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OPINION: How Oriol Romeu is proving me wrong as Southampton’s midfield linchpin

Oriol Romeu has been an integral part of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints so far this season.

Oriol Romeu celebrating after scoring for Southampton against West Brom in the Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

As a Southampton fan, I’m always more than happy to be proven wrong when it benefits the club I love. Eat humble pie, get egg on my face, eat crow... You get the jist.

Oriol Romeu is a player who is proving me wrong and I’m absolutely loving every second of it.

Though I am not as vocal as some of Southampton’s fanbase and I don’t like spouting off negatively about anything Saints-related when it’s unnecessary, I haven’t always been totally enamoured by Romeu.

Let’s get the negative bit out of the way.

When he was winning the hearts of many Saints fans around me in the Northam End for his love of throwing in a thunderous challenge, I was bemoaning the fact he misplaced a pass minutes earlier. I was also missing Victor Wanyama’s presence in midfield after he jumped ship to Tottenham Hotspur, something which, on reflection, perhaps inhibited my appreciation of the Catalan who was essentially signed as Wanyama’s replacement in advance.

Southampton v Manchester United - EFL Cup Final

Romeu’s performance against Manchester United in the League Cup final also left a bad taste as, in my opinion, he was at fault for two opposition goals. He felled Ander Herrera with a sloppy tackle only for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to bang in the resulting free-kick, while he also lost his man - Jesse Lingard - for their second.

This may look like nitpicking, but that game was burned into my brain as Saints ran out unfortunate losers against United that day at Wembley.

However, those kind of thoughts are now firmly behind me.

Southampton v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Oriol Romeu

Romeu has been ever-present in this Southampton side which briefly sat at the top of the English football pyramid for the first time in over 30 years. He has been playing well, too - he has picked up an average rating of 7.15 from WhoScored in his eight Premier League games so far this campaign.

His solid defensive work has afforded James Ward-Prowse more freedom to roam forward and make attacking contributions. Though steady and unspectacular, his passing and ability to recycle the ball has made me forget all about Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in double-quick time.

On the other side, Romeu has also looked dangerous in attacking sense. His spectacular volleyed goal in Southampton’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion has given him the taste for having a crack from distance.

Against Newcastle last Friday, he nabbed the ball with a smart interception before crashing a 25-yard shot against the bar as he and his midfield colleagues totally dominated play over the majority of the 90 minutes.

Many fans, myself included, expected that new signing Ibrahima Diallo would be a near-certainty to start in Southampton’s midfield ahead of Romeu following Hojbjerg’s departure for Spurs.

However, Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl would be foolish to try and fix what’s not broken. On this form, Romeu should remain Saints’ main defensive man in the middle of the park for the foreseeable future.

It’s crazy to think that this is Romeu’s sixth season at Southampton since moving from Chelsea ahead of the 2015-16 season. The 29-year-old has already racked up close to 200 appearances for Saints in all competitions since which is something to be respected.

With Hojbjerg gone and Diallo coming in, Romeu has more than stepped up to the challenge of fighting for his place in the team and it’s a battle he is currently winning.

Long may that continue.