Albert Sambi Lokonga is all but set to join Arsenal from Anderlecht, becoming the club’s first summer signing.
Jack Farrow has taken a closer look at why Mikel Arteta has opted to sign the 21-year-old.
Arsenal have agreed a deal to sign Albert Sambi Lokonga for £14m + add ons (£17m). Their first offer was £12m + add ons (£14m) which was rejected initially [@voetbalkrant].
— Connor Humm (@TikiTakaConnor) June 21, 2021
Lokonga isn’t a new addition to Anderlecht’s first-team, the Belgian has made a handful of league appearances in the 2017/18 season with the focus on his development in the UEFA Youth League team.
Lokonga is a central midfielder who can also play as a defensive midfielder, much like current Arsenal player, Thomas Partey. Lokonga is known to be an energetic player with his main strength being his ability to effectively progress the ball up the pitch. He has become a staple in his team for his ability to transition play from defence to attack, something which Arsenal have severely struggled with in recent times.
Arsenal have relied on David Luiz heavily to break down opposition who play a deep block. Now that he has left the club, they no longer have this option to fall back on. The Lokonga signing makes all the more sense with his ability to fulfil the role, albeit the forward one Luiz used to.
The north London side play an extremely fine detailed style which banks on Arteta’s tactical nouse and the players’ ability to adapt and follow his instructions. The profile of the player the manager targets has to fit the way he intends to play and with Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira close to the exit door, both of whom are very limited in their midfield roles, it makes sense to bring in a more athletically capable player to bolster the ranks.
Arteta favours a high pressing team, with character and aggression being key factors. Lokonga is a low risk, high reward signing that will be very welcomed by the fans, and will offer competition and cover to key man Partey.
Lokonga’s characteristics would be most similar to that of Partey, a progressive midfielder with a gifted eye for a pass.
Why sign Lokonga when we already have Partey?
As we all know, Arteta came straight from a tactically astute, highly efficient Manchester City team whose squad depth and ability to replace key men is clever, something the Gunners are the polar opposite to. The Arteta influence at Arsenal is huge, this could see the club transition into the way Man City build their squad.
Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, and David Silva were all in the squad with their younger replacements (Gabriel Jesus, John Stones, and Phil Foden), making the transition easier with the club having ready-made replacements waiting in the wings offering not only depth but security.
This has led to further success for the Citizens since the transition with a Premier League title and Champions League final appearance already. This way of building and reshaping the club has proven a success, something Arsenal are seemingly aiming to shadow going forward.