Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe takes a look at how Nathan Redmond has added goals and assists to his game since the arrival of new Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl...
It’s arguable no player epitomises the changes visible at Southampton more than Nathan Redmond.
The confidence and effervescence he’s displaying, grinning away as he slices through opposing lines, is undoubtedly symptomatic of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s bubbling new regime.
Redmond’s been varying degrees of excellent in the new manager’s first three games in charge: looking bright against Cardiff City, helping decide the game against Arsenal, then downright dominating against Huddersfield Town.
That latest performance in west Yorkshire, freshest in the memory, was so good it transcended barriers. It’s not just Southampton-based chins wagging over how good Redmond has looked now; there are football fans up and down the country muttering well-deserved praises.
It’s not that he’s only just started playing – in fact, it beggars belief he hadn’t recorded an assist prior to this month given the quality of cross he’d been consistently measuring in – but right now he looks absolutely electric.
He’s on a different level, marking himself out as a difference-maker for a Saints side that have been in need of one or two.
Redmond’s performance against the Terriers had everything: speed, incision, creativity, work rate and – most importantly – that finishing touch. It was complete.
From the first whistle, it was clear he was going to be too hot to handle, a sharpness to his touch and a purpose to his movements.
Ducking into midfield to get his foot on the ball, Saints’ defenders looked to play to him even whilst under pressure, and he was able to turn his markers and initiate quick phases of passing play whether marked or not.
Huddersfield’s defence had no idea how to handle him as he dropped off the line to get on the ball – stay back and allow him to turn, or follow him up the field and risk ripping a hole others could take advantage of? Then he started running directly at them... and they just wilted before his feet.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s cutting through ball sent Redmond bearing down on Terence Kongolo, and the Dutchman’s thought process just crashed.
Caught between confronting Redmond and dropping off he did neither, his desperate outstretched leg doing nothing to prevent the winger steaming through and rifling home.
It was brilliant, but not unexpected or surprising. Since Hasenhüttl has begun remoulding this team it’s felt like a matter of time before Redmond provided a moment of goalscoring quality such as this, and Huddersfield just happened to be the unfortunate victims.
Fifty-five minutes later, the hosts fell prey to the “other” side to Redmond’s game that’s impressed so much recently: tremendous pressing, fitness and work rate.
He’s not alone in improving these aspects – the entire team looks fitter, stronger and more enduring – but he is something of a poster boy for it.
To see him harassing and harrying defenders, looking to force errors, for a full 90 minutes, was eyebrow-raising – not least for the defenders in question themselves.
As the clock hit the 70-minute mark, Christopher Schindler, Huddersfield’s pillar of defensive consistency, couched up possession in his own box under duress from the irrepressible Redmond, and the winger squared it simply for Michael Obafemi’s first league goal.
Again, that had been coming. Saints’ approach off the ball has become more energetic and more aggressive, something embodied most obviously by the man in the number 22 shirt, tearing around without pause.
Redmond’s blend of agility, directness, dribbling ability and work rate mark him out as the sort of player Hasenhüttl can mould into something vicious, and progress is being made fast.
These first three matches have provided a taster for what could prove to be a blistering second half of the season.