Thursday, June 13, 2024

Albert Sambi Lokonga: By the numbers

Arsenal has made their second signing of the summer, bringing in midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Belgium side Anderlecht.

Similar to the first signing of the summer Nuno Tavares, Lokonga is a young player (just 21 years old) and a player more for the future rather than right now. I do think that there is a better chance that Lokonga ends with more minutes than Tavares, so it is not entirely for the future.

The stats:

My first impressions of his stats are that he looks like a solid all-around player. Like Tavares, there is the caveat about the level of play and how the stats will translate to the tougher Premier League, but it is still good to see excellent statistics at his age.

This also feels like a signing where Arteta and Edu said to the data people, “Go find me a Partey type who is under 23.” The similarity between the two’s stats is obvious when they are next to each other.

The plan might be that Lokonga is the potential replacement for Partey in a couple years’ time. With that being said let’s breakdown his stats,


0.9 – Open play shots per 90, 66th percentile

0.06 – Non-Penalty expected goals per 90, 43rd percentile

0.11 – Non-Penalty goals per 90, 75th percentile

0 – Shots in prime (semi-circle 12 yards from the center of the goal)

Lokonga likes to try for a long shot, with just one shot inside the box last season. He did convert 3 of those shots into goals, but it would probably be too early to say if this is something that is sustainable long-term.

0.94 – Key Passes per 90, 56th percentile

0.87 – Open play Key Passes per 90, 67th percentile

0.07 – Open play expected goals assisted (xA) per 90, 63rd percentile

0.08 – Assists per 90, 54th percentile

1.3 – Passes completed into the box per 90, 68th percentile

1.9 – Deep completions (not from a cross) per 90, 79th percentile

1.4 – Deep touches (within 25 yards of goal) per 90, 34th percentile

Looking at his key pass locations he looks like he likes to operate slightly deeper and more central, he may not find it as easy to take up these locations in the Premier League.


62.9 – Passes attempted per 90, 88th percentile

52.6 – Passes completed per 90, 88th percentile

83.6 – Pass completion percentage, on 80.4 expected pass completion

103.9 – Pass efficiency (how much more or less a player completed passes than expected), 80th percentile.

8.9 – Long passes per 90, completing 5.7 per 90

24.5 – Medium passes per 90, completing 21.2 per 90

29.5 – Short passes per 90, completing 25.7 per 90

0.15 – Through ball’s per 90, 94th percentile

0.49 – Crosses attempted per 90, 32nd percentile

7.6 – Final third entry passes completed per 90, 96th percentile

5.2 – Progressive passes completed per 90, 91st percentile

Overall Lokonga’s passing looks impressive. He plays primarily short and medium passes but when he does play long, he completes them at a high rate. He likes to play forward and has very good ball progression stats. Overall it really looks like the type of profile that Arsenal would want in a midfielder.

Ball Carrying:

4.9 – Progressive carries per 90, 84th percentile

2.3 – Final third entry carries per 90, 90th percentile

0.08 – Carries into the box per 90, 33rd percentile

0.98 – Successful dribbles per 90, 61st percentile with a 70% success rate

2.07 – Turnovers per 90, 55th percentile

3.1 – Fouls suffered per 90, 99th percentile

1.3 – Final third entry passes received, 45th percentile

1.4 – Progressive Passes received, 43rd percentile

0.2 – Penalty Area Passes received, 22nd percentile

Looking at the carry numbers, Lokonga is exciting with the ball at his feet where he looks to drive forward when given the chance. He is an above average dribbler, with a high success rate without giving the ball back with loose touches. The data also suggests that he will receive deeper and bring the ball forward rather than finding space further up the field for others to find him in.


A quick note on my possession adjustments here, I have begun using overall possessions that a player was on the field for as my base for defensive numbers. These are times that a team is in control of the ball and by definition are either +1, 0, or -1 for each team in a match.

A possession switches when a team is able to have the ball and string together 2 or more offensive actions. For example a team is passing the ball around the edge of the box, takes a shot that is cleared for a corner kick. The possession does not change after that, even if they are different sequences for other statistics,

I then adjust things per 90 possessions (which is right about average for the big five leagues in Europe). Anderlicht played a slightly slower style (Arsenal played even slower) with about 84 possessions per team per match, overall Lokonga was on the field for 2,229 possessions last season.

