Arsenal have officially announced Albert Sambi Lokonga’s signing from Anderlecht. The deal has been more or less done for at least a week, but the Gunners were presumably waiting until he was through his mandatory quarantine after arriving in London. The transfer will reportedly cost £18M, and Lokonga will wear #23 at the Emirates.
We’ve written extensively about the move and about Lokonga. He’s the TL;DR — we like it. He joins the squad, we think, primarily as a backup (and replacement in a few years) for Thomas Partey. The pair are extremely similar statistically and how they play. Partey is a bit better defensively / winning the ball than Lokonga by the numbers, but I think that’s mostly down to what Lokonga was asked to do for his side and his age (21) rather than any inability / deficiency when out of possession.
With Mikel Arteta wanting to playing a single pivot, it was important for Arsenal to sign a backup for Partey who can do most or all of the things Thomas does. The Ghanaian had some fitness issues last year, and the Gunners were noticeably weaker without him in the lineup. He’ll also miss time this year for the Africa Cup of Nations. Lokonga solves those problems. He’ll be able to shoulder some of the workload to keep Thomas more rested and healthy, and he’ll fill in during AFCON in January and February.
Lokonga is Arsenal’s second signing of the summer and is expected to join the team at the upcoming U.S.-based training camp. He joins Nuno Tavares, who scored a lovely goal against Rangers in his Arsenal debut, on the additions list this transfer window. The Gunners are expected to announce the signing of Ben White later this month or in early August once he has returned from holiday and passed a medical. Hopefully there is also a deal for a creative midfielder in the works.