Looking Closer: Mario Lemina
Amidst news breaking that Whelan has signed a further year extension to his contract, keeping him at the club until 2018, reports are spreading that Stoke are interested in Juventus’ holding midfielder Mario Lemina. The Gabon international spent last season on loan at Juventus from Marseille, and was snapped up by the Old Lady in April for a figure around 9.5 million euros. But with rumours circulating that Allegri does not see the 22 year old as part of his plans, Stoke appear ready to snap up the talented midfielder.
Lemina is widely considered to be a central midfielder, but with his pace and power has also featured on the right flank as a wide midfielder and full back. Lemina’s pace and work rate mean that he will rarely allow an opposition player to coast past. This coupled with his footballing intelligence means he is often seen winning the ball, via an interception or well-timed tackle, then quickly recycling play to a team mate, or beating his man and advancing the play himself. Despite only making 10 appearances last season for Juventus, Lemina made a good impression finding himself on the scoresheet twice. An excellent showing against Napoli, and a man of the match performance against Atalanta, earned him a large deal of credibility in Italy. Despite Allegri’s views on the player he is viewed as a highly talented young man, and many believe a move gaining him more play time is perfect for his development.
The move looks even more nuanced when you analyse his midfield partners. At Juventus Lemina was often coupled with United’s 100 million pound target Paul Pogba. Pogba’s style is similar to that of our own Gianelli Imbula, in that both often can find themselves leaving defensive duties to other team mates. Lemina often limits himself in advancing too far up the pitch, this allows for his partner to make bombing runs into the attacking third. This is an area that drastically needs improving within the Stoke squad. The lack of mobility in players such as Whelan and Adam leaves the squad highly vulnerable to the counter attack, as they often turn much too slowly, and without Imbula the back for are left exposed. Lemina’s energy can be the answer to the problem of the vicious counter attack, leaving the defence much more protected than they have been left at times last season.
Whilst in Marseille Lemina found himself forming a partnership with none other than the gloved fire cheetah himself, Mr. Imbula. With both players having an experience of playing together over two seasons on the south coast of France, it would be hoped an understanding is formed between the two which can only assist the Potters. With a lack of French speakers in the dressing room a familiar face for both players would be of great assistance in the settling process. And could create another clique in the dressing room to rival the Spanish love triangle of Joselu, Muni and Baejan.
Despite Whelan agreeing a new deal, the holding midfield position is one which needs bolstering. In no way am I suggesting that Whelan is not a player of top quality, but it is clear that as he ages he will not be able to input in all 40+ games we play this season. Lemina looks to be an exciting prospect, and fulfils the stereotype of unfulfilled potential that a great deal of our signings under Sparky have been. And as always in keeping with our Bear Pit tradition here is the highlights video:
Written by Tom Thrower
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