At the time of writing we are a matter of hours away from Tottenham taking on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in one of the most defining games of the season to date.
Going into this all-capital affair, Spurs are unbeaten in ten, appearing to be transformed and dramatically improved under new boss Ange Postecoglou, and the same can be said for so many of Tottenham’s players, who have wholly embraced the Aussie’s attacking mandate.
Making a mockery of the football odds from the off, Tottenham are presently viewed as title contenders in the making. They are a team of genuine substance who have quickly learnt to play to their strengths and do so extremely well.
One such reimagined player is Cristian Romero, the Argentine centre-back exhibiting heightened excellence this term, and with exactly 200 professional appearances now to his name perhaps it’s an appropriate time to celebrate the defender’s recent metamorphosis into a commanding, disciplined leader at the back.
“The way he has taken on the responsibility of guiding the other guys around him so they look assured. I think they feel security having him beside them.”
That’s what Postecoglou said this week about a stopper that has done more than most to ensure that an adventurous, relatively open collective remains solid and difficult to break down. To this juncture, Spurs are conceding at a rate of a goal every 100 minutes.
The coach went on to describe the 25-year-old as ‘outstanding’ and a ‘rock’.
It is easy to agree with these sentiments, given Romero’s elite performances, and the significant upgrade of those performances compared to last season where the former Atalanta defender visibly struggled. Such sentiments are entirely deserved.
Yet if highlighting the defender’s greatly improved fortitude and application of nous is one thing – as well as crediting him for quickly establishing an intuitive partnership with summer signing Micky van de Ven – it’s a real risk to mention in print another of his notable advances.
Because one of the Premier League hottest heads, a renowned liability who last season saw red in two of Tottenham’s biggest fixtures, is increasingly showing signs of stabilizing, becoming instead a player who thinks before he rashly acts.
And that is a dangerous statement to commit to so soon before his team take on local rivals in a marquee clash.
The odds in the sports betting on Romero seeing red this evening may be lengthier to last term, and rightly so, but this is still the same player whose decision-making on the disciplinary front has left an awful lot to be desired since joining the club in August, 2021.
Averaging a yellow every three games in 2023/24, the no-nonsense Argentine scuppered Spurs’ chances of progressing in the Champions League by making a wild lunge in their last 16 match-up with Milan.
A month earlier, he had put a much-needed victory over Manchester City in jeopardy by dangling a lazy leg in Jack Grealish’s direction when already booked.
Can a player therefore change his mindset as much as his form? Can someone shed delf-destructive instincts halfway through their career?
At this point, it appears so, that much can be said. And should Cristian Romero continue on his current trajectory, and continue to put the silly cautions, and unnecessary dismissals behind him, then undoubtedly he is on course to becoming world class.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*