When Chelsea suited up for the first pre-season friendly against Wycombe, one of my first thoughts was, “I wonder who will get the first minutes of our new season.” And, after glancing at José Mourinho’s initial starting XI my, and I’m guessing many other folks, thought changed to, “Wait, Oriol Romeu still plays for us?”
It is good Mourinho put him out there for a game high 70 minutes yesterday, because the news of his new three year contract would’ve elicited a similar and ill-timed response. Needless to say the Chelsea career of Oriol Romeu isn’t a long or illustrious one.
He first joined the Blues in 2011 after coming up in the Barcelona system. A stout midfielder, Oriol Romeu was seen as a possession heavy (from the Barcelona upbringing) midfielder who had the body to grind out the Premier League.
But, it was that body that has caused Romeu much trouble. Since joining Chelsea a list of injuries have kept him off the pitch, most notably a major knee injury suffered against Sunderland. The next year he was loaned out to Valencia where he saw the pitch only 13 times for the Spanish team that finished 8th in La Liga.
Upon his return many were unclear what, if any, role he would play for Chelsea. With Mourinho signing him to a contract until 2017, it seems obvious that Romeu is in José’s long term plans. So, what does that mean?
I think it is pretty clear that Mourinho is trying to build-up as much depth in the midfield as possible. Many, including myself, expect Chelsea to play a 4-1-2-3 formation next year and in that line-up, the burden will be heavy on Nemanja Matić as our primary player in the pivot.
With Chelsea expected to compete for trophies in all of their competitions (UEFA Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup), having a sturdy back-up to Matić will be crucial. And, with a new 3 year deal in place, it seems that Romeu will be that crucial piece going forward.