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…