Arsenal have been one of the busiest and active clubs in the summer transfer window on the path of a squad overhaul bringing in players even on the deadline day.
Mikel Arteta and his scouts brought in a lot of replacements and cover in a lot of positions within the squad, One of the positions being in defensive midfield where after extensive phases of scouting the Gunners brought in the 21 year old Belgian, Albert Lokonga Sambi from Anderlecht in the Belgian Pro League.
Since his arrival, he has slotted himself directly into the midfield at the Emirates already racking up six appearances in seven matches in the Premier League. He has been one of the most reliable players among the ranks at such a young age within the smallest span of time.
We look at his stats from the season so far.
The midfielder had slotted himself as one of the double pivots in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 system preferably on the right-hand side. He has covered almost the entirety of the pitch and has been really mobile with an extremely efficient work rate. On average, he has been present throughout the whole area on the pitch from his box to the opposition box on a daily basis. Lokonga has spent most of his time in the midfield as expected but has been the majority of the time in the opposition half trying to keep the possession with the Gunners and the attacks ongoing and alive. The red and orange areas in the above viz prove this while he has also spent a considerable amount of time in the defensive midfield near the centre trying to stop the opposition attacks even before it reaches the defensive third.
One of the biggest attributes a defensive mid needs to possess is the ability to distribute balls in a perfect manner most of the time with utmost precision. Lokonga certainly does provide that stability and accuracy on the ball for Arsenal. He has completed a total of 239 passes with an accuracy of 85%, averaging 58 passes and 73 touches on the ball per 90. His range of passing has been very varied with him attempting passes all over the pitch, the majority of them being in the midfield, near the centre and attacking third. A certain sense of his attacking mindset can be found in the above image with maximum passes played in forward progression towards the opposition box. The 21 year old Belgian has also played a lot of balls in the channels for the full-backs pushing forward to run at them, operating as a deep-lying playmaker at times with also playing long balls and through balls into the box with xT as high as 0.1390 at times.
Being a defensive mid, he certainly has to engage in a lot of duels to stop the opposition attacks. He has engaged in a total of 32 duels with a success rate of 66%, most of which has been in the defensive third. Not so strong in the air as he is on the ground, Lokonga has won 44% of his aerial duels. He has been really solid in front of the box as well, blocking six shots and clearing away the danger on four occasions.
Very calm-headed with a good sense of timing for a challenge, he has not been reckless while conceding any silly fouls while the majority of his interceptions have been inside the box with other players on the ball. It certainly does make him a very reliable presence in the eleven. He has been an extremely good tackler as well, with a success rate of 83% from tackles attempted.
Among all midfielders in the league, Lokonga ranks in the 94th percentile for the most interceptions per 90. While he has engaged in defensive duels lesser than the league average, he has certainly justice by winning the majority of it and ranking 97th percentile in the league for successful defensive duels. He also ranks 97th percentile in successful defensive actions per 90.
Belgium has produced a huge amount of talented footballers in recent years and Albert Lokonga surely gets to have his name on that list. At only the age of 21, he is one of the most sensible and reliable defensive mids out there and won his manager’s confidence. With the majority of his career still ahead of him and room for improvement with time will definitely make him one of the best in the world in his position if he can manage to hold onto such consistent good performances for years to come. Without a doubt, he has been one of the best performers in the squad for Mikel Arteta.