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All you need to know about the latest Arsenal target and box-box midfielder Alberto Sambi

Arsenal target Alberto Sambi Lokonga is a box-to-box midfielder who Vincent Kompany believes is destined for bigger and better things… and the Anderlecht youngster comes recommended by Thierry Henry!

  • Arsenal are targeting a move for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga
  • Mikel Arteta wants to strengthen his midfield ahead of the 2021-2022 season
  • The 21-year-old is said to have been recommended by club legend Thierry Henry
  • Sportsmail takes a look at what the youngster could bring to the Premier League 

Arsenal are preparing for a midfield reshuffle this summer and one of the players they look set to recruit already has the seal of approval from Thierry Henry

Anderlecht youngster Albert Sambi Lokonga is the man Mikel Arteta‘s side are chasing and they’ve already had a £13.5million bid rejected by the Belgian side.

But Anderlecht, who are managed by former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, have experienced financial difficulties and there is optimism a deal can be reached as negotiations progress. 

Arsenal are looking to agree a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga
Arsenal are looking to agree a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga

The Gunners may have to pay out around £18m for the midfielder, who has taken the Belgian top flight by storm in the last two seasons.

His performances saw him called into Belgium’s senior squad in March and Arsenal legend Henry, who works as assistant to coach Roberto Martinez, has been impressed by him. 

As Arteta’s side look to get a deal over the line, Sportsmail takes a look at what the midfielder could bring to the Gunners next season.

Who is he?

Born in Brussels in October 1999, Lokonga joined Anderlecht’s youth system in 2014 before signing his first professional deal in 2017 – a month after his 18th birthday.

His first-team debut came just before Christmas in the same year, playing 90 minutes in a 1-0 victory over KAS Eupen.

But it wasn’t until the 2019-2020 season that Lokonga became a regular starter, which coincided with Kompany’s return to the club as player-manager.

The midfielder has racked up 63 appearances in the last two seasons and in March this year he earned his first call-up to the Belgium senior squad.

He is yet to make his debut for Martinez’s side and just missed out on a place in their 26-man squad for Euro 2020. However, he has been included on their stand-by list.

The midfielder has been included on Belgium's stand-by list for their Euro 2020 squad
The midfielder has been included on Belgium’s stand-by list for their Euro 2020 squad

What type of player is he?

Lokonga can operate as a No 8 but is also comfortable in a defensive role.

The Belgian is an energetic, box-to-box midfielder and isn’t afraid of putting in a strong tackle as well as looking to link-up play between defence and attack.

He is also a natural leader and was given the captain’s armband at Anderlecht in November, despite his young age.

The 21-year-old is comfortable in possession and boasted a passing accuracy of 85 per cent for the 2020-2021 campaign.

However, his record of three assists suggests he spent more time in his own half rather than creating things higher up the pitch. 

But this is likely a result of him playing in a deeper role for Anderlecht.

The 21-year-old can operate as a No 8 but is also comfortable in a more defensive role
The 21-year-old can operate as a No 8 but is also comfortable in a more defensive role

defensive role

Lokonga is a natural leader and was given the captain's armband at Anderlecht in November
Lokonga is a natural leader and was given the captain’s armband at Anderlecht in November

Why do Arsenal want him?

Arsenal are in the market for a midfielder to compete alongside Thomas Partey after Dani Ceballos returned to Real Madrid following his two-year loan. 

Granit Xhaka also looks to be edging towards an exit from the Emirates and Lokonga’s ability to play in the defensive role as well as further forward would make him a valuable asset.

Lokonga is only 21 and has plenty of time to be moulded and developed into the type of player Arteta wants. 

Thierry Henry has recommended Lokonga to his former club
Thierry Henry has recommended Lokonga to his former club
Arteta is looking to strengthen his midfield after losing Dani Ceballos while Granit Xhaka could also leave
Arteta is looking to strengthen his midfield after losing Dani Ceballos while Granit Xhaka could also leave

The midfielder is clearly talented and his stock is only likely to rise, with his inclusion on Belgium’s stand-by list for the Euros an indicator of the potential he has. 

There have also been reports that Thierry Henry has recommended the midfielder to his former club after being impressed by him in training.

The Frenchman also has a good relationship with former Belgium captain Kompany and Voetbal24 claim they have spoken about Lokonga joining the Gunners.

What’s been said?

Kompany thinks highly of the young midfielder and clearly believes he will go on to bigger and better things in the near future.

‘With his qualities at his age, he stands out for me,’ Kompany said during the 2020-2021 campaign.

‘Will Sambi win his duels? Is he improving his defensive work? You ask yourself these questions as a coach. Well, I’ve seen him make a lot of progress in that area.

Anderlecht boss Vincent Kompany has also spoken highly of the youngster in the past
Anderlecht boss Vincent Kompany has also spoken highly of the youngster in the past

‘Who knows, Sambi may even make the national selection for the European Championship. It would give him a chance to secure a top transfer in the long term – hopefully not too early.’ 

Lokonga spoke about the possibility of him leaving Anderlecht last month, telling the Belgian media: ‘I will not go to a club which is inferior to Anderlecht.

It’I will only leave Anderlecht if all the ingredients are there. Yes, I feel ready to take a step forward and rub shoulders with great players, but everything depends on the proposals that will be made during this summer.’

Comments (1)

  1. Gud to know

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