On Sunday, January 14, Tottenham’s domination at Old Trafford was not enough as Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United held them to a 2-2 draw.
Richarlison and Rodrigo Bentancur’s goals just before halftime helped Ange Postecoglou’s team escape with a point after falling behind the Red Devils twice. Had they taken advantage of their opportunities, though, they may have won all three points.
While Bentancur’s outstanding midfield performance garnered much of the attention, Cristian Romero’s contribution to Spurs’ second goal—specifically, his pass into Oliver Skip’s feet—was also duly acknowledged by Fara Williams and Ian Wright.
“With Spurs having their two starting center-halves in, the pass here from Romero, reverse pass, splits six players,” Williams stated during Match of the Day 2 (January 14, 16:30). Six Manchester United players are sidelined for the match.
Wright concurred right away, stating, “Excellent pass.”
Despite his unexpected return to Tottenham on Sunday, the 25-year-old played as if he had always been there, particularly when he had the ball at his feet.
Romero found a teammate in white on just three of his 89 attempts during the game, completing 97% of them. He was able to move Spurs up the field from the base of midfield with four of those efforts going into the final third.
Romero stands out from other defenders in Postecoglou’s team as well as from center backs in the Premier League thanks to his skill with the ball. In England’s top flight, just 9% of his positional contemporaries attempt to complete more passes per game than the 25-year-old.
Romero is a better passer when he passes long; he completes more long passes than 78% of center backs. Usually, these higher stats are the consequence of defenders passing the ball backwards and sideways.
Tottenham tends to move the ball through the thirds more quickly when the Argentinian is on the team. He finishes 6.36 progressive passes on average every 90 minutes of play, which puts him in the 94th percentile of center defenders in the Premier League.
The Argentine international even displayed his technical skill with the ball, finishing 100% of his dribbling attempts and only had his fourth Premier League goal of the season saved by the crossbar.
Romero is chosen for his finishing touches, but his aerial skill in front of goal is a major asset for Spurs. This season, he has scored more goals than 97% of his positional counterparts and generates more xG per game than 90% of center halves.
When not in possession, the Spurs captain was just as lethal, winning 83% of his ground duels and both of his aerial clashes against United while battling Rasmus Hojlund’s muscular presence in the front line.
Even though Tottenham didn’t win all three points at Old Trafford, they certainly looked like a stronger team with Romero back in the starting lineup.
Spurs’ chances of finishing in the top four will be severely harmed if Postecoglou is unable to keep the defender healthy for the balance of the season and effectively manage his minutes.