Arsenal’s interest in Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina is rumored to be steadily increasing. The Gunners are in desperate need of reinforcements, and high on that list is a quality player to pair with Granit Xhaka in the heart of Arsenal’s formation. If reports are to be believed, the 23-year-old Gabonese seems to have caught Arsene Wenger’s eye, and on paper, this one makes perfect sense for all parties involved.
Lemina arrived at Juventus in 2015 on loan from Olympique Marseille, with the Bianconeri securing the option to sign him on a permanent deal for €9.5 million. Lemina took advantage of injuries in Juventus’ midfield to earn significant minutes in his first season, and showed enough promise for Juventus to make his transfer permanent. In his second season however, his minutes were significantly limited following Max Allegri’s switch to a two-man midfield, falling behind Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio, and often Stefano Sturaro in the pecking order.
While Juventus haven’t actively shopped his services to other clubs, it’s well known that they’re in the market for a top quality central midfielder, and it may well suit him to move on in search of regular playing time. With Arsenal in dire need of a jump in quality in midfield, London could just be the perfect destination for the 23-year-old.
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Arsenal haven’t had a leggy, all-action midfielder since Abou Diaby faded in and out of Arsene Wenger’s team. Patrick Vieira was the prototype, and Wenger has tried desperately to find someone to match it since he rode off into the sunset.
Lemina isn’t Vieira by any stretch of the imagination, but his committed, determined running on and off the ball, fierce tackling, and willingness to do the dirty work are all traits that make him suitable for that role. That he’s young and French-speaking only adds to the feeling that he’s tailor-made for Wenger (even if the jokes write themselves). Lemina isn’t world class -- he’s some way off it -- but he’s good enough to have held his own in Juventus’ midfield, and there’s plenty of potential to work his way to world class in the future.
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While Lemina sometimes suffered from the tighter refereeing of Serie A, his physical, harassing style is ideal for the Premier League. His athleticism and stamina enables him to cover his defensive duties while still getting forward into the attack, and his dribbling, passing range and attacking instincts are good enough to take the pressure off a more creatively-minded midfield partner, making him ideal to sit alongside Granit Xhaka.
Lemina still has his rash moments and instances of poor decision-making, but he's an intelligent player and while he got pushed out at Juve, he also had the privilege of learning the game from those some brilliant midfielders he couldn't pass up.
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Juventus aren’t in desperate need to sell Lemina, and Lemina hasn’t publicly agitated for a move away from the club, but it makes sense that they’d want to part ways amicably at this point. Lemina isn’t quite at the level to help the Bianconeri lift the Champions League, and he needs to play week in and week out to eventually get to that level. That’s not going to happen in Turin, so it follows suit that he’ll need new digs.
Arsenal are in a real predicament, having missed out on Champions League. It can be hard to sign players of the quality to play in Champions League without offering competition in that tournament, but Lemina represents a golden opportunity to hopefully solve a position in their team that’s been a glaring issue for years now. If they can take advantage, and for a reasonable price, it makes sense for all parties involved.