Southampton manager Claude Puel played in the same position as Oriol Romeu – but admits the Spaniard is a better player than he ever was.
Romeu has emerged as one of Saints’ key men this season, with the former Barcelona man excelling at the base of Puel’s midfield.
Puel was himself a tough-tackling defensive midfielder during a 19-year career with Monaco, but he says the Spaniard is superior on the ball.
“He’s more technical,” Puel said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Chelsea, another of Romeu’s former clubs.
“I was a different generation. I played in front of the defence and I had a good recovery of the ball, but now it’s important in modern football to have a player in this position who is very technical.
“To play in this position, it’s important the player can have a good ability to work the ball and to change and to switch it wide while anticipating the situation.
“It’s important because it’s a part of the team and all the opponents try to make a good pressing, because every ball recovery on this play is dangerous for the team.
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“It is important for this player to be a good technical player, to not lose the ball and to start the action with quality.”
Once again this summer Saints lost key players, and once again it seems to have made little difference, with Romeu stepping seamlessly into Victor Wanyama’s role following his move to Tottenham.
“Tough tackling is the first quality of the player in this position,” added Puel. “But in this position it is important to protect the defence.
“That is the role of Oriol with us.”
Another former Stamford Bridge player, full-back Ryan Bertrand, could return against his old side after recovering from a hamstring injury.
But Jay Rodriguez is a doubt after going off against Sunderland in the EFL Cup in midweek after a clash of heads while Cedric Soares, Matt Targett and Shane Long are still out.
Back-up keeper Alex McCarthy will be missing from the bench after picking up a hamstring problem against the Black Cats which will sideline him for two to three weeks.