Saturday, September 30, 2023

“I was disgusted” – Lokonga takes aim at Belgium boss Martinez

Albert Sambi Lokonga has taken a swipe at Belgium manager Roberto Martinez for his lack of opportunities at international level.

The 22-year-old midfielder was part of his country’s squad for World Cup qualifiers in November last year and then again for friendlies with Ireland and Burkina Faso in March but didn’t make it off the bench on either occasion.

Most recently, he was excluded from Belgium’s Nations League fixtures in June and September which seems to suggest he’s unlikely to make the plane for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.

With only one cap to his name – a 16-minute cameo against Estonia in September 2021 –  the former Anderlecht captain is clearly frustrated.

“I called him the day after the international match in March. I was really pissed off. I thought for a moment that I didn’t even want to play for the national team anymore. I was disgusted,” he told La Derniere Heure (relayed by HLN & Sport Witness).

“Martinez said he preferred players who are playing regularly at their club. He was also not completely satisfied with my training. I don’t think he can portray me as a bad boy who doesn’t work hard. It would be too easy to put up such a picture of me. He can’t use something like that to justify why I don’t get to play.

“If I’m already on the bench while De Bruyne, Hazard and the other stars are not there, then I don’t stand a chance if they are in the selection. Maybe Martínez doesn’t believe in my qualities or he doesn’t like my style. But I’d rather he communicate that clearly. I would have accepted his decision without hesitation.”

While you might wonder whether Lokonga is similarly angry with his circumstances at Arsenal, it seems not to be the case.

He has five starts under his belt (3x Europa League, 2x Premier League) and a total of nine appearances. While it’s not ideal, he believes he’s getting a better education as a Gunner than elsewhere.

“Honestly, it’s difficult. I’m at one of the best clubs in England. I could have played somewhere else every weekend, but that wouldn’t have been the right solution for me. I develop better with 20 minutes of playing time at Arsenal than always playing elsewhere but always winning with 3 or 4-0.”

Those who’ve watched the All or Nothing documentary will remember a scene where Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe questioned where the “always happy, smiling, smiling” Sambi had gone.

“I was playing,” came the response as the Belgian munched on some toast.

That led to a cutting retort from Eddie: “You think you are the fucking only one not playing, my friend, huh? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and fucking wake up, yeah man.”

Update – more quotes from Sambi on life at Arsenal (again via Sport Witness).

“It’s a personal decision [to stay at Arsenal]. I wanted to give myself another year to stay at Arsenal and then see what happens. I think I have the qualities to succeed here. Last season, I didn’t perform at my best level. I still have things to prove.

“At the end of last season, I almost snapped. I called my agent to ask him if staying at Arsenal was a good idea. He comforted me in my choice, even though I know I need to start more often to develop.”

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Eazy Deezy

Doesn’t sound the wisest or most mature interview for a young player trying to break into the first team … I wonder if anything was lost in the translation


I think that the translation makes it sound worse. Sambi is a French-speaker, so he probably said “j’étais dégouté”, which translates as “I was gutted” and not “I was disgusted” in this context. 

Mayor McCheese

“J’étais dégouté” can also translate as “I was disgusted” in the angry/frustrated sense (rather than in the ‘I’m disappointed’ sense that “gutted” carries).

Given how strongly he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, I’d be more inclined to think he really did feel angry.

Heavenly Chapecoense

Why didn’t he say: “J’étais déçu” ? After Word Cup 98 that France won with Henry being a revelation and France’s top scorer, he was sent back to the B team to learn more. This young Belgian listens too much to his mother about his own qualities.


The term “dégouté” (assuming that is what he said in the original interview) is more colloquial among the younger generation. As I mentioned above, it has nothing to do with disgust but rather it conveys frustration and disappointment. I’m not defending his attitude more generally, and I make not predictions about where he will be next year, but I believe this mis-translation (following on from the Amazon clip) plays into how people perceive this interview more generally – especially as it pertains to Arsenal.


The media will always try to make the worst of it if it’s an Arsenal player, as there are two interpretations here I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt rather than believe the shit stirring media. We’re doing too well for their liking so any dig they can make they will, and any opportunity to sow discord in the fan base.


Exactly, spot on, it’s why those media tossers are trying to create a situation around Gabriel where one doesn’t exist.


I don’t think anything was lost in translation. All the signs are pointing to Lokonga leaving Arsenal. Seems like Company’s assessment of him isn’t coming to fruition. Or maybe he just needs more time. But I’m beginning to doubt he’ll ever make it at Arsenal

Man Manny

Well, in spite of all the down-votes, I think you have a point. This is not because of Arsenal, but Lokonga. I don’t think he is developing at the pace Arteta and Edu anticipated. He is already 22,; if an academy player was still on the periphery at this stage, we would have no qualms if he were sold. Joe Willock, AMN and Alex Iwobi spring to mind. The better Arsenal become, the more we’ll have GOOD players who can’t make the grade leave the club. If Arsenal decide to part with Lokonga next summer, it will be because of… Read more »


He is pissed at lack of clarity. Leading to false hope and then major disappointment.

