Premier League

Transfer Battle: Mario Lemina vs Luka Milivojevic

Southampton beat Crystal Palace 2-0 last Saturday at Selhurst Park to claim their first three points of the new Premier League season and condemn their opponents to a third successive defeat.

Alongside deadline day signing Danny Ings, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was also on the scoresheet that day, partnering Mario Lemina in central midfield.

Manager Mark Hughes has recently changed Southampton’s shape to a 4-4-2, and the Welshman now looks to be getting the best out of his forwards and midfielders.

The same, on the other hand, cannot be said for Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace with Christian Benteke continuing to misfire.

That being said, in the middle of the park, Luka Milivojevic has been a revelation since joining Crystal Palace last January. And, while Hojbjerg and Lemina came out victors against the Serbian and his Crystal Palace team-mates last weekend, Milivojevic has the ability to be just as dominant.

Milivojevic arrived in England in the same year as Lemina — albeit at different points — and the two are ultimately two players worth comparing.

Mario Lemina

Southampton signed Lemina from Juventus last August and, on paper, he is the club’s best central midfielder.

However, a string of lacklustre displays saw the 25-year-old drop to the bench from the starting XI on more than one occasion during his debut season in the Premier League.

In the 25 league appearances he made, though, it was made clear why Southampton splashed out £18m (via BBC Sport), which was a club-record fee at the time, for his services.

Lemina has the attributes required to be a complete midfielder. On the physical side of things, he is able to get up and down the pitch effectively and make tackles, which is why most of his previous managers have deployed him as a box-to-box midfielder.

But, as well as that, Lemina is great at carrying the ball while also being a very accurate passer. Where the former Juventus man could improve, however, is in the final third once he arrives in that area of the pitch.

Lemina could only muster up one goal and one assist in the 25 Premier League appearances he made and, given his ability and the advanced positions he is able to take up, that is not good enough.

All in all, though, Lemina is a player with immense quality and one that Southampton should cherish.

TT Grade: B

Luka Milivojevic

Milivojevic may not be as technically gifted as Lemina, but the Serbia international’s influence on his team is greater than that of the Southampton man’s.

To put things into perspective, Milivojevic finished last season as Crystal Palace’s leading goalscorer in the Premier League.

Milivojevic is, of course, Crystal Palace’s penalty taker. But, even so, the 27-year-old still outscored Wilfried Zaha — who is probably the best player outside the Premier League top six — and the club’s £27m (via BBC Sport) centre-forward Benteke.

Undoubtedly, Milivojevic has grown into such a huge player for the Eagles since arriving from Olympiakos in January 2017.

He has become a real powerhouse in the middle of the park for Hodgson and provides the conditions for the team to attack without having to be worried about getting killed on the counter.

TT Grade: A-

The Verdict

Southampton and Crystal Palace have two very good midfielders at their disposal in Lemina and Milivojevic.

Lemina’s dribbling ability and Milivojevic’s tough tackling in the middle of the park both give their teams the opportunities to transition from defence to attack, while the pair also have differing attributes that can help out in other areas, too.

But, in terms of the authority held in their team and leaving their mark on a game, Milivojevic comes out on top by some distance.

Milivojevic has cemented his spot in Crystal Palace’s starting XI and become an unlikely match-winner for Hodgson in the process.

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Transfer Battle: Mario Lemina vs Luka Milivojevic
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