There’s a new fan favourite on the terraces following saints’ 1-0 over Crystal Palace on Saturday. Gambon international, Mario Lemina. It seems that even after just 3 games in a Southampton shirt, pundits and fans alike are already singing his praises.
So, what’s got everybody purring?
Selhurst Park could now be labelled the place in which Lemina endured his ‘breakout game’ in the premier league.
Before his £15.4m transfer to the south coast this summer, he was touted as one of Juventus’ best prospects. A young, physical, box-to-box type player with good feet, who never really got a shot in the shadow of now Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. With a game that many say is direct result of a merge between Pogba and N’golo Kante, his expectations are high. And with a champions league under his belt as well as several years at one of europe’s top clubs, now is his time to shine.
Statistically, Saturday saw him rack up a pass completion rate of 90%, the highest of any player on the pitch. So no prizes for guessing where the line ‘he never gives the ball away’ of his catchy new song comes from. Not just short passes either. His distribution was second to none. Both positive forward balls and those that retain the ball across the field or back into either centre-back.
Whilst on the subject of his ball work, he completed all 3 of his one-on-ones attempted, showing his great footballing brain to recognise the opportunity to break into space or play the safer pass. Its a higher percentage than that of Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond on the day, who also attempted three. And though his tackle completion percentage was not the highest on the pitch, it was more than respectable. Coming just behind the branded ‘rock’ in Oriol Romeu.
Whats more, he made three clean interceptions, three good clearances and an important block, despite being a catalyst to spark any breakaways down the middle all day.
But what don’t the stats tell us? I think what fans appreciated the most was his drive, his desire. Two qualities that helped Oriol pick up the Fans’ player of the season award last year, as well as being first name on the team sheet. A player that was putting his body on the line for the team. For the shirt. Of course it’s early days, and we fans know more than any that getting attached top players is a risky game. But Lemina looks like another man that is always prepared to put the name on the front first, over the name on the back.
So, though it may still be very early doors, we’ve seen what he’s got to offer. And it’s safe to say that we’re all impressed. It remains to be seen as to whether he can continue his form into the United game on Saturday. Or if he goes on to be the player that we’re all hoping that he will be. His first man of the match award in the premier league and all-star performance for national side Gabon have all come over the last few weeks.
Will he be the star again at St. Mary’s this weekend?