Dave Cee

I don’t mind this, at least he has spirit and ambition, if not quite the wisdom yet. But fighting words

Malcolm Alden

I develop better with 20 minutes of playing time at Arsenal than always playing elsewhere but always winning with 3 or 4-0.”

Wise words there.


This is not a good look at all. Who does he think he is?

“Martinez said he preferred players who are playing regularly at their club. He was also not completely satisfied with my training.”
…does not correlate with:
“Maybe Martínez doesn’t believe in my qualities or he doesn’t like my style. But I’d rather he communicate that clearly. I would have accepted his decision without hesitation.”

Sounds like Sambi was told exactly why he wasn’t selected, but he didn’t like the answer.


Hazard. Benteke.
Animal farm.


He has a right to be angry and tell it in an interview, if we go by your flawed logic then who martinez think he is, who anyone think they are to tell their feelings because someone on the internet said they are not important enough to say it.

Bukake Saka

Loved Eddy’s reaction. Sulking isn’t the way, just work hard, improve and if you’re good enough you’ll get in the team.


There’s a moment in All or Nothing when Eddie himself tells Sambi this – I hope this doesn’t indicate a bad attitude on the part of ASL. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see?


Eddie himself also said that “how can I prove my worth if I don’t play regularly?”
I think Lokonga needs a fulltime loan before been assessed properly

Naked Cygan

These conversations are best kept private between the player and manager. He still has a long career ahead of him. No need for this right now. Hopefully Henry can pull some strings with his connections and defuse the situation. All we need to be thinking about is the PSV game. They have to beat us so a draw is not worst result on Thursday.

Teryima Adi

The life of a footballer is not always smooth, son. Keep the faith.


Look at the thrilling life of an archivist, there are ups and downs too.

Boy Bastin

Well, I don’t think that added much to the reputation of anyone involved. At the end of the day, it’s always the coach (club or national) who decides and, basically, that’s it – however unfair that may seem.


Every player should quit their national teams, they’re run by greedy snakes with no regard for the health of the players

Boy Bastin

The “nuclear” option?


And every commenter should downvote you for being reckless with your statement

Nainsley Aitland Miles

I do selfishly hope as few Arsenal players as possible go to the World Cup. But that’s really more to do with it being mid-season.

Brady’s bunch

Not a fan of international football myself.


It’s good to have at least one precociously talented, French-speaking sulk in the side. Feels right.


“Je vous demande de vous arrêter” 😉


Only 22 (23 in the next few days) so not surprised he is not playing regularly for one of the best international teams in the world.

Get his defending sorted out first then he’ll play more for Arsenal and Belgium.

Emi Rates

I reckon moaning about his lack of game time will only decrease his chances of game time. It’s the way the world works most of the time.

Jonas Hallberg

Yeah… this is starting to sound a bit bad character-wise I think.


He should have a little chat with Elneny and Holding; two more limited players to be considered natural first team starters but who seem happy with their lot and who add value when they play.
Sambi has showed nothing yet that suggests he is being bizarrely overlooked. Tidy but nothing special in possession, somewhat tactically unaware when we don’t have the ball, I am seeing nothing in his game that tells me he is banging on the door to start ahead of Partey or Xhaka in the Premier League.
As for the Belgian national team, give me a break.


Thank you. Finally some sense. I’ve said many times he’s too pedestrian when we lose possession. Which is why I always prefer Elneny ahead of him in that 6 role. Sambi has very weak stamina and he’s not developed good positional sense as well – bad combination for a DM.

Old Stimmo

Young player not satisfied with not playing enough, not a news story for me. He should be hungry to play more, put that into training and show it when he gets the chance to play.
I expect a lot more attempts at destabilising comments to be found by the media when we are on such a good run, ignore them keep the faith in the process

Boy Bastin

But as the player made the comments in the first place, they are “self-destabilising” not something concocted to damage Arsenal. As others have said, it’s best to keep such comments between the player and coach. In the end, the player can’t win by making them public.

As we are at the top, and as it is a new experience for our players – and to some extent the club, everyone needs to be a little more careful what they say, and he clearly wasn’t.


Time to move him on before his sulking causes a drop in his perceived transfer value.

Dave Cee

That could never happen. Could it?


Sambi has shown great form this season when playing and as Thomas Partey finds a whole season difficult, he should get more and more time.

I am not a fan of international football, especially with a dodgy World Cup time and place interrupting our best season in decades.


Keep focused on improving your club career, Sambi.

The rest will follow.


The difference between Sambi and Tomiyasu is huge.

White is staring ahead of Tomi but he feels that he can learn something.

White is in the same situation as Sambi but just gets in with it.

I feel White has more to be angry about than Sambi

No one is entitled to a place just because they think they deserve it