the five key reasons the 24-year-old is back to his flying best.
Confidence from Hughes
“I’ve sat down with the manager – we’ve had several conversations throughout pre-season. I want to be the player I know I can be and what a lot of people expect me to be.”
Football might just be the ultimate confidence game, and Redmond’s certainly benefitting from his frank chats with Hughes over the summer. A freedom to perform and express yourself is at least partially rooted in knowing your manager believes in you, and right now it looks as though those conversations might be one of Hughes’s most important summer actions.
Southampton recruited two quality players in Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi to bolster the team’s creative engine this summer. But Redmond has kept a place ahead of them thus far, taking their arrivals as a challenge he must respond to.
Armstrong and Elyounoussi, along with James Ward-Prowse, have all shared time on the right flank, while Redmond has locked down the left. Perhaps that’s not how some saw that fight for minutes shaking out early on, but Redmond has raised his game in response to an influx of fresh talent.
sam tigheit's clear he falls into a strong-minded, determined category.
Southampton’s recent 4-4-2 shape has brought Redmond into the game heavily. He (and his fellow winger on the right) play a slightly narrower role than usual, starting in the channel (or halfspace) and giving themselves the option to dart inside or out.
A player like Redmond, whose agility and dynamism allows him to skip around lunging tackles, can rip opposing defensive structures apart with slick shimmies and clever footwork, and Southampton’s current tactical system affords him plenty of opportunities to make the difference in each game.
He looks like he’s acting on instinct again, playing quickly, utilising flicks, and consistently committing defenders. When he does all of these things, he’s undoubtedly at his most dangerous.
Relationship with Ryan Bertrand
A strong relationship between winger and full-back is crucial; some of the very best and most entertaining teams across the years have looked to a wide tandem to create chances, score goals and defend together.
Redmond’s regular playing time with captain Bertrand has seen the two gel together as a symbiotic pairing, supporting each other when one pushes forward, linking in possession and overlapping one another to great effect. Redmond’s also fully willing to put a shift in defensively and help his colleague, lifting Bertrand’s game as a result.
It’s a relationship that’s really kick-started during this season and looks impressive despite its relative infancy.
Identifying obstacles is one thing; overcoming them is another thing entirely.
You have to be cut from a certain type of cloth to accomplish the latter, and in light of Redmond’s admissions this year with regard to struggles on and off the pitch, it’s clear he falls into a strong-minded, determined category.
“It’s all down to how I react and how I respond,” he affirmed last month. His actions are backing up his words, his fantastic start to the 2018/19 campaign evidence of it.