Southampton: Crucial player returns to training after lengthy lay-off

It appears that Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu has returned to training and looks well on the way to recovery from an ankle fracture.

Saints posted a picture of the Spaniard outside in training gear at their Staplewood training ground on Tuesday and will be hoping to see the rest of his recovery going smoothly.

Although he is often just described as a midfielder hard-man, Romeu was crucial to Saints’ early season form. His ability to dictate play and act as a screen in front of the defence is currently unmatched in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad.

There are many reasons why the form of the team has wavered in 2020/21 but Romeu not being available has almost certainly removed a vital part of the setup since February.

Hasenhuttl has had perfect Southampton combination taken away

Since last season, Ralph Hasenhuttl has been trying to find the perfect partner for James Ward-Prowse in central-midfield.

He started with Hojbjerg, has trialled Smallbone, given Diallo time to develop but found Romeu waiting patiently on the bench towards the end of 2019/20.

The Ward-Prowse/Romeu combination has certainly been the best so far. Romeu’s defensive awareness and Ward-Prowse’s much-improved all-round game means most bases are always covered.

Recently Saints have struggled with central attacks coming through their midfield. Diallo is a classy player on the ball but may not have that awareness yet, which is understandable given his tender age.

Players like Diallo will need to be given time to become the players Saints know they can be, but it is the experience of Romeu that will give Hasenhuttl and his side a boost if he is able to return before the end of the season.

It is not known how far along the road to recovery he is but pictures of him making his way out to training – individual or with the rest of his teammates – are encouraging to say the least.