Assessing Sambi Lokonga's First Season with Arsenal
3 min read

Assessing Sambi Lokonga's First Season with Arsenal

Assessing Sambi Lokonga's First Season with Arsenal

Sambi Lokonga's first season with Arsenal is a surprisingly divisive topic.

I learned this week as I was perusing the Arsenal Vision Podcast Discord and there were also questions around his future role on the Arseblog Discord as well. Before this, I hadn't put too much thought into how I really thought about his performance for the team last year.

This is what I wrote about him in the midfielder review section:

Given his rawness and newness to the level and league, his performances were quite good. He showed issues with defensive positioning at times, but on the ball he looked every bit as good as advertised.
I know that Arteta says that they see him as a 'six' long term but I still have my doubts about that. He has a lot to improve on, on the defensive side of the ball and I think that he looks much more comfortable playing on the edge of the final third compared to deeper behind other midfielders.

I think that is still true but I think it is worth digging a little deeper into his performance overall.

Now let's compare things to his time in Belgium.

There is some decline in the stats for some categories, the biggest changes coming with his attempts to beat a defender with a dribble and some of his progressive passing numbers.

Other than that he seemed to have replicated what he did in Belgium quite effectively in the Premier League from a stats perspective.

So was this good enough and what should our expectations be for Lokonga next season be?

So to answer the first question on was that good enough is hard and depends on what your expectations for him were. He was a player in his early 20s making the jump to a much harder league. He also had a bit of a backward introduction where he was thrown into the fire early, having to cover for the preseason injury of Thomas Partey when the plan was probably to work him in a bit more slowly.

Given that I did not expect him to supplant one of the current midfielders but rather that he was brought in for the future I think that this was a very successful season for him. I think that it is might impressive that he was able to hold his own at the Premier League level.

There are still questions about how he can adapt defensively but I think is something that can develop as he understands where the best positions are to take up to shield the back line. I still think that in the current team his best position for Premier League action is as either a part of a double pivot or as one of the more advanced midfielders, it is too big and too risky of an ask to try to have him be a loan six.

Now the question is what should we expect for next season?

I think on the depth chart he will have slipped down a bit with the new additions to the team. I think that among the left 8s he might be the third choice. Among the 6s I also think that he is third choice.

His minutes will look to come primarily in the Europa League and the Cups at least to start the season and I think that is perfect for him to continue to adapt to looking at developing into a more complete screening midfielder that Arsenal see for him long-term.