The 2017/18 campaign was a thoroughly miserable one for Southampton supporters to endure, but the impact of Mario Lemina was a rare bright spark in the midst of an otherwise sobering campaign for the Saints.
Mark Hughes came to Southampton at the business end of the season with a handful of positive results which enabled the club to slip away from the bottom-three by the skin of their teeth.
It would be unjust to judge Hughes’ beginning to life at Southampton based on anything other than the results he produced, which ultimately were good enough to secure the club’s Premier League status.
Hughes’ first major task has been completed, and now he has been afforded ample time in pre-season to stamp his own personal brand of football at the club it will be interesting to see if the Welshman can instigate a significant improvement in Southampton’s results.
Hughes has delved into the transfer market to complete the signings of 4 new players ahead of the new season, but a recent report from the Daily Mirror suggests his recruitment drive is not over just yet.
According to the report, Southampton are interested in signing Danny Drinkwater on a season-long loan in a deal which would not only be a huge signing for the club as a whole, but also for Mario Lemina.
Southampton’s decision to sign Lemina last summer was thoroughly justified by the quality of his performances throughout his debut campaignas he showcased a level of quality which far exceeded anything on show from the rest of the squad.
And Hughes’ arrival combined with the acquisition of Drinkwater should enable Lemina to step up another level next season.
Hughes’ managerial philosophy has typically been one which values attacking football over a solid defensive structure, so Lemina should have greater license to express his creative quality under the new boss.
Add Drinkwater (valued at £18 million by Transfermarkt) to the equation and there is even greater reason to believe that Lemina could blossom next season, as the Chelsea outcast possesses both the stamina and the determination to cover ground in midfield and ease the defensive responsibility on Lemina’s shoulders.
The Gabon international may well be a defensive midfielder by trade, but his talent feels wasted within a restrictive anchor role and, if Hughes is able to recognise this and push him further forward with Drinkwater ready to cover, the true extent of his attacking quality will surely emerge in a new-look side next season.
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