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After being released on the left, Ikechi Anya managed to force in a cross which James Tomkins wasn’t able to clear. With James Collins falling to the ground, similarly unable to deal with Anya’s ball, Odion Ighalo once again seized the stage.
Shuffling the ball onto his left foot, Ighalo remained composed enough to arrow the ball into the top corner of the West Ham net.
It was the striker’s second goal of the game, firing Watford to their second home win of the season, and his seventh of the campaign so far.
With two assists also to his name Ighalo has directly contributed to nine of Watford’s 10 goal-tally. Take away his goals and Watford would have 10 points less.
Road from Udinese
Ighalo, who joined the Pozzo family’s line of clubs by signing for Udinese in 2008, scored 20 goals as Watford secured promotion from the Championship last term and the Nigerian international is finding no difficulty translating that form to the bigger stage.
That, with Troy Deeney, Almen Abdi and Miguel Layun the only other Watford scorers and only Deeney and Etiene Capoue claiming assists, has been paramount to a solid start to the season which puts the Hornets nine points clear of the drop zone.
Norwich, who followed Watford up into the Premier League through the play-offs, haven’t adapted so well, managing to win just two of their opening 11 games and the weekend defeat to Manchester City was their fourth loss in a row.
The Canaries however remain clear of the bottom three, clinging desperately onto the two points that keeps them away from trouble.
Norwich dependent on Redmond
Similarly to Watford’s burgeoning reliance on Ighalo, Norwich are also pinning their survival hopes on an over-performing attacker. With his four league goals so far, Redmond has contributed (either scoring or assisting) to 12 goals in his last 16 games.
The 21 year old hasn’t been as effective or dynamic as Watford’s Ighalo but he is Norwich’s top-scorer and with Dieumerci Mbokani still adapting to his new surroundings after moving Dynamo Kyiv in the summer, and Cameron Jerome never potent in the top division, Redmond is currently Norwich’s unexpected go-to man in-front of goal.
Unlike Ighalo however Redmond has been here before, playing 34 times as they got relegated in the ill-fated campaign under Chris Hughton of 2013-14.
That relegation, Redmond said, allowed him to “focus” and the arrival of Alex Neil as a replacement to Hughton’s successor Neil Adams had a profound impact on the winger.
Better end product
Hughton had once said that Redmond “lacked end product” but after he finished last season with 109 completed dribbles, second to Bakary Sako of Wolves, they came with 13 assists and 117 chances created, placing the winger in the top-two for each stat and offering a strong indication of how much he had improved on his year out of the top-flight.
Redmond would also score against Middlesbrough in the play-off final and was named in UEFA’s team of the tournament for this summer’s under-21 European Championship in Czech Republic despite England’s poor showing of a first-round exit.
Redmond’s four league goals this term is equal to how many he got in the whole of last season and that is mainly down to the winger role he plays on the right in support of the main striker.
Ighalo meanwhile is more of a conventional striker, one who has struck up an immediate understanding with strike-partner Troy Deeney, in Quique Sanchez Flores’s attacking system that permits Abdi, Anya and Jose Manuel Jurado to flourish in support of them.
In a fluid attack-line, it was Ighalo who set-up goals for Deeney and Abdi in the 0-2 win at Stoke.
Ighalo’s early struggles and road to Europe
A player who learned the game in a crime-ridden district of Lagos in Nigeria, Ighalo’s rise to prominence is in stark contrast to Redmond’s education in the luxury of Birmingham City’s academy.
“I come from the ghetto where there was no 24-hour electricity, no good water, bad roads and the neighbourhood is tough,” Ighalo told the Daily Mirror, “we used to kick old cans, plastic bottles, sometimes even an orange, around the streets in bare feet.”
The striker left Nigeria to join Lyn Oslo of Norway aged 17, there is a well-documented story of him eating snow the first time he ever saw it, and after 10 months he was taken to Italy before being loaned out to Granada of Spain, the third club in the Pozzo family’s footballing dynasty.
Igahlo then netted in successive play-off finals to promote Granada to La Liga and that happy knack of scoring important goals has followed the Nigerian to England; grabbing equalisers against Bournemouth and Everton as well as netting the winner against Swansea and hitting both goals in the 1-2 win at Newcastle.
A certain satisfaction
There is a certain satisfaction about watching the likes of Ighalo, determined enough to play his way out of poverty he refused to return home despite the 70 degree drop in temperature he experienced when moving to Norway as a teenager, coming good in the lofty heights of the Premier League against the odds.
Redmond has followed a different route to end on the same path, continuing upwards for both, but one can also take great pleasure out of his story of improvement through a new coach who released the shackles and helped him successfully realise the potential that was apparent since he broke onto the scene as a 16 year old.
Different players with different styles, but equally important to their clubs
Ighalo and Redmond are different players with different styles, coming from different backgrounds and cultures but their importance to their respective clubs is similarly vital.
They have both become key to keeping their clubs in the Premier League.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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