Would Albert Sambi Lokonga be a Strong Addition to the Arsenal Midfield?
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
By Jahid Islam
Last week, my article on Ruben Neves highlighted the importance of Arsenal signing a few versatile midfielders in order to address our midfield woes. I hold the opinion that Brighton's Yves Bissouma, rather than Neves, is the must buy midfielder for this Summer, just like the retro yellow away kit we’ve been blessed with for next season.
The real gritty debate comes about when discussing the second midfield target. The more creative one.
Neves, as mentioned last week, has outstanding passing range. He also put up great defensive metrics in the season just gone past. However, he’s proved to be a divisive figure among Arsenal fans, and he hasn’t even signed yet. Concerns about that price tag are valid, and I share those worries too. Can we really afford to spend £35 million on a player who’s had a disappointing season? Especially if we don’t have European Football to bring in revenue?
Well, worry no more. Albert-Mboyo Sambi Lokonga is the next big thing to come out of Anderlecht’s promising youth academy. Youri Tielemans and Romelu Lukakau, among others, are other examples of remarkable talents to have graduated from the Belgium club's youth setup. He might be the most exciting thing to come out of Belgium since… um… waffles. Anyways, for a potential fee of under €20million, bringing in Lokonga could represent a clever bit of business from Edu and the board.
Making over 30 appearances in the Belgian First Division this season with 27 starts, the youngster exemplified impressive durability for someone of his age. 3 goals and 2 assists make for poor reading initially, but being deployed as a defensive midfielder for the majority of the season under Vincent Kompany couldn’t have helped. However, watching him elegantly dribble past defenders and pick out inch-perfect passes was enough for me to be convinced of his potential to become a fantastic addition to our midfield.
Potential is the key word here. Lokonga has bucket-loads of it, with ability to back it up. There’s a reason why Roberto Martinez has the 21-year-old on standby for the Belgium's EURO 2020 squad. Oh, and don’t forget, Thierry Henry is a part of that Belgian National Team set up. Henry himself has urged the Arsenal to sign Lokonga this summer, being persuaded by the promising performances shown by the young man from Brussels this season. And I trust Henry’s talent radar massively.
Lokonga’s physical size is impressive too. At 6 foot tall, he’s a perfect blend of physical prowess and pace. The Belgian's also got an eye for a pass too, akin to Partey’s impressive long balls. Just like Partey, however, when given the chance to shoot, he fancies himself from long distance. I would truly feel sorry for the ball boys behind the goal with those two in midfield. Let’s hope Lokonga learns from Elneny, and not Partey, when it comes to long-shots. But everything else from Partey.
The relative ease at which Lokonga dribbles past his marker is also a notable asset of his game. His abilities in this regard appear effortless. Rather eye-catching to watch, if I’m being honest. Martin Keown’s been calling Thomas Partey a ‘Rolls-Royce’ kind of midfielder based on his graceful dribbling all season long. I can’t wait for Lokonga to be nicknamed the ‘Bentley’ or some other luxury car.
As of the 14th June 2021, TransferMarkt values Lokonga at £10.80 Million. A fee which should be covered by Granit Xhaka's potential sale to Roma. With Guendouzi and Torreira also set to leave Arsenal, we’ll need reinforcements in that midfield. All that game-time accrued in the Belgian league means that Lokonga is dependable and can feature for rotational purposes, followed by a steady integration into the first team if he impresses.
After having withstood a poor campaign, doubled up by the lack of European football in the next, now is the perfect time for Arsenal to sign players with enough potential to progress into true stars. I honestly hope that next season the Emirates is packed with fans chanting “Lokonga! Lokonga!” as he winds up a long shot that might actually trouble the Goalkeeper.
Thus, to answer the question in the title of this article, my answer’s an emphatic "yes!".
Vincent Kompany, current Anderlecht managed, remarked that Lokonga's abilities “stand out” for a midfielder of his age. With that kind of review, and impressive progression in both defensive and offensive aspects of his game, it’s a no-brainer for me. Let's get Lokonga to the carpet.
I’ve been Jahid, and thanks for reading! See you next week for more bad puns and interesting takes!