Recent reports suggest that Arsenal are in the final stages of agreeing on a £17 million deal to bring central midfielder Sambi Lokonga to The Emirates from Belgian side Anderlecht.
With Granit Xhaka looking set to join Jose Mourinho’s Roma in Serie A, Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard have both returned to Real Madrid and Lucas Torreira’s time at the club appears to be over though his loan deal with Athletico Madrid will not be extended. This leaves limited options for Mikel Arteta in central midfield.
Interest is high in the young midfielder, who captained Anderlecht last season, around Europe with the 21-year-old a regular in Belgium’s European Under-21 Championship Qualifying matches.
Arteta looks set to continue with a 4-2-3-1 formation, where the central midfielders are used in providing a screen in front of the centre backs out of possession as well as provide the start of attacks in possession.
Defensive organisation and concentration are key to this role out of possession and Lokonga has shown his ability to fulfil his defensive responsibilities, though his urgency and acceleration to recover is not particularly explosive. He relies on his initial positioning which may mean there would be some challenges to confront when coming into the Premier League.
Who is Lokongo and Why Do Arsenal Want Him?
He is able to fill a more defensive role and his tackling is strong as well as being able to work to regain possession. He can provide a good level of defensive cover, especially in dealing with opposition forward players trying to find space and receiving in front of the Arsenal defence.
On the ball, Lokonga has class and skill which will be enjoyed in any league. His passing ability is expansive, able to link up well in tight areas as well as switch play effectively to full-backs pushing on. This will be great news to players like Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin and Bakayo Saka.
To have forward with the movement of Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang in front of him, Lokonga’s through balls from deep have been a dangerous weapon for Anderlecht last season, his vision is good and is able to pick out forward runs well with accurate passing.
Lokonga recorded two assists and three goals for Anderlecht last season, and this side of his game will suggest he is more in line to fulfil the defensive role, as well as being the player to initiate attacks from deep.
The box-to-box midfielder comes with many qualities that will excite fans of the north London club. With Arteta looking to find a partner for Thomas Partey in the middle, Lokonga could be seen as that man.
He comes highly recommended by Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry who recently worked with his in the Belgian national side, where Lokonga was included in the stand-by list for the Euro 2020 competition.
Anderlecht, managed by former Manchester City central defender Vincent Kompany, have financial issues of their own and will need to capitalise on the interest in the central midfielder. But with a number of sides interested, they will be holding out for the best price.
There will be a number of arrivals for Arsenal this summer, along with exits, with a lack of depth in a number of areas being a concern to Arteta. Unable to compete financially with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal will aim to be shopping for value. They also have the obstacle of no European football to offer its new arrivals.
This will change how they approach and who they approach new players. Supporters will be demanding a return to the European stage next season and pressure mounts on Arteta and his side to make big improvements going into the new season.
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