Arsenal are edging closer towards completing their first summer signing in Anderlecht’s Albert Sambi Lokonga.
The Gunners saw their initial approach, rumored to be worth £13m, rebuffed by the Belgians but there is a willingness on both sides to conclude a deal and having reportedly agreed personal terms with the midfielder, an improved offer is said to be imminent.
One of Mikel Arteta’s priorities this summer will be to strengthen in midfield after Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard returned to Real Madrid following their loan spells. Granit Xhaka is being heavily linked with a move to Roma and Arsenal may need to bring in a few midfielders.
Lokonga is likely to be one of a number of players who will arrive at the Emirates Stadium this summer after 90min revealed the club plan to spend big this summer.
If you’re a casual viewer of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, here are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Anderlecht captain.
Lokonga suffered a cruciate ligament injury back in 2018 and while he appears to have recovered fully, it’s the type of injury that clubs tend to approach with caution during the medical process before spending big on a player.
He spent 206 days on the sidelines as a result of the injury but there are no signs it has impacted his physical level. He’s incredibly mobile and doesn’t seem to be suffering from any long-term effects but you can be sure Arsenal will be doing their due diligence with regards to the aforementioned injury.
Manchester City legend and Anderlecht boss Vincent Kompany has suggested in the past that Lokonga still needs to improve defensively.
At just 21 years old, he’s bound to have a number of development areas and the capture of the midfielder would be with a view to the future as opposed to him arriving as a complete player.
His ability to read the game enables him to make interceptions often but he can be a little rash in the challenge and needs to improve his ‘individual duels’, according to his current manager.
Lokonga’s confidence in his own ability is clear for all to see. He demands the ball even when in pressure situations and backs himself to dribble out of tight spaces.
While he has sometimes been accused of picking the safe option with regards to his passing, he’s not afraid to try and split defences with ambitious through balls from deep areas and if at first, he doesn’t succeed, he’ll just try again. It’s partly why he’s been handed the captaincy at just 21.
We’re not comparing him to Patrick Vieira, nobody compares to the Arsenal great. However, there is something about Lokonga in full flow that is reminiscent of the former midfielder.
His long strides and the elegance with which he carries the ball is where the comparison comes from and if he can go on to become half the player Vieira was, he’ll endear himself to the Gunners faithful in no time.
Arsenal are not the only club who have been keeping tabs on the Belgian, with Paris Saint-Germain, Lille and Atalanta all previously linked with a move for the midfielder.
None of the aforementioned clubs, however, have gone as far as submitting an official bid for the player. Anderlecht are in a tricky spot financially and that’s seemingly why they are willing to allow Lokonga to join the Gunners.