He had found game time hard to come by at the Turin club, so this summer he sought a move which alerted a number of clubs including those already mentioned.
The key word with Lemina was ‘potential’, which he obviously had but just needed to play regularly at a club where he could unlock it.
The Lemina of realised potential would have been ideal for Arsenal, but the club turned down the chance to sign him, possibly on the basis that if they want to blood potential in their side then they will use their own youth academy.
Plus, at the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, the player may not have got the game time he needed anyway.
Step up Southampton. With Jordy Clasie apparently not meeting their requirements after signing under the Ronald Koeman regime a couple of seasons earlier, and now finding himself shipped out on loan to Club Brugge, new manager Mauricio Pellegrino needed another player to support the consistent Oriel Romeu in midfield.
The Spaniard is the ideal partner for a player such as Lemina, as he’ll provide the solidity in front of the defence while his partner is free to develop his game and could even get away with the odd mistake, as he’ll know his team-mate will have his back. With this in mind the club decided to make the Gabon international their record signing, forking out £18.1million for the midfielder.
The 24-year-old has started four of the club’s six Premier League games so far this season, and he was one of the standout players in his side’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. The graphic below shows his data from the game where he was widely considered man of the match based on the statistics alone.
In this game his average position (below, No.18) was even deeper than Romeu’s, and from his position on the left side if the double pivot, he regularly looked for left winger Nathan Redmond, finding him 11 times throughout the game, but also occasionally looking for Dusan Tadic on the other side.
This shows he’s not scared of passing the ball forward even though quite a bit of his play in the build-up involves exchanging passes with Romeu and the defenders behind him.
In an earlier Football Whispers look on the player, it was suggested that taking more risks with his passing was an area of the game he needed to improve.
“Perhaps the real weakness to his game is his distribution, although he seems fully aware of his limitations in this area,” wrote Sam McGuire.
“His completion rate has actually improved this term, connecting with 90.3 per cent of his pass attempts, but so many of those are sideways or backwards and are almost always over short distances.”
Looking at the distribution of his passing in recent games, with a good number of balls going into the wide players on both sides, it seems that he’s getting there, which is an example of how game time and confidence from a manager can improve a player.
He’s also a player who gives away very few fouls, and has only conceded one in his four appearances so far. Whether this is a negative aspect of his game suggesting a lack of aggression, or a positive part of his play showing discipline and excellent positioning, will become clearer as the season progresses.
Against Stoke at the weekend he’ll have a big challenge coming his way in the shape of Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss international is one of the Premier League’s standout players, and on his day can be levels above anyone else on the pitch in terms of natural ability.
The challenge he offers to defenders is one of skill, strength, and quickness, as he uses his low centre of gravity to shield the ball from his marker who may try to steal it from him.
Lemina will have to support left back Ryan Bertrand when it comes to dealing with the threat of the 25-year-old, and it will be a real test of the defensive attributes of Saints’ new signing.
It will be a game where more will be found out about his ability not to concede fouls, and it will be interesting to see how he attempts to deal with the pace of the likes of striker Jesé Rodríguez and forward-turned-wing-back Mame Biram Diouf.
It will be an interesting aspect of Southampton’s game to watch, not just this weekend but in games to come as the season progresses. While they are struggling to convert chances at the other end of the pitch, their double pivot of Romeu and Lemina could become one of the best in the league, as the two players complement each other perfectly.