Thomas Partey’s pain is Sambi Lokonga’s gain

Right from the start of the transfer window, Arsenal fans were clamouring for Mikel Arteta to urgently bring in a strong backup for Thomas Partey, who has contunally suffered from injuries for the last two seasons. But instead the Gunners gave a one-year extension to Elneny’s contract and kept the inexperienced youngster Sambi Lokonga as extra backup.

That strategy spectacularly backfired when Mo Elneny suffered a long term injury, and unsurprisingly Thomas only managed three games into the season before suffering a reoccurence of his ongoing injury problems. This resulted in Arsenal making a last-minute panic bid to sign Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa in the last couple of days of the transfer window, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

So, we currently only have Xhaka and Lokonga, with the (also injured) Zinchenko as cover for those two, and we have now seen Lokonga make 3 starts (plus 2 subs appearances) and despite fans’ misgivings, the young Belgian has not played too badly, and will surely improve with more regular playing time.

The ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell, who always keeps up with the Arsenal live scores if he can’t watch Arsenal’s games, certainly thinks that Lokonga will improve. “He’s probably not where he needs to be in his development because he probably needs more game time,” said Campbell in the Highbury Squad podcast. “He’s only played three games this season. If Partey’s fit, then he’s out of the team and he’s probably only going to get starts in the Europa League. So, Sambi isn’t probably where he (should be).

“Do you remember in the documentary where he was bleating about not playing and stuff? Then, Eddie (Nketiah) turned around and said ‘well, I am not playing, so you shut up and don’t moan’.

“But it’s because he wants to play. He’s a young man who is used to playing. Is he where he should be in his development? Probably not because he needs game time. I think he has done pretty well in that midfield area, considering he doesn’t play. He’s more progressive than Elneny.”

So, what do Arsenal fans think? Obviously Arteta and Edu expected Lokonga to step up in the future when they paid Belgian side Anderlecht £17 million for him last summer, and at only 22 he has lots of time to develop further.

I fully expect him to start against PSV on Thursday to carry on his regular game time, and hopefully he can impress Arteta well enough this season to prove to Arteta that he doesn’t need to bring in another midfielder in January, even if Partey doesn’t really recover…

Tags Albert Sambi Lokonga


  1. I also expect Sambi-Lokonga to grow further in the CDM position. I’ve seen some improvement in his touches, so hopefully he can do it consistently

    If Partey and him can stay fit until January, we won’t need to sign Douglas Luiz. We could use the funds to sign Palmeiras’ Danilo instead

      1. Danilo looks good on his YouTube highlights, but a Brazilian fan here said he is actually not that good

        I just liked the fact that he’s been playing in deep-midfield area, young, Brazilian, quick and left-footed. So even if he fails to excel in CDM or inverted LB position, he could always be Xhaka’s successor for the left-mezzala role

  2. He needs to play to improve. How any fool expects a player to be upto speed and be good without playing is wrong. He has talent but like Tavares and Gouendouzi needs handling properly, or we will lose him to another team for peanuts. If he plays he can get better, if he doesn’t he wont.

    1. I agree with you about how he is handled and managed. The coaching staff had him all last year, and should have been taking major steps to improve him, since he was not playing or even getting sub appearances.

      A bit surprising to me, the same with Tavares. Both had all last year for the assistant coaches to develop and improve these players, why is there this apparent gap?

      Is it somehow different in football? Baseball has assistant coaches working with players on batting, pitching, and defense constantly during the season. Basketball also has assistant coaches polishing players.

      Perhaps there is, but it seems that the answer is a “loan” and let another coach and club refine the players rather than doing so “in-house.”

      1. @Durand
        Are you seriously suggesting that the reserves don’t get coached???
        Actually they are probably given a free PlayStation and told to exercise in front of their TVs (like Ozil)

    2. @Reggie
      Simple as…
      Here’s the thing. We’re 6 games in and players are already suffering long term injuries. When the second string are called in to deputise, they struggle to keep up. The coach should have been giving these guys match mins from the first match, to get them match fit or somewhat, at least…

        1. My word, that’s a low blow.

          One reason why Wenger was able to play beautiful football, is he plays the same set of players consistently without injecting new ones.
          They develop a chemistry and know their style and run inside out

                1. How can it be a squad game, if you dont use your squad. You can rotate at least one player in most positions against most teams but play your prefered team against the top teams. Keeping players on the bench, especially young ones will never get better. They should be introduced strategically in to the team. Wether that is by giving them decent game time in the second half or starts, so that they are not cold, when they do come in.

    3. How any fool expects a player to be upto speed and be good without playing is wrong. With such statement it simply means Arteta is a fool for not playing him so long started last season and throwing him in arond season end to do a decent job, Arteta must be a fool to think he can do a decent job in the absent of partey knowing he is not upto speed

  3. Last season was exceptional in that we didn’t have Europe and were knocked out of the FA cup early so squad players didn’t get game time. Hopefully this season there should be enough minutes for everyone and Lokonga and others can progress.