1.9 – Tackles per 90 possessions, 39th percentile

28% – Dribbled past %, 90th percentile

2.1 – Interceptions per 90 possessions, 92nd percentile

0.6 – Blocked Passes per 90 possessions, 19th percentile

1.2 – Fouls committed per 90 possessions, 69th percentile

1.2 – Clearances per 90 possessions, 52nd percentile

7.4 – Ball recoveries per 90 possessions, 72nd percentile

1.2 – Aerial duels won (48.9%) per 90 minutes, 61st percentile

From the stats, I wouldn’t say that Lokonga is a defensive midfielder, but he does seem to be active in shielding his back line. Beyond that I would say that this something that I would want to watch more to be able to comment further.

Final thoughts

I like the process of this transfer. It isn’t a flashy big name signing but it is using Arsenal’s ability to beat all but a handful of teams to sign an exciting prospect who could turn into a very good player. I think that this also shows good long term thinking by the club. Lokonga shares a profile very similar to Partey and if the team is building a midfield around that, it will be great to have an understudy to back him up and then eventually be ready to push to try to take over that spot from him.

A player coming in at this age and from the Belgium League could fail but at this fee it is a very good risk for Arsenal to take.

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Hopefully the new Vierra, Petit and/or Gilberto. We’ve needed someone like them for years.


let’s hope he and partey don’t have any major fitness issues, and form a solid midfield, something we’ve been lacking for quite some time

Giuseppe Hovno

man, imagine if he is the new Viera, Petit and Gilberto. that would be glorious and also scary


Anyone thinking partey and lokonga might play as dual number 8s that can both protect the backline through the mobility and defensive stengths and then reach presenting dynamic attacking options with the ability to pick a full range of passes and drive with the ball? I’m really intruiged by that and feel like it’s something we’ve needed for some time. We’re all too obsessed with these perfectly fitting midfielders that each present their unique contribution; why not just two complete players that can do it all really well even though they might not be elite in any one area. They’re… Read more »


My thoughts exactly.

I think against parked buses we might need someone with more nuance and vision. But against the top 10 sides, we should do better with two mobile, physical ball winners / ball carriers who are loathe to lose the ball or the player they have to mark. Especially with the wingbacks bombing forward.


Just like the Liverpool midfielders, non of their midfielders is an elite midfielder, but they work hard and compliment each other.


Well, I meant not elite in one specific skill (e.g. long shots or tackling), but if a player is rounded and good at everything then overall they have to be pretty close to elite overall (which I feel Partey is – even though he can be better it was still clear how much he improved everyone around him due to his all-round skill-set.



Has to be an upgrade on Xhaka

Martin R

Really? I can’t think of a better deep lying midfielder. We will miss him when he leaves.

Dave Cee

You might, I won’t


You can’t think of a better deep lying midfielder? Try watching some other teams play.


There are 19 of them in the PL.

Martin R

I still can’t think of one better than Xhaka. One of the main reasons our defence tightened up last season was the leadership qualities of Granit. Well 3 managers of Arsenal and 2 managers of Switzerland obviously agree with me as he has always been first choice


Nice article as ever Scott, thanks. You seem reasonably convinced that he was be understudy to Partey. You feel a partnership of the two is unlikely? How does Lokonga compare to Xhaka?

Scott Willis

It is certainly possible that they could play together, I do think it might be too much to expect him to step into that spot right away.

Mayor McCheese

That’s a smart-looking bowtie you’re wearing in that picture, Scott. I also highly recommend a wee top hat.

Your friend,

M. McCheese


It’s nice to read he likes to carry the ball forward and he’s pretty good at it too. Great article Scott.


