Albert Sambi Lokonga seems to be the new target of the Arsenal boo boys.
There is a huge gulf in class between him and Thomas Partey – but there is also a huge gulf in class between Thomas Partey and almost every other defensive midfielder in world football.
Partey is a truly world class player, and only Rodri and Declan Rice get close to him in the Premier League. The Ghanaian is better than both.
Just because Lokonga is not close to Partey, does not mean he is a bad player.
Lokonga arrived in England 18 months ago as an exciting young talent whose form in Belgium had seen him captain Anderlecht at just 19-years-old.
He is perhaps a victim of being “big and black”.
Fans look at “big, black central midfielders” and immediately associate them with being defensive beasts. They think Patrick Vieira, Thomas Partey.
We saw it with Abou Diaby. Labelled “the next Patrick Vieira” due to being over 6ft and of Senegalese heritage. But anyone that saw Diaby play wild agree he was far more attacking than Vieira, and his defending was his weakest element.
Likewise with Yaya Toure.
Whilst in his early days he did play more defensive, at his peak for Manchester City he was more attacking. Driving the side forward from the middle of the park.
At his best, he always had someone (such as Fernandinho) behind him. Yet fans still labelled him a defensive midfielder.
Vieira as well often gets miss-labelled.
Yes, he was defensive-minded, but was never really the deepest midfielder for club or country.
At Arsenal, he played alongside Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto Silva, for France it was Didier Deschamps.
Their defensive discipline allowed Vieira to pick up the ball and drive forward with it.
And it that sense, Lokonga is more of a Vieira or Toure type midfielder rather than a Partey, N’Golo Kante or Gilberto Silva.
To get the best out of Lokonga, he needs to be given the freedom to drive forward. But to do that, he can not be the deepest midfielders.
He needs to be playing where Granit Xhaka is – but the Swiss man is undroppable right now.
I am sure the plan would have been to have Mohamed Elneny as the Thomas Partey cover, then Lokonga playing further forward alongside Fabio Vieira on the Europa League.
Elneny then does the disciplined dirty work whilst the other two use their differing talents to break down opponents.
Considering his injury record, or it important to rest Partey in the Europa League.
With Elneny out, Mikel Arteta has had to play Lokonga out of his natural position in the Europa League.
I would expect us in January to go out and sign a naturally defensive midfield – Danilo or Douglas Luiz are the two names currently being floated about. And this will allow Lokonga to played in a more advanced position.
My final thoughts:
Lokonga has only just turned 23-years-old.
At 23, Thomas Partey was only just breaking through at Atletico.
At 23, Kante west at Caen in Ligue 2.
At 23, Fernandinho was at Shakhtar Donetsk.
At 23, Yaya Toure was at Olympiakos.
At 23, Claude Makelele was at Nantes.
At 23, Gilberto Silva was at Atletico Mineiro.
At 23, Emmanuel Petit was playing CB for Monaco.
Tomorrow it is PSV away where we will guarantee topping the group if we avoid defeat.
i think the lad struggled at bit last season but that was more about acclimatising to new surroundings still and the premier league tempo,i think hes looked really good at times this season so its still all part of his development
Sambi Lokonga is a good footballer. And yes, presently playing out-of-position. If Partey was fit and Granit injured. Would Partey and Lokonga work well behind Vieira or Odegaard?
Not sure what being black has to do with anything. Let’s not search for reasons to bring race into arguments.
Everything gets racialised these days, it`s all part of the anti-white agenda and a way to attack our culture. That being said, I don`t think the author was playing that game here. I just think he was pointing out that young black midfielders trying to break into our team will always be compared to Vieira. It`s totally unfair, not because their black but because we`ll never have another midfielder (no matter what colour they are) to compare to him, not in our lifetime anyway.
A midfield player like Vieira only comes around once every hundred years, if you`re lucky. I`ve been following The Arse since 1957 and him and Adams are the two best players I`ve seen in Red & White. And yes, I`m including Bergkamp and Henry in that.
I have no agenda as regards Sambi Lokonga, simply that, he a young player, with promise, in a foreign country; it is early days, let’s see how he comes on. Was he not a referral from Thierry Henry from their Belgian Nat team involvement? Come on, I moved to a foreign country and struggled with the language, supermarket, trains and so on and I was 32 not 19!
Johnno; great comment, since 1957, I am since about 1958/59. Whenever i read negative comments after one bad game i wish the writer could have watched some of the teams and players I have suffered, nothing personal, but late 50’s through the 60’s was rather dire and really, apart from a brief late 70’s slot (with O’Leary, Brady and Stapleton) 1973/74 till George Graham was not too good either ….
Tell me about it mate. We lived through the dark days, not only were we shit but it coincided with the other mob having their greatest ever team. A lot of Arsenal fans these days don`t know how good they`ve got it.
Yep, mid 70`s, remember it well. Thought we were going to get relegated at one stage in 76 and the early to mid 80`s weren`t too clever either.
The club picked up a lot of fair weather fans during the Wenger era, tossers mate. More interested in building up a social media presence than supporting the team. That`s one of the reasons I quite like this site, the people who write for it are genuine supporters.