Player analysis: Albert Sambi Lokonga
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Albert Sambi Lokonga of Arsenal in action during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on August 22, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

After embarking on their worst start to a league campaign in their 118 year history, two defeats and no goals in opening two matches- there’s little to keep Arsenal fans excited in what is shaping up to be a long season ahead.

Despite the marquee signings of Ben White, Martin Ödegaard, and Aaron Ramsdale, the squad is still in its infancy, yet, catering for some older, ‘past it’ players, leaving the club in a sticky situation.

Nearly two years into his tenure, it’s difficult to establish if there has been any real signs of improvement under Mikel Arteta, leaving fans questioning ‘the process.’

In spite of the turmoil, the Gunners are blessed with an array of young talent- one of the few bright points in N5.

Academy products Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka headline the latest crop of talent, with the likes of summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga slowly forging his name onto the list.

 

Midfield anchor 

The 21-year-old midfielder signed from Anderlecht for a fee of £15million, brought in as a prospect for the future; however has found himself starting the opening two Premier League matches due to Thomas Partey’s preseason injury.

The acquisition of Lokonga resembles that of Matteo Guendouzi by Arsenal a few summers ago- an uncovered gem with high potential, a talented, but raw pickup.

Unknown by many before his move to North London, Lokonga has certainly exceeded expectations in his first two matches, showing signs of a promising future and catching the eye of many.

Having appeared for them at youth level, Lokonga was included in Belgium’s provisional Euro 2020 squad as a reserve, incase of injury.

After a solid start at Arsenal he now has the chance to make his full debut for his country, in the forthcoming international break, after being called up by manager Roberto Martinez and here is a breakdown of the underlying stats that has seen him earn his spot:

Lokonga has impressed defensively so far, albeit, a small sample size.

‘Sambi’ is averaging 1.5 interceptions per game- ranking him 36th out of 157 active players- and 6 ball recoveries per game- tying him with Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, a player who many Arsenal fans have been calling the club to sign for some time now.

However, his capabilities stretch way further than defensive statistics, as he is also performing well on the ball.

 

The Belgian has tallied 56.5 passes per game- more than Trent Alexander-Arnold (50.5) and Mason Mount (43.5) and excelled in this department versus Chelsea, flaunting his array of long-range passes, reminiscent to those of Granit Xhaka that Arsenal fans have become accustomed to in recent years.

Gooners have been quick to notice his talents online, with many users raving about his maturity under pressure and positive, forward-passing mindset.

https://twitter.com/RjArsenalBlog/status/1429551878090723330?s=20

Paired alongside Xhaka, Lokonga has shown glimpses off his dynamic, yet elegant play style, mirroring that of Partey- making for an exciting watch.

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