El Centrocampista

Chelsea future hangs in the balance for Oriol Romeu

Just twelve months ago Chelsea’s Oriol Romeu was fast becoming the transfer bargain of the summer. Having left Barcelona for Stamford Bridge in a €5 million deal, the 21-year old-midfielder was playing a pivotal role under Andre Villas-Boas and earning glowing reviews for a number of man-of-the-match displays.

As the 2012/13 season enters its fourth month, however, the young Catalan’s progression has almost ground to a halt with Romeu seemingly now a bit-part player under current Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo

Having played a total of just eight minutes this Premier League campaign, Romeu has been consigned to League Cup duty and having chosen to leave Barcelona in order to gain first team football, must surely be getting frustrated as his new bit part role at Stamford Bridge.

An articulate and well thought man, he is saying all the right things for the Chelsea propaganda machine to churn out but reports have already indicated that he could be looking to leave in January – if the situation doesn’t change.

Having risen through the prestigious La Masia ranks, great things had been expected of the Ulldecona-born midfielder whose physical stature enabled him to effortless control many a game last season.

Such was the promise that Romeu was showing that with a buy back clause in his contract; there was a sense of bemusement by some in the Catalan media that Barcelona opted to look to North London and Arsenal’s Alex Song, instead of bringing their former graduate back to the Camp Nou.

Things have not quite gone to plan for Romeu this season, however.   Di Matteo brought in midfield reinforcements during  the summer and with Obi John Mikel, Ramires, Frank Lampard, and new signing Oscar all having started the season well, the League cup may well be the only chance the Spanish Under 23 internationa lgets to  prove his worth to his manager.

Such is the fickle and delicate nature of modern football, Oriol Romeu is a man who has gone from being tipped for the top to being nothing more than a fringe player in a mere six months.

Every career has its highs and lows, and while this will be a concerning time for Romeu, there is little doubt that he has the potential to bounce right back from his current lack of playing time. It has to be remembered that despite having an appearance and stature that belies his youth, he is still just 21-years-old.

In fact on paper, the robust Romeu is a player who is perfectly suited for the Premier League.

He may not have the flair of many of his Spanish compatriots but every team needs a player who plays the ‘unsung hero’ role.  Playing as a deep lying central midfielder, Romeu is adept at patrolling the area in front of the Chelsea back four offering them extra defensive protection whenever he plays.

Given a chance to shine on Wednesday when named in the starting line up for their League cup clash against Manchester United, Romeu looked like a man who was short on confidence and short on match sharpness. Which in essence, he is.

Under pressure from a poor Petr Cech pass, Romeu was disposed on the edge of his area by Anderson who found Ryan Giggs to open the scoring. As confidence boosters go, there could be few worse.

Nevertheless, Romeu did get better and indeed made some crucial interceptions that prevented further United attacks. With both teams exhibiting almost comical defending at times, Romeu found himself exposed on multiple occasions and did well to limit any more damage.

As a defensive minded player, he will no doubt be disappointed with the three goals that were conceded whilst he was on the pitch, but at times it was reconstruction of the Alamo with three on two situations often created.

With Chelsea 3-2 down, he was eventually substituted after 71 minutes for Oscar, as Roberto Di Matteo looked to the Brazilian to add some guile and craft to his team. Ultimately it worked, as Eden Hazard equalised with the last kick of the game before Chelsea won it in extra time 5-4.

Whether that will be Romeu’s last involvement in a Chelsea shirt before their next League Cup game against Leeds, remains to be seen.

The pressures and importance of every kick in professional football means that mistakes are not tolerated and at the elite clubs, time is not given for players to bed their way back into the starting eleven.

It is up to Romeu to break the vicious cycle of not playing first team football, looking rusty when given an opportunity and then because of that, not starting for another couple of months.

The next six months may just make or break Romeu’s Chelsea career.  If things don’t improve and a move away from Stamford Bridge is needed,  don’t be surprised to see a lengthy waiting list for his services.

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