What Oriol Romeu does to make Chelsea better

Oriol Romeu wasn’t the biggest signing of the summer, not even for Chelsea. You could be forgiven for not really noticing the 20-year old slipping in the Stamford Bridge side door, amidst the arrivals of Juan Mata, Raul Meireles and Romelu Lukaku. Had it not been that Oriol Romeu came from Barcelona, then his arrival may not have even have raised the eyebrow of many a fan.

However, Oriol Romeu has now started three games for Chelsea in the Premier League, all of which the Blues have won. The highlight of which was Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Man City, putting Chelsea back in the Premier League title race.

Andre Villas-Boas has primarily played John Obi Mikel in the defensive midfield role this season as his preferred choice. That was up until three games ago when Oriol Romeu was handed his first Premier League start and so far he has given a better look to the Chelsea team. In his last three Premier League matches, the Blues have only conceded a solitary goal and Romeu’s defensive qualities are coming to the fore. Here’s what he does that makes the Chelsea team better.

Oriol Romeu vs John Obi Mikel

Oriol Romeu only played twice for Barcelona, but so far in his limited number of appearances for Chelsea he has made quite an impact. If we compare what he has achieved so far compared to John Obi Mikel this season, we can see just what Oriol Romeu brings to this Chelsea team.

John Obi Mikel

Oriol Romeu

Mins on pitch






Duels won (%)



Mins per duel



Ground tackles won (%)



Mins per interception



Pass completion



Passes in opposition half (%)



Oriol Romeu is winning slightly less of his duels than John Obi Mikel, but he is actually being involved in them more often – every 6.3 minutes to 8.1 minutes. This means that he is involved in challenging for the ball in three more situations than Mikel is during the course of 90 minutes. This may not seem like much, but over the course of a 38 game season, this could be as many as 114 additional challenges.


Oriol Romeo reads the game and wins the ball

Romeu is also winning more of his tackles when he goes to ground than John Obi Mikel, with the Spaniard at 82% to the Nigerian’s 80%. Plus he reads the game better, with an interception every 27 minutes as opposed to Mikel at every 44 minutes.

The reason for Oriol Romeu being involved in more duels, intercepting the ball more often and winning ground tackles comes down to his positioning. The Spaniard touches the ball less than Mikel, but he plays deeper even though they both complete passes at 92%. However, Romeu only completes 31% of his passes in the opposition half compared to Mikel at 43%, indicating that Romeu sits deeper in the formation

Oriol Romeu playing deeper

We can see from the statistics that Oriol Romeu completes more of his passes in his own half, but if we take a look at some average position maps we can see just how much deeper he plays.

In the Spaniard’s start at Newcastle, we can see that Romeu (6) is sat deep behind Lampard (8), Mata (10) and Ramires (7), but just in front of Terry (26) and Luiz (4).


Oriol Romeu (6) average position vs Newcastle

Compare that to John Obi Mikel away at Blackburn. The Nigerian (12) is still sat behind Ramires (7) and Lampard (8), but is about 5-10 yards further forward as he gets more involved in the attacking play.


John Obi Mikel (12) average position against Blackburn

Romeu may only be about 5 -10 yards deeper, but this allows him to read the game better and make more interceptions and tackles. If we compare them in the game against Everton where Romeu came on for the last 15 minutes to replace Mikel, we can see that his average position in the same game was slightly deeper.


Oriol Romeu (6) and John Obi Mikel (12) average positions vs Everton

If we look at a heat map from that game, we can see just how much John Obi Mikel likes to get up the field and get involved in the attacking play.


Oriol Romeu (top) and John Obi Mikel (Bottom) passing vs Everton

Oriol Romeu (top) makes most of his passes just outside the area and lower than the centre circle. John Obi Mikel (bottom) still makes most of his passes in his own half, but the fact that he makes 12% more of his passes in the opposition half than Romeu can be seen more clearly, as the majority of Mikel’s passes stagger the halfway line.

The Everton game was just one game though where Romeu came on for Mikel. If we take a look at the Newcastle and Blackburn matches again, we can see the same pattern happening.


John Obi Mikel (right) gets more invovled in the play higher up the pitch than Oriol Romeu (le

Over the course of 90 minutes against Newcastle, Oriol Romeu (left) operates in a quadrant ranging from just outside his own box to the halfway line. John Obi Mikel (right) operates in a quadrant which spans the halfway line in to the opposition half.

This has a result on not only how the each player reads the came – it’s easier to react when you are sat slightly deeper and have the play in front of you – but also on where they make their tackles.

In the same games, we can see that Oriol Romeu (top) wins six of his eight tackles in a line just outside the 18-yard box against Newcastle. Whereas John Obi Mikel (bottom) is making challenges in both halves of the field against Blackburn.


Oriol Romeu (top) and John Obi Mikel (Bottom) tackling

Oriol Romeu is winning more of his tackles, as he is sat deeper and keeping the game in front of him.

The effect on Chelsea

Romeu’s positioning has a beneficial effect for Chelsea. If we compare how the team has performed defensively in games where each player has started, we get some interesting results.

John Obi Mikel start

Oriol Romeu start

Shots allowed



Shots on target allowed



Goals against



Oriol Romeu has only had three starts, but what is interesting is that Chelsea have allowed more shots at goal, but less have been on target and as a result have only conceded 0.3 goals per game.

The reason for this is that with Romeu sat deeper in the formation; teams are being forced to shoot from further out, thus reducing their accuracy.

How Oriol Romeu makes Chelsea better

Oriol Romeu may not have been the most high-price, high-profile signing of the summer, but since he has started, he has brought a resilience to the Chelsea team.

The Spaniard sits deeper within the formation compared to John Obi Mikel, and as a result is able to read the game better, making more tackles and interceptions. He also doesn’t venture as far forward as the Nigerian and so is less likely to get caught out defensively.

His positioning allows him to win the ball back, but also forces the opposition to shoot from further out, thus reducing their accuracy and improving Chelsea’s goals against average.

Oriol Romeu has only started three games for Chelsea, but so far the signs are promising.


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3 Responses to What Oriol Romeu does to make Chelsea better

  1. Gummi December 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    He’s playing like a true midfield anchor, allowing Meireles, Ramires, and Mata to burst forward with more freedom.

    The most impressive thing about him is his passing and confidence in possession. He doesn’t respond negatively to pressing and is rarely rushed into making bad decisions. That’s a quality you seldom see in young midfielders.

    • Mark Redford December 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      Thanks for your comment mate, very true that he plays with confidence and is rarely rushed in to bad decisions. Something he probably just happened to pick up while at Barca…

  2. Gummi December 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    True. It’s amazing to see how many promising players come through at Barcelona.