Arsenal have officially announced the signing of Sambi Lokonga.The Belgian international from Anderlecht will only turn 22 years old in October this year. The two sides have reportedly signed a five-year contract. And according to earlier revelations, Lokonga’s transfer fee should be around €17.5 million, with an additional sum of more than €4.5 million if certain conditions are met.
So the question arises: who is Lokonga? It’s not a familiar name after all. And what does he bring to Arsenal?
The fourth highest price ever sold by Anderlecht FC
First of all, don’t underestimate the transfer fee of less than €20 million. According to the Belgian press, this is already the fourth highest price ever sold by the Anderlecht club team.
- Doku, the striker who just made a sparkling appearance in the Europa League, had the highest transfer fee, going to Ligue 1 last year at a cost of €26 million for Rennes.
- Midfielder Tijeremann, who is now firmly established in the English Premier League with Leicester City FC and the Belgian national team, was transferred for 25 million.
- The third was Mitrovic’s 18 million Euros move to Newcastle of the Premier League.
Considering the general decrease in the price of players under the epidemic, the transfer fee for Lokonga, a player from the Belgian league, is not really low, which shows the importance of his new owners.
As the 8th in the EPL for the 2020/21 season, Arsenal, one of the “top six in the EPL”, will need to strengthen their squad this summer. There is a reason why Arsenal is willing to pay a “high price” for Loko. Although Lokonga is still an unknown player in international football, he is already a highly regarded star of the new generation of midfielders in Belgium.
Lokonga’s personal experience
At the age of 18, Lokonga was given the opportunity to play for Anderlecht’s first team. He then grew into one of the team’s main options for the 2019/20 season, and by 2020/21 he was fully established as Anderlecht’s starting midfielder, scoring three goals and two assists in 33 league appearances, and even wearing the captain’s armband on several occasions.
Last December, Kompany made Lokonga the youngest captain in Anderlecht’s history. When a penalty came up in one game, the unconventional penalty taker Flap tried to steal it. It was Lokoanga who convinced the Dutch midfielder to consider the interests of the whole team, and eventually the regular penalty taker Nmesha (this summer’s U21 UEFA Youth League Golden Boot and star of the championship Germany) took the penalty and hit it, and the team won 1-0. Kompany commented on Lokonga: “Even in adversity, he can take responsibility.“
For the Euros this summer, Lokonga didn’t make the trip with Belgium. But he was actually selected for the national team and became a backup option for manager Roberto Martinez. According to the Belgian media, if Witsel had not recovered from his injury in time, it was Lokonga who would have replaced the Dortmund midfielder.
As a midfielder who can play both in the middle and at the back, Lokonga is a good ball handler and passer, and with his ability to break through the ball and shoot from distance, the 21-year-old can play a midfield role very well. But that’s not the only role Lokonga can play, as his good technique combined with his excellent tackling ability also allows him to play as a midfielder at the back. This past season, Lokonga averaged 1.8 successful interceptions of passes and 1.6 successful tackles, as well as 1.1 clearances, proving that he is also quite good in defense.
With Ceballos having returned to Real Madrid after his loan spell and Zaka likely to be sold to Serie A, Arsenal are in desperate need of a partner to pair with Thomas Paddy in midfield. The arrival of Lokonga will give them a “guaranteed” option, and the Belgian youngster will certainly be a key grooming target for manager Mikhail Arteta.