Southampton travel to the London Stadium to face West Ham on Sunday afternoon for their final Premier League fixture of the season, and Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl should unleash Oriol Romeu today.
The Spanish midfielder made an earlier than anticipated return from injury recently, as he was originally expected to miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle against Leeds United in February.
The 29-year-old was left out of Southampton’s 2-0 defeat against the Whites in midweek, and they perhaps missed his presence in midfield against Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Ibrahima Diallo was originally expected to be the natural replacement for the former Chelsea man in Hasenhuttl’s midfield, but he was dropped after a poor run of form, with Stuart Armstrong the man to partner James Ward-Prowse in recent fixtures.
Whilst the Scotland international has performed well in that role, he doesn’t offer the defensive qualities of Romeu, and is at his best when out wide on the right.
No player with more than five Premier League appearances for Southampton has averaged more tackles per game this season than Romeu, whilst his 6.97 average WhoScored rating is second to only Ward-Prowse in the Saints squad, which emphasises just how important he is in the Austrian’s side.
After a disappointing performance in midweek, Hasenhuttl should make changes ahead of the game against David Moyes’ team, who will be looking to secure a place in the Europa League for next season.
One of West Ham’s standout performers in the second half of the campaign has been Jesse Lingard, with the England international contributing nine goals and four assists in 15 games for the Hammers since his loan switch from Manchester United.
The attacking midfielder likes to drop deep and pick up the ball before dribbling forwards, and deploying someone such as Romeu in defensive midfield – where he could man-mark Lingard – could prevent the 28-year-old from having a positive impact on the game, whereas he would surely have a lot more space playing against a midfield of Armstrong and Ward-Prowse.
Therefore, Hasenhuttl should definitely consider handing the “unbelievable” Romeu a start at the London Stadium this weekend, as he could make the Saints much more defensively secure against a team who will be desperate to win, which could definitely work in Southampton’s favour.