Analysing Oriol Romeu's dominant midfield performance against Liverpool
It was one of the more surprising results of the weekend as Southampton managed to cling on for a point against an explosive Liverpool side. Although Claude Puel’s men are not a bad side, Liverpool have been on fire under Jurgen Klopp this season and would have hoped to strengthen their position at the top of the table with a victory this weekend. They had the better chances, with Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne both missing good opportunities to win the game for the visitors. However, Southampton dug in and showed again their impressive defensive organisation.
The undoubted man-of-the-match was Oriol Romeu, who has stepped up his game to replace the combative Victor Wanyama. The Spaniard was a good signing for the club last summer and has waited patiently for his chance. He is now one of the first names on the team-sheet and showing why he was so highly rated as a teenager at Barcelona and Chelsea. For Southampton to get something from this game, Romeu was going to be a crucial player for them as nobody else in the squad can retrieve the ball with the regularity that he does. Liverpool have the superior players and were always likely to dominate possession, but the home side adapted their game accordingly with Romeu their best player on the day.
During the match, Romeu completed four tackles and made one interception. Although he has done better in other matches, his positioning was excellent and he rarely left spaces in the middle of the park for the likes of Philippe Coutinho to exploit. He also made three clearances on Saturday, which is a part of the game that is important when facing this Liverpool side. Klopp demands that his players press high up the pitch and they often recover the ball in their attacking half, providing them with the best opportunity to create a chance. Therefore, even if clearing the ball isn’t pretty, it is certainly effective against this Liverpool side.
The Spaniard has an intimidating physique and he used that to his advantage to dominate aerially on Saturday. He won all four of his aerial duels, which relieved pressure on his side. Romeu has developed an ability to get a lot of purchase on his headed clearances, which allows him to move his side further up the pitch. This was extremely important against Liverpool as Southampton were under a lot of pressure throughout the 90 minutes.
He also managed to move his team forward through his ball carrying. Not only is he good at carrying the ball, he knows the right times to attempt a dribble up the pitch and this intelligence was invaluable on Saturday. He completed all three of his attempted dribbles, which was more than anybody else on his side. The transition phase is very important and Romeu’s quality at moving his side up the pitch played a vital part in earning a point against Liverpool. His pass accuracy of 72% was also better than many of his team-mates and that will please Claude Puel, as he knows he can rely on Romeu, even during high-pressured matches such as these.
In short, Romeu put in a quality performance on Saturday and that is becoming a theme of this season. His consistency has meant that Southampton haven’t missed Victor Wanyama at all and that is no mean feat. The defensive achievements of his side have been impressive, with Southampton only conceding six goals in their last eight matches. Romeu has played a central role in that and this performance showed that he can compete even against the best attacks in the league.