Crystal Palace have confirmed the capture of Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga on loan. The Belgian midfielder has left Arsenal on a six-month loan deal, in the hopes of more game time, under former-Arsenal midfielder and club legend Patrick Vieira.
There is no purchase option or obligation included in the deal.
Lokonga had also been of interest to French side AS Monaco. However, Arsenal were not keen to accept their offer as they had not, at that time, agreed a fee for a new midfielder. The club’s preference was also for Lokonga to receive more Premier League experience.
The past 18 months have not been easy for Lokonga. After his £20m move from Anderlecht, the midfielder has struggled for minutes in Mikel Arteta’s side.
Initially, Lokonga started ahead of the injured Thomas Partey at the beginning of last season. When Partey returned, he was able to quickly fill in for Granit Xhaka, who was suspended, but after that, failed to regain his place in the team.
Last season, as Arsenal had no European football, Lokonga was instead reduced to bit-part roles in games.
The summer looked to be something of a resurgence for Lokonga. The Belgian midfielder thrived in Mikel Arteta’s new 4-3-3 system, playing as an attacking box-to-box midfielder and showing his qualities as he played.
However, outside of pre-season, things have not been as promising.
Lokonga has, thus far, failed to take the initiative whenever handed the chance. Increasingly poor performances in the UEFA Europa League have not helped his case and an exceptionally poor cameo in the FA Cup fourth round against Manchester City, seems to have solidified Arsenal’s theory that the player needs more game time.
With the Deadline Day signing of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, Lokonga will find his minutes impacted further.
Arsenal will hope that Lokonga’s loan move will be similar to that of Joe Willock’s loan to Newcastle United. While on loan on Tyneside, Willock produced stunning displays that ultimately resulted in a whopping £25m deal.
Arsenal will likely not be keen to sell Lokonga, but will hope for a Willock-esque resurgence of form.