Why Albert Sambi Lokonga can be a long-term option for Arsenal


Amidst all the hype surrounding Ross Barkley, his midfield partner has quietly gone under the radar.  


Albert Sambi Lokonga has been delivering solid performances in Luton Town's midfield since returning from injury. He has started each of Luton’s last nine Premier League games, and was on top form against Manchester United last week with a WhoScored rating of 7.57. 


Lokonga found game time very hard to come by at Arsenal, and during his spell at Crystal Palace last season. But his loan move to the Hatters looks to have reinvigorated the Belgian.  


The 24-year-old ranks first for completed passes, second for touches and progressive passes, and third for tackles won on a per 90 basis in the Luton squad. 


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp also seems to be a fan. As they prepared to play Luton on Wednesday, Klopp told reporters: "Lokonga when you see him playing and you think, oh - he's an Arsenal player and they loaned him? Interesting." 


And Lokonga's importance showed, as Rob Edwards’s men capitulated their 1-0 lead after he was taken off injured at half time. 


Albert Sambi Lokonga Transfer Value - how much is he worth? 


As per FootballTransfer’s Player Valuation Model, Lokonga has a current Estimated Transfer Value (ETV) of €5.9m. 


Why Albert Sambi Lokonga can be a long-term option for Arsenal


That is significantly lower than his peak value of €17m right after his move to the Emirates Stadium, but limited playing time over the last few seasons has led to a steady decline in his value. 


His recent performances will pose a big dilemma for Mikel Arteta in the summer. On one hand, Lokonga’s sale can generate funds that can be re-invested elsewhere, but the RSC Anderlecht youth product is also showing signs that he can become a reliable long-term option for the Gunners. 


The stats - why is Albert Sambi Lokonga impressing this season? 


Lokonga has a beautiful feel for the game, and displays impressive pass volume, pass selection, and passing range. These in-possession qualities have always stood out when watching him. 


Despite playing in a Luton side that have one of the worst possession stats in the league, Lokonga’s 52 passes at a 87.4% pass completion rate, 5.26 passes into the final third, 0.41 through balls and 0.93 switches per 90 fare very well compared to midfielders in the Premier League. 


But a lack of defensive drive was one of Lokonga’s weaknesses coming out of Anderlecht and into Arsenal. This is why moving to Luton was a great opportunity to work on that side of his game. 


Players develop through the environments they train and play in, and Lokonga is already showing a better approach when out of possession. His incredible last-ditch block last week to prevent Bruno Fernandes from scoring is exactly the kind of defensive resolve that was missing from his game. 


The Belgian always had the physicality to excel at this, and is now making 1.96 blocks, tackling 75% of dribblers and losing only 0.41 ground duels per 90. All of these figures put him among the best midfielders in the league. 


At Arsenal, Lokonga was predominantly used as the deepest midfielder, but he looks more comfortable playing alongside Barkley in a double pivot. His ability to dictate games while offering off ball movement and pitch coverage makes him a better box-to-box option. 


These qualities could make him a realistic option to sit alongside Declan Rice, and allow Martin Odegaard complete creative freedom. 


Although he is getting plaudits for his performance this season, the Belgium International says that he is not at his best level yet, but is slowly getting there. 


He will be well aware that to make it as a regular starter for Mikel Arteta, he needs to be quicker, faster and better at everything. But Lokonga’s technical ability and attitude give him every chance of doing that. 


Arsenal fans have seen William Saliba return from his loan spell at Marseille to become a key player, and will be hoping Lokonga can have a similar impact next season.  


The Luton number 28, however will be focussed on recovering from his injury and keeping his team in the Premier League.


This article was provided by FootballTransfers

Why Albert Sambi Lokonga can be a long-term option for Arsenal