We now turn to some Mario Lemina news from the window. Lemina’s move to Southampton from Juventus raised some eyebrows and was viewed by many as a coup. Reports state competition for the Gabonese’s signature was high but ultimately he opted for the Saints.
Position: centre midfield or defensive midfield
Transfer Fee: £15.4mil
Contract Length: 5 years
2016/17 League Stats: 8 starts (11 sub appearances) 1 goals (1 assist)
Verdict: It was widely reported that Stoke, Leicester and Watford were all in for Lemina but his preference was Southampton. I suspect their reputation for developing talent was a key factor in his decision.
Initially the fee paid by the Saints’ is just under their transfer record of £16mil, which they paid Lille for Sofiane Boufal. However with performance related clauses inserted into the deal, Lemina’s transfer fee could surpass £18mil. Despite being a potentially record breaking deal, it does look like more good business by Southampton.
Admittedly Southampton’s policy to sell their stars players has been forced upon them to some extent in recent seasons due to player unrest, demands and amid strong interest from larger teams with greater financial resources. Nonetheless Southampton do, understandably, have a reputation as a selling club (despite the recent events involving Virgil Van Dijk) In recent seasons they have lost the likes of Lovren, Clyne, Fonte, Lallana, Mane, Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Chambers, Shaw and even the likes of Lambert, Pelle and Jay Rodriguez, although the latter group it could be argued left more on the club’s terms.
What can be said is that despite losing such a raft of quality players Southampton have shown an impressive eye for young, talented players. In Mario Lemina, Southampton look like they might have uncovered another.
Whilst it’s probably fair to say Lemina has yet to establish himself at a club or even get a regular run of games, his potential was recognised in Europe from an early age. His talent was quickly spotted by Marseille in 2013 as they signed him from Lorient. Despite only 34 starts in 4 and a bit seasons in Ligue 1, where he was actually just starting to really impress and establish himself at Marseille, Juventus then came calling. Initially they took him on loan but the Gabonese international did enough to justify a permanent transfer a year later.
Again it’s probably fair to say that Lemina was used sparingly at Juventus, with just 15 starts in 2 seasons. Considering the talent he had to compete with I would argue that was still no mean feat. Yet it was fairly clear that he was going to struggle with the likes of Pjanjic, Khedira, Marchisio and Matiudi, who has recently joined, all standing in his way to the first team again this season. A move was not only a sensible decision, it was the only decision for his career.
Such was his reputation he was strongly linked with Arsenal but no move materialised which could be said is surprising given their need in the defensive midfield department but I suspect Arsenal’s squad size and Lemina’s ‘rawness’ and lack of experience on the whole, not just within Premiership, were a factor. Whilst I rate Lemina and he would be better suited in Arsenal’s centre midfield than a lot of the options Wenger uses currently, I’m not convinced he’d be the answers to all their problems at the moment. He would need to improve on his positioning, overall willingness to put his foot in and just generally the mental side of his game to succeed at the highest level.
I am in no doubt however that he has the ingredients to become a top player and that at a club like Southampton, with their reputation for developing talent, there is probably no better place for him at the moment. He has the physical qualities you’d expect from most top defensive midfielders. Whilst his technical ability could be eventually what helps set him apart with qualities that you don’t always see of someone in this role such as dribbling along with an ease on the ball to compliment attributes you would expect such as good tackling. He’s a very well rounded midfielder. Whilst many of the attributes where he is most raw in can be learnt.
In a year or two it really wouldn’t surprise me if he follows in the footsteps of so many ex-Southampton players and ends up at a team competing to be in the Champions League. He fits the profile of similarly developed talents at St. Mary’s almost perfectly.
So without doubt it’s a really good signing from Southampton and an improvement on many of the current options. Lemina and Romeu will provide a formidable shield for the defence.
I am a little surprised by Southampton’s lack of transfer activity though despite their declarations they will only seek value in the market. Given it is public knowledge that every Premiership club is financially competitive after the recent TV deal, it’s going to be a difficult ‘seeking value’. They may have achieved good value for money in the Lemina deal but the lack of other signings probably shows the difficulty.
Southampton have failed to score in 7 of their last 9 Premiership games so their needs are clear and I’m a shocked this hasn’t been addressed. Due to this I can’t see them replicating some of impressive seasons from not so long ago, when they were flirting with the European places. Mid-table is probably their ceiling this season whilst I have a feeling they will finish just below that, which will probably be viewed as a slight disappointment.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) August 8, 2017
Where do you think Southampton will finish this season? Lemina good signing? How long do you give him at St. Mary’s? Leave your opinions below.