Maya Yoshida owes Nathan Redmond a swanky meal as the midfielder has stolen the wayward criticism often reserved for the Japanese defender.
Southampton’s current form over the last six matches in all competitions (2W, 1D 3L), which includes just four goals, has led to supporters clamouring to find a reason with Redmond becoming the proverbial punching bag.
Redmond, who has spent the majority playing down both flanks since making his £11m move from Norwich last summer, appears to be one of the few first-team players not directly affected by manager Claude Puel’s rotation policy having featured in 20 of a possible 22 matches this season.
The 22-year-old played all 90 minutes – something he has done on 14 occasions – in Southampton’s defeat at Crystal Palace where he created one chance and had two attempts both off target.
After netting on his Southampton debut, Redmond had to wait another 10 appearances before tallying goals in consecutive games, but has not scored since.
So does he deserve the current criticism?
History has a tendency to repeat itself, especially when it comes to this club. Southampton failed to score more than four times during the same span in 2015/16.
So there is a precedent set already and a fall guy to follow.
According to statistics compiled by Squawka, Redmond’s total league performance score (313) ranks second at Southampton, 15th amongst Premier League midfielders and just two places behind the man he replaced: Sadio Mane.
Frustration is obviously compounded when Mane continues to turn in top-rate performances for Liverpool, which includes three goals over his last four games.
But Southampton was spoilt for choice during Mane’s two-year stay on the south coast and is trying to replace his 25 goals in 75 appearances, as well as the production of Graziano Pelle, who scored 30 times between 2014 and 2016.
In comparison, Redmond’s best Premier League campaign came in 2014/15 with Norwich when he scored six times and had 12 assists.
Recent showings from Redmond have been less than ideal, despite the 2016 Toulon winner having contributed six chances over a five-match stretch. Though Southampton as a whole has struggled in front of goal and made uncharacteristic defensive mistakes.
The former Norwich City midfield has produced 25 key passes, a ratio of one every 49.2 minutes, also good for a place in the top 15 and second at the club behind Dusan Tadic. The Serbian international, however, has provided six more in three fewer league appearances and nearly 400 fewer minutes.
It still feels like Southampton, who are without an assist since 16 October, are trying to figure out where Redmond fits.
He failed to fulfil Puel’s early hopes as striker and hasn’t developed chemistry with Cedric or Cuco Martina on the right. Down the left has been the most fruitful option, but his tendency to drift inside makes him invisible.
There’s no doubting Tadic is the catalyst for Southampton’s attack and his absence after suffering a broken nose during the November international break has coincided with the recent dip in form across the squad.
Tadic’s return though will open up a host of questions regarding Redmond’s position within the line-up.
Redmond’s propensity to disappear in large stretches does not warrant a full 90 minutes when others have been performing well. A galvanising period starting on the bench may be beneficial and worked for the likes of Shane Long, who scored four of his first six goals in 2015/16 as a substitute.
The midfielder has logged 514 minutes since the beginning of November, missing just the EFL Cup quarterfinal at Arsenal. And in all his starts this season, the earliest he was removed was the 78th minute against Everton.
With a crucial fixture against Hapoel Be’er Sheva to close out the Europa League group stages on Thursday, which could see Southampton progress in the competition, there are many circumstances that could see Puel provide a surprise shakeup in the line-up.
Tadic has been wearing a protective mask in training and if available should be considered for an immediate return to the starting XI because of his ability to create going forward.
Who would fill the opposite wing?
It appears a fully fit Sofiane Boufal has arrived. And based off impressive performances in which the former Lille man dazzled with his feet against Arsenal and Palace, he played a role in the build up to both goals at the Emirates Stadium.
If Tadic is deemed unfit the 19-year-old Josh Sims, who has fans rightly excited, could be in line to make his Europa League debut. Sims had an assist on his Premier League debut and had an impact against Arsenal in the EFL Cup.
Regardless of who lines up on Thursday, Redmond’s struggles have been magnified, but he’s done so as part of a squad yearning for consistency in its attack.