Why Arsenal have signed Sambi Lokonga

Robin Bairner
New Arsenal signing Albert Sambi Lokonga playing for Anderlecht

Albert Sambi Lokonga became Arsenal’s second major signing of the summer when he completed a move to the club on Monday.

Sambi Lokonga has followed left-back Nuno Tavares to the Emirates side, with the 19-year-old joining from Belgian side Anderlecht for an upfront fee in the region of €17.5 million (£15m), with a further €3.5m to potentially follow in the form of bonuses.

A 21-year-old midfielder, he arrives at the Premier League side having played 78 times for Anderlecht, scoring three goals and laying on seven more.

So what has made the Gunners move for him?

Arteta and Edu on why Sambi Lokonga has signed

Speaking to the club’s official website, Arteta suggested that Sambi Lokonga has arrived as a player for the future.

“Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development,” he said. “We’re confident Albert’s ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence.”

Furthermore, the influence of Vincent Kompany, who was a member of the Manchester City side that Arteta coached as Pep Guardiola’s right-hand man, has played a role in the deal.

“He has been coached well by Kompany and his team at Anderlecht. I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons,” he said.

The idea that Sambi Lokonga is one for the future was reinforced by Edu.

“We are delighted Albert has signed with us, as there was a lot of interest in him and he was a big target for us. Albert is a player we’ve been tracking for some time, and he will bring us strength in depth in the centre of midfield. We look forward to his continued development with us,” he said.

Sambi Lokonga highlights

How will Samib Lokonga fit into the Arsenal squad?

Arsenal have seen much of their midfield depth eroded away over the course of the summer.

Dani Ceballos has returned to Real Madrid after a loan deal, while Martin Odegaard, who plays in a more advanced role than Sambi Lokonga, has done the same.

Furthermore, Matteo Guendouzi has lost the confidence of the club and has joined Marseille – probably never to return.

With Granit Xhaka also set to leave for Roma and Lucas Torreira unsettled, Sambi Lokonga will provide a back-up box-to-box option. Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are ahead of him in Arteta’s thinking, while Joe Willock is establishing himself as another viable option.

It is as support - and in the long-term competition - for Partey that he has arrived.

Sambi Lokonga, then, is liable to be a fair way down the pecking order, though still in contention for minutes with the Arsenal first team.