Despite largely struggling to displace Mark Hughes’ preferred central-midfield duo of Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oriol Romeu has become a mainstay in the position under current Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Spaniard once again started in the 2-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and his performance perhaps wasn’t up to the standard that Saints fans have been used to from him previously.
The former Chelsea man is there to put pressure on the opposition and break up the play, as well as winning the ball back and generally protecting the backline – his role becomes even more important when the middle centre-back, Jack Stephens in recent weeks, brings the ball out of the defence.
Romeu certainly did his bit in terms of the former as he made two tackles and three interceptions, but his distribution from the 48 passes he had was a real negative – a success rate of less than 69% followed as the 27-year-old struggled when in possession.
Yes, the south coast outfit were largely under pressure against when of the better teams in the Premier League, but he should have been doing better.
Attentions turn to the huge clash against Fulham at St Mary’s on Wednesday when the hosts will be looking to pick up a crucial three points that could move them out of the relegation zone.
Hasenhuttl has preferred to stick with a five-at-the-back formation in recent times but the fact he switched to four at half-time against the Gunners proves that things may be changing, and sacrificing a centre-back could also lead to midfield changes.
The 51-year-old used the former system that some people would conceive as negative in the reverse against Cardiff City, using Romeu, James Ward-Prowse and Hojbjerg in the centre.
It wasn’t a tactic that worked and when you are trying to break down an opponent and a side that could come to St Mary’s for a draw, you don’t need those three players.
In fact, Ward-Prowse is showing the aggression in his game that is one of his Spanish teammate’s strengths, and he and Hojbjerg are good enough to do a job against Claudio Ranieri’s men alone, allowing Hasenhuttl to bring in another much-needed attacking player to the starting XI.