Thanks for the article, Scott! I think this could be an astute signing for us with minimal risk for the outlay, particularly considering his age profile and recommendations from professionals in the game who know him well. Looking at his stats, doesn’t he appear to be more of a 6/8 hybrid? It seems that his tackles and blocked passes metrics are a bit on the low side for a pure number 6, but I appreciate that might be more of a function of the tactical system at Aderlecht. Not that I’m complaining – especially if he is able to help… Read more »


Lots of similarities with Vieira – both agressive box to box midfielders with an ability to create. Remember, Vieira was playing for the AC Milan reserves and going nowhere when we bought him for 3.5 million. Lokongo could have the same impact.
I am far more excited by this signing than I am about Ben White if he signs for Arsenal.
50 million is far too much for a player like that and its not as if our defence was poor last season.


But we had to play defensive football to achieve that? The whole point of Ben White is that he’s a much better defender and will
allow us to play attacking football whilst retaining decent defensive stats?

We digress, great article thanks Scott, really excited to see how Sambi develops and also really excited by the new preference to young talent, seems much more sensible.

Ordnance Dave

Both Lokonga and White seem to be signings intent on improving our ball progression from deep, rather than improving our defensive numbers.


Looks remarkably similar to Partey on the vital statistics; though slightly more progressive in attack and slightly less efficient in defence. Hopefully the latter will come as the player matures.

Baichung Bhutia

Decent signing for the future. I have a feeling though that Nuno Tavares will play lot more than Lokonga this season, considering the injury record of Tierney.


I know people love talking about KT’s injuries but to put it in perspective: only 2 outfield players (Xhaka & Holding) started more PL games for us than him last season.


On a related note, I’m hoping for KT to trounce Robertson, Luke Shaw and Chilwell this season as the best LB.

On an unrelated note, those still hating on Xhaka, remember how he stepped into the void left by KT as he bombed forward? Xhaka has his flaws but I don’t know anyone who is willing to do more for his team in the current setup. He will be missed if/when he leaves for the Satan’s team in Rome.

Teta's cult of personality

He will be missed if/when he leaves for the Satan’s team in Rome.


That’s a relatively fair argument. This calendar year alone Tierney missed a month from January and then another month from April with knee injuries (not sure if it was the same knee). But the 19/20 season he missed about 100 days with a shoulder injury and around 100 days with a hip injury – both parts of the body which you could argue are rare and unlucky injuries for a footballer to miss that amount of time for. Having a proper second choice left-back option is the main thing though. As much criticism as Kolasinac gets, if we didn’t send… Read more »

Gooners & Roses

When i scrolled through the post, I just got the impression that we had someone similar in Guendouzi. Quite a shame that did not turn out well. Lets hope Lokonga can last further than Matteo has been.

Didn’t Arteta say that he eventually wants to switch to 4-3-3 with Arsenal but he couldn’t at the time because we needed 5 new players.

So was Simbi signed with this new formation in mind, or will Arteta stick with 4-2-3-1.

Scott Willis

I do wonder about that. Some of the “10s” we have been linked with are more
Attacking “8s” that would make more sense in the 433 shape.

I don’t think it makes a huge difference as I think the role of the players matter more


Indeed, and I think we’ll see a number of different formations at times tailored to the opposition as we are getting a younger, more athletic squad this season. I’m especially pleased with the adjective “intelligent” associated with the incomings — players who can read the game. I’m happy they are coming to study at the university of Arsenal!

Nainsley Aitland Miles

It should be other teams that have to tailor their formation to play the mighty Arsenal.


Indeed – and I think we’ll see more teams do that this season once we establish ourselves as a more dynamic side.

I gather that one of the important things that Arteta is fixing in our squad with his “process” is tying off our most obvious weaknesses that the opposition can target, be that a slow or error-prone midfielder or defender, sloppy passing, or players not committed to the defensive shift. I hope it pays greater dividends this season.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

I just checked the date of that ‘Arteta 4-3-3’ comment – I thought he had made it more recently but he actually said it at the beginning of December – before The Smith (and Odegaard) became an integral part of the team. Considering our form since that Boxing Day win against Chelsea, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that 4-3-3 idea has been put on the backburner. Or more likely, it was a throwaway comment made in a frustrated reaction to the 1-2 defeat at home to Wolves – a game where we started Willian, Ceballos, Willock. So yes, Personnel… Read more »

Goodly morning

Before long I hope to hear the terraces joyously chanting ooooo Saaambi Looookoooonga. Welcome and good luck young man.

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