Southampton have a plethora of defensive midfielders among their ranks with Oriol Romeu arguably the best of the bunch. But who should partner him next season?
With the appointment of new manager Mauricio Pellegrino, Southampton are set to play a formation similar to that played by Ronald Koeman during his brief tenure at St. Mary’s.
This system is known as a 4-2-3-1 where the midfield is split into two sections, one where two defensive midfielders sit above the defensive line, and the other involving two wingers sat either side of a central-attacking midfielder in the ‘number 10 role‘.
There are plenty of quality options for Pellegrino to tinker with in the attacking midfield area, however there is also a few in the defensive department of the Argentine’s formation.
Oriol Romeu is the first choice defensive midfielder without a shadow of a doubt. The Spaniard proved last season that he didn’t need a partner to help handle with all of the dirty work in Claude Puel’s 4-1-2-1-2 system.
With important tackles, interceptions, and passes the former-Chelsea man is ideal for his preferred position, but is set to play alongside another deep midfielder in Pellegrino’s system.
So who will this midfielder be? So far during pre-season friendlies, Steven Davis has been the man to accompany Romeu above the back-four which has caused some fans to state their concern for the decision on social media.
The club captain has been a very reliable player during his time at St. Mary’s with decisive passing and impressive dribbles that makes him one of the Premier League’s most underrated players. But in my eyes he isn’t a defensive midfielder nor attacking, he is perfect for being just a general midfielder.
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That may sound vague but simply put, he isn’t as strong on the ball or doesn’t make the tackles a defensive midfielder should and isn’t known to be a sharp shooter like an attacking midfielder should be; he’s just very good at passing at dribbling.
If Davis isn’t to be the partner to Romeu, who should be? Well, for me, it should be Pierre-Emille Hojbjerg.
The young Dane improved over the course of last season but chances were limited which was a shame due to the huge potential he had as a 17-year-old at Bayern Munich.
At 21 years of age he still has plenty to offer and can become an incredible midfielder but the chances need to be present for Hojbjerg to take. He also showed last season that he has a good eye of key passes and is strong on the ball; he even can do a bit of tackling and intercepting.
This makes him (for me anyways) the best possible partner to Romeu in the current squad. Who knows, maybe a new partner may need to be purchased? If I was to throw a name into the ring it would be William Carvalho but there is very little chance that the club would pay his transfer fee.
What is important though, is that Romeu has a suitable partner alongside him to sit in front of the back-four to provide extra stability in Pellegrino’s defensive approach to football.