Promising, but with work to be done: the Spaniard's early season report
Oriol Romeu is in confident mood as he sits down at Staplewood to offer his assessment on his team’s start to the season.
For starters, this group is one of the most talented the midfielder has seen in two-and-a-half years at St Mary’s.
“I would say it is one of the best I’ve seen in my time here. There are some top performers but we need to have that top level together as a group and transfer that into results.”
The constituent pieces are there then for Saints to begin climbing the table and kick off the chase for a third Europa League place in as many seasons, but to do so they will need to navigate a testing winter schedule.
Victory over Burnley this weekend would ensure that they enter the international break unbeaten since the last but the Spanish enforcer is keen to make an extra step up in the coming months with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City lying in wait.
“We are tenth at the moment and, being realistic as a team, we know that we can look upwards and push to finish higher.
“Qualifying for European competition again will always be the club’s objective. We had an amazing experience last season, playing against great opposition in some fantastic stadiums.
“A difficult run of fixtures is on the way but we are excited for the challenge. Hopefully we can string some wins together and start climbing the table.”
Assured in victory over Crystal Palace, unfortunate for the visit of Manchester United and individually inspired against Newcastle and West Brom in recent weeks, attention to the finer details will be the key to begin churning out results.
“Maybe we have lacked a bit of consistency in recent matches," he admits. "We have played very well in some portions of games and then dropped off. That’s something we need to do better going forwards.
St Mary's Stadium
“In this league, you can play well for 80 minutes, lose focus for five and immediately be punished. We need to be mentally ready for the full 90. Next time we get in front in a game, we can’t afford to let the intensity slide.”
The remedy? Attention to detail on the training ground. This is a game of marginal gains and new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino knows it well. For Romeu, therein lies the difference between tenth and the top six.
“He has identified the smaller things that we need to improve on and the squad is buying into that. We need to take care of the details, pushing that extra yard to get in support of a teammate, because they are the things that decide a goal scored or a goal against.
“We have a strong defensive platform on which to build. We are close to putting it all together. If we start doing that, we will get to where we want to be this term.”
A key pillar in that structure has been the midfield muscle of Romeu alongside summer arrival Mario Lemina. The duo’s early season performances have earned praise from all corners early on but the midfielder is confident that his new colleague is only just getting started.
“Mario has been very good and he has brought extra strength to the squad. It is great to have him here and we are looking forward to seeing how good he can be.
“We are there for him when he needs us: he has made a very good start but, like all of us, improving week on week is the goal.”
With games coming thick and fast, now is the time to turn promise into performances, beginning with Burnley at St Mary’s on Saturday.