Sambi Lokonga has thanked Vincent Kompany for driving him to take more responsibility at Anderlecht and says it was down to his former boss that he sealed a move to Arsenal.
While the midfielder had already broken into the first team at Lotto Park prior to Kompany becoming head coach in 2020, he grew in stature and importance under the ex-City defender who made him club captain earlier this year.
While initial reports suggested Thierry Henry played a role in the youngster’s summer switch to the Emirates, Arteta cited a positive endorsement from Kompany, who he coached at the Etihad, as an important factor.
In an interview with Belgian publication Sport Foot Magazine, Lokonga opened up on his relationship with Kompany.
“We had a great relationship, Vinnie and me,” he said. “He had some players of which he asked for more and I was one of them.
“In matches, I knew I couldn’t afford to be at the same level as the others. He wanted me always to do more, to carry the team both on the pitch and off it.
“It’s thanks to him that I got this transfer. He never let me rest and without him I wouldn’t have progressed so much.”
Given both Arteta and Kompany have close ties with Pep Guardiola, it’s unsurprising to hear both coaches focus on the finest of details when preparing their teams. All the same, Sambi says he’s already noticed key differences in the way the Spaniard and Belgian operate.
“In real life, it’s not exactly the same style of coach,” said Sambi. “Of course, there are a lot of similarities in substance. There is the will to find the free man, to function with short and quick combinations. There is also this desire to insist on the smallest details and then, more generally, what their playing philosophy.
“However, in the form and the manner of putting it in place, it is very different. Arteta is closer to his group. He participates in small training games for example, where Vinnie kept more distance. This is in no way a reproach, just an observation.”
As part of the same interview (quotes relayed by Sport Witness), Lokonga, despite not being on the field, remarked that he felt “humiliated” by City’s 5-0 win against Arsenal in August but maintains that the club has taken strength from its difficult start to the season.
“You’re going to tell me it’s a stock answer, but I think that it’s when things are tough that you strengthen the links in a team, in a group of staff.
“Here, now, we are all looking in the same direction. We all want to sail the boat forward. We know we need to progress still. We especially need to be meaner”.