Opinion: Oriol Romeu is Southampton's run-away player of the year

Opinion: Oriol Romeu is Southampton's run-away player of the year

So far this season the Spanish-stalwart has given a perfect effort in an extended line of fixtures filled with powerful performances.

charlie-brown
Charlie Brown

 When the news broke in late January that Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu had signed a new four-and-a-half-year deal, not many could really complain. 

Bought as a long-term Victor Wanyama replacement in 2015 - for what now could be called a bargain at £5 million - the La Masia product has easily found his role this season.

Even after a shaky start in August, Romeu should be titled as the team's stand out performer right now - especially with the unfortunate injury to Saints' defensive star Virgil van Dijk.

Years and years of being under-appreciated at giants like Barcelona and Chelsea have boiled down to an under-stated year-and-a-half with the south coast outfit.

Perhaps those times of living the unsung life gave sufficient reason to turn Romeu into the driven, powerful leader we view today - Saints are now reaping the rewards and so should their main-man.

Fans' favourite 

It's important to note that even with Van Dijk's team-leading performances, Romeu has been crowned Southampton fans' player of the month three times. 

Most recently in January, along with back-to-back wins through the months of September and October, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Van Dijk and Sofiane Boufal took home the trophy in this season's other three months.

This has culminated in the Spaniard even receiving his own song from the fans, and deservedly so too. Having only missed one game until now due to suspension is quite a feat, particularly for a midfielder.

Romeu's strive to win the EFL Cup next Sunday is akin to the fans of Southampton; in an interview this week he described it as a trophy "we've been fighting a lot for."

Expressing a deep desire for victory obviously coincides with the loyal followers; hitting key chords that cut the line between fan and footballer. If the ex-Chelsea man can win over the voters month-on-month, surely he can win the ultimate prize.

Ever-present 

Hardly ever is the 25-year-old absent, but not only that, in games his performances don't resemble a player lost or out-of-depth facing the toughest opponents.

Southampton without Romeu resembles a door without a lock; one player holds the key to a defensive fortress. Taking him out leads to a chaotic crumble in the middle, whereas with his expert interceptions and on-time tackling a lot of pressure is relieved off of any trailing centre-backs.

His predecessor in Wanyama was equally up to the task but often lacked the passing. Even so, looking at the transformation of Dejan Lovren's stock from his days at Saints, to Liverpool thus far and you'll start to unravel the importance of a lead-anchor.

There's no-one quite like Romeu in Claude Puel's squad, other midfielders - James-Ward Prowse, Jordy Clasie and Steven Davis - have similar qualities but are mostly lacking in brute force and bravery.

Starting a spectacular 31 of 34 games - in all competitions - Oriol has completed 85-per-cent of his passes and an even more imposing 70-per-cent of attempted tackles.

Other contenders

Clearly if Jamie Vardy had chosen not to leave a foot in on Van Dijk, this kind of player of year talk would be straightforward - the Dutch defender really was running away with it.

As for other contenders, not many come anywhere near close. Ryan Bertrand has been outstanding when fit, but with an underwhelming 13 total appearances so far it is always going to be difficult to plead his case. 

Dusan Tadic's showings during the season have stretched from lacklustre to superlative. Again, juxtaposed with Romeu's production, it is a no-brainer who comes out the champion.

Searching for any other consistent performers that seriously challenge Southampton's cornerstone proves to be a waste of time - Boufal and Maya Yoshida haven't featured enough.

Only time will tell whether Romeu keeps up the high level of execution in the matches left this Premier League term, but with only a short time left not everything is so easily up for grabs.

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