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.
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.
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.
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.