The upcoming summer is going to be important for every top-six team for different reasons and they will all be looking to compete for the title.
Tottenham have been on the brink of achieving something special under Mauricio Pochettino. They have established themselves as a regular Champions League team and have played some excellent football, but they have yet to deliver a title challenge from post to post and that is their next challenge.
Throughout his time in North London, Pochettino has been reluctant to spend big money on a ready-made world-class player. The Argentine prefers to sign potential and mould a player in his own image. This summer, he will need to strengthen his squad once again as he lacks depth in a couple of positions.
One area of the pitch that he will look to add reinforcements is central midfield. Mousa Dembele has been the star in that position, but he is now 30 and he can’t be expected to play every match across all competitions.
Meanwhile, Victor Wanyama has only played 14 times in the Premier League and seems out of favour with Pochettino. Eric Dier and Harry Winks are both good options, but neither have pushed on in the way that Tottenham would have hoped.
There is a lot of quality in the middle of the park at Tottenham, but there haven’t been two players to make the positions their own. The answer to their midfield problems could come from an unlikely place.
Southampton have been a good stepping stone club since their return to the Premier League and, despite their impending relegation, they could have one more jewel worth pursuing.
Mario Lemina has had a mixed first season in England, but there is no doubting his quality in midfield areas. The Gabon international arrived from Juventus and it was considered a coup at the time. He may not have thrived in the manner many expected, but it has been tough to shine in a team battling relegation.
He is a similar midfielder to Dembele in many aspects. Lemina is very effective at winning possession and he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. The 24-year-old averages 2.3 dribbles per game, which is only fractionally lower than the 2.5 managed by the Tottenham midfielder.
Considering Lemina is playing his first season in a new country, this is an encouraging stat and suggests he can become the powerful ball-carrier that Dembele has been in recent seasons. In terms of regaining possession, the Southampton man averages 2.1 tackles won and 1.48 interceptions per ninety minutes.
This is superior to Dembele, who averages 1.14 tackles won and 1.48 interceptions per ninety minutes. There are times when players are stained by a relegation, but the stats underline the impact that Lemina has had on games since arriving in England and in a better team, he could be a revelation.
Southampton are not going to be in a strong negotiating position if they are relegated, as expected. Despite their struggles this season, they have a lot of quality in their squad and there won’t be a shortage of takers for a lot of their players.
Lemina is the standout in their squad and his experience with Juventus means that he has the mentality to step up to one of the top six clubs. He looks a perfect fit for Tottenham and would be a great long-term replacement for Dembele.