Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe sings the praises of Nathan Redmond, as the Southampton winger's performances continue to improve...
Over the last month or so, a certain Southampton forward has morphed into something truly special.
You may have seen him – or, given how quickly and deftly he’s moving, you actually may not have – as he glides across the pitch, slicing defences open, creating chances and scoring himself.
Dancing in off the left flank, a flash of a shirt number – No. 22, it reads – is all you get as he breezes past his marker. Another shift of the hips and he’s past another, the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes firmly in view now.
Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Giovani Lo Celso, Gedson Fernandes, James McArthur, Martin Kelly, Vicente Guaita, Leander Dendoncker, Romain Saiss – just some of the people Nathan Redmond has embarrassed, tormented or otherwise conspired to ruin their day since mid-January.
His ascent to peak powers has seen him dominate on one of the country’s grandest stages, Tottenham’s new stadium, as well as at home on the south coast.
There have been times in the last few games that he’s more closely resembled, or hit the heights of, players like Douglas Costa of Juventus or Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund.
This is made all the more impressive considering he plays what Ralph Hasenhüttl considers the “most demanding” position in his tactical system.
He was “fantastic against and with the ball, it was key to our win,” the Austrian crowed after Redmond’s distance strike helped Saints to a 2-0 win at Selhurst Park last month.
He’s doing more for the team, physically and tactically, than ever before; and somehow, who knows how, he’s simultaneously producing arguably the most electric attacking displays of his career.
He hit a similar vein of form last season and that was undoubtedly key to Saints’ successful survival bid, though he operated from a floating second striker role then.
Now he’s playing as a left winger with two ahead of him, and it’s unlocked a little something extra in his game.
Few can match his agility and acceleration; defenders balk and trip over themselves as he skips across them and eats up the ground. This makes his out-to-in runs, diagonally inward from the left flank, extremely difficult to stop.
As he skips across and looks up, he sees either Shane Long or Danny Ings making the opposite run – in to out, across the centre-backs – and Redmond has the finesse to play an inch-perfect pass into their path, fully stretching the opposition. It’s a system dynamic that has caused even the best defences in the league problems.
Sometimes he plays that pass. Sometimes he doesn’t. What’s made him consistently threatening is his unpredictability: he can pass, like he did for Danny Ings’s goal vs Tottenham; he can shoot, like he did when he netted against Palace, or when he cracked the bar against Wolves; or he can cut back and take the outside line, crossing with either foot – a huge advantage to hold over a defender.
These flashes of quality delight the fans, meanwhile, his off-the-ball work ethic and willingness to track back to help his full-back have his manager beaming on the sideline.
Much of the discourse surrounding Saints’ recent excellence has centred on Ings, his impressive form and goal tally the most indicators of success at a glance.
But those closer to home know this is a ship powered by multiple fuel sources, of which Redmond is one of the most prominent right now.