  4. Lokonga simply cannot deputise for Partey. It’s always been a disaster with many goals conceded each time he slots in for him. I don’t think it’s his right position. We need a DM that can even compete with him not just replace him when he is unfit.
    It’s this position that helps to enhance our defense providing it the protection it needs to get clean sheets.
    Almost all clean sheets last term were when Partey played.

  5. Sambi is the better footballer and has a better passing range than Mo,who in my eyes is much better when it comes to positioning,breaking up play,passing accuracy…I know which one I prefer as TP cover as right now.i haven’t checked the data but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that when it comes to forward passing, carrying the ball forward….the difference between the 2 is minimal.lastly,I have to admit that I didn’t watch our EL game with much attention but Sambi ball control needs some work,his first touch is not great and in the PL where he is not going to have as much time, I’m afraid that he’ll be dispossessed too often.having said that, I’m not blaming Sambi,what do expect when he is not getting enough minutes??there is s reason why MA wanted to send him on loan but the player insisted on staying and fight for a place.i believe s loan would have been more beneficial to him but hey what do I know??

  6. Plainly, Lokonga , though not a top class player right now is several levels above the extremely limited trundler Elneny.

    I fail to understand why so many Gooners are content with a third class tryer like Elneny, simply because he seems to be a top class bloke. . Bellerin was also a top class bloke but even more useless than Elneny is.

    Lokonga is worth persevering with and in any case we have no other real alternative, while PARTEY REMAINS UNFIT, as usual!

    1. In a nutshell yes Jon!I didn’t say that I was satisfied with Mo but if I had to choose between the 2,right now I’ll go for Mo.we had a decent transfer window, the club has been able to strengthen the squad but it will take another summer for MA to have 2 (good)players battling for the same could also be argued that we shouldn’t have waited for Mo to get injured to look for cover for TP especially with his injury record.going back to Mo,I prefer my DM to do the basics to Lonkoga who will lose possession by trying long passes.

  7. Depending if by the next Jan window this season, Arsenal are still looking to be seriously in contention for: 1stly, the EPL title win. 2ndly, the ELC win and 3rdly one or both the domestic Cup wins.
    If those proved to be the case for Arsenal as the season pans on.Then, Arsenal should be proactive during the next Jan window to sign a new top quality holding midfielder in the caliber of either Danilo at Palmeiras or Douglas Luiz at Aston Villa. But depending which one of the duo DMFS who Arteta considers as more suitable to his team style of play.
    This will become imperative for Arsenal to implement. More so, if they are to get proactive to avert any of their challenging domestically and in Europe falling away to collapse. Principally due to Thomas Partey is injured. And his backup Sambi Lokonga has also gone down injured too.
    So therefore, Arsenal who missed to sign the DMF Douglas Luiz on transfer deadline day last summer window, will not miss to sign a new top quality DMF next Jan window. Even if Thomas Partey and Sambi Lokonga are hail and hearty. But in football anything can happen to them which if not proactively taken care of, such missendeavor to neglect could derail Arsenal EPL title win and other title wins this season. But God forbids such failure happening to Arsenal this season. Amen!
    Nevertheless, I think this is the time for Sambi Lokonga to make use of the opportunity avail him now. And seize his chance to make the most of it to step it up considerably in games for Arsenal from now on.
    But how about Edward Smith? Is he a holding midfielder? Will Arteta give him a chance one of this days in a competitive Arsenal game to showcase to us what he has in him to offer Arsenal as a DMF if he’s one?

  8. Partey shoes is a MASSIVE SHOES to fill, you would have to be talking Verratti, Frankie de joong and Savic.

    The lad should have been loan out like Nuno.
    But at some stage gooners will start warming to the idea Arsenal is a big club and that’s what big club do.

    The gaffer knows Arsenal is a big club though hence why he tries to sign Raphinha

    1. Arteta is damned if he does and damned if he doesnt

      The usual naysayers on here would be slamming Artera if Lokonga was loaned out and unable to play now Partey is injured….same people also slamming Arteta for not having been able to play Lokonga whilst Partey was fit

      Crazy !

  9. The gaffer is smart and hungry.

    We simple do not have quality replacement to rotate effectively.

    I doubt we would be sitting on top of the league if we were experimenting.

    We just cant behave like city, just now.

  10. Gunsmoke
    No one can behave like city
    They started building over a decade ago so not sure what you mean when you say we can’t experiment
    Our right back is not the first choice
    The left back is is rotating
    1 coming back from long term injury
    The 2nd who got injured
    The midfield has done ok considering we have picked up injuries
    The squad is never big enough and deep enough but we are vettthen.last season
    Define not experimenting as I am
    AL will get stronger, wiser and fitter whilst playing so keep him in
    not sure what you mean

  11. What’s the panic? Two DMs injured and we got another ready to step up. Sambi has improved since last season. If we complain that he plays, then what’s the point buying players for squad depth? Arsenal fans are emotional wrecks. Oh, we won’t win the league but go bonkers when we lose a EPL game after 5 straight wins. Oh, we don’t have squad depth but go bonkers when backup players play. AFTV virus is still here to stay.

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