Belgian outlet Het Nieuwsblad revealed yesterday that Arsenal are really keen to sign Anderlecht star Albert Sambi Lokonga this summer.
With Granit Xhaka set to leave the Emirates, the Gunners need at least one new midfielder to fill the void. Yves Bissouma is the name at the tip of almost every Gooner’s tongue, but it looks like Edu and Mikel Arteta have another plan.
The report claims that Arsenal have been charmed by Lokonga, who’ll enter the final two years of his contract soon. He is set to be available for a fairly small fee between £13 million and £17 million, but is he the right man for Arteta?
Here’s everything you need to know about Lokonga….
Who is Albert Sambi Lokonga?
Born in 1999, Lokonga is the latest of a long list of exciting talents produced by Anderlecht. The 21-year-old came through the ranks at Les Mauves et Blancs, before making his senior debut in the 2017/18 season.
He quickly attracted interest from some of the biggest clubs in world football, including Barcelona and Manchester City. (Marca) The Belgian chose to stay put then, but he’s definitely ready to make a big jump now.
A defensive midfielder by trade, Lokonga has impressed everyone who has watched him. His defensive positioning is top class and the way he anticipates danger and makes sure he stops it is really impressive for his age.
He averaged a very decent 1.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions and 1.1 clearances per game last season and was dribbled past just 0.7 times per 90 minutes – an extremely impressive record for a defensive midfielder. (SofaScore)
Lokonga’s game isn’t limited to just his defensive skills. Right after he gets the ball off his opponents, he is brave enough to drive into the opposition third and have a real impact there, which is extremely essential for a modern-day number six.
The 21-year-old averaged 78.2 touches per game and maintained a very healthy 86% passing accuracy. He also boasts of almost one key pass every game along with 1.2 shots per 90 mins, mostly from distance. (SofaScore)
His performances over the last two years have brought in comparisons with Barcelona legend Sergio Busquets (CalcioMercato), which is a huge compliment for him. If he can go on and have even half as good a career as the Spaniard, he will end up being a fine player.
The Insider’s Verdict:
Lokonga’s skill set checks all the boxes that Mikel Arteta is looking for at Arsenal. The Belgian has the qualities to become a brilliant player at the top level, and alongside someone like Thomas Partey at the Emirates, he could thrive.
However, he is yet to experience the pressure of playing in one of Europe’s big five leagues. Tearing it up in the Belgian top-flight is one thing, but doing the same in the Premier League, especially for a club like Arsenal, is a whole different ballgame.
Arsenal’s priority target should still be Brighton’s Bissouma. The Mali international would be a brilliant fit for us, but if Edu and Arteta are looking for a cheaper alternative with bags of potential, Lokonga is a decent shout.