Arsenal have announced the signing of Belgian midfielder, Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht in a deal believed to be worth around £15m, which could rise to £18.3m in eventual bonuses. There is a 5% sell-on clause inserted into the player’s contract as well. Lokonga will wear the number 23 shirt, vacated by the departed David Luiz. The midfielder has signed a four year contract, with the option for a fifth to be taken up at the club’s discretion.
Lokonga has been a target for Arsenal for a very long time, long before the reported recommendation to the scouting team from Thierry Henry. Arsenal had an initial bid of £15m rejected by the Belgian side, however, a deal was always expected to be completed in the end.
It has long been a preference for the Arsenal recruitment team to bring in undiscovered gems to the club, a policy that has seen the likes of Mattéo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba join the club, with Lokonga likely taking Guendouzi’s place in midfield, following his departure to Marseille.
Since the departure of Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal have been on the lookout for a true number eight to come in and fill the void. While Dani Ceballos ostensibly occupied this role under both Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, the Spaniard’s disappointing performances last season have seen Arsenal look elsewhere. While Lokonga may not necessarily fir the “true 8” role, he can deputise in the position, but is seen more as a trusty back-up to Thomas Partey.
This is what has brought them to Lokonga’s file. The Belgian midfielder’s stats certainly give an insight into the kind of player that Arsenal potentially have on their hands, as do the comments of Roberto Martínez, the Belgian head coach, who predicts a big future for the youngster.
It seems rather unlikely that Lokonga will be thrust into the action immediately. Indeed, Arsenal’s opening six matches see them take on newly promoted Brentford, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham all in the space of a month, which seems an unlikely time to thrust the youngster into the thick of things straight away, though he will likely be in and around the first-team and will likely be eased into the side similar to how Emery brought Guendouzi into the fold when he first arrived at the club.
Lokonga is Arsenal’s second signing of the summer, following the arrival of Nuno Tavares from Benfica and is expected to be followed by Ben White from Brighton & Hove Albion as well as a number of departures; including Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Sead Kolašinac.
Despite having passed his medical, Lokonga was unable to join up with his Arsenal teammates in Scotland, following their games against Hibernian and Rangers; however, he will be involved in the club’s upcoming American training camp.