Having racked up 684 minutes across 11 appearances this season, Sambi Lokonga has quietly become an important member of Arsenal’s first team squad.
Still only 22, the summer signing from Anderlecht probably wasn’t expecting to see so much action but with Granit Xhaka sidelined by a knee injury until 2022 and Mo Elneny and Thomas Partey set to take part in January’s African Cup of Nations, his quick adjustment to Premier League life has been very important.
Mikel Arteta has been impressed by what the Belgian, who was recruited after positive feedback from Vincent Kompany, has brought to the Gunners midfield.
“Sambi has shown a really quick adaptation, a lot of intelligence in his game and courage,” said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s match with Watford.
“He’s a player that is constantly trying to affect the game in the right way.
“It was a big task to ask him to play the amount of minutes that he’s done in the league in such a short time.
“He’s shown that he’s capable of doing it and handled the situation really, really impressively.”
Who knows, if he can stay fit and keeps up his current form, there’s a pretty high chance Lokonga could end this season as the club’s most consistent presence in the heart of midfield.
Having been tied down to a long-term contract when he signed for £16 million, it bodes well for the future.
Interestingly, in a new interview with Belgian site Sud Info, Sambi has revealed just how much research Arsenal did on him before negotiations began in earnest.
“I was almost a little surprised that they knew me so well, even though now, with data, all the clubs have a lot of data on each player,” he said.
“During this discussion, the coach made it clear that he was counting on me.
“He told me that I would get playing time, which was important to me, and that it was up to me to perform on the pitch to get as much as possible.”
We’ve certainly been true to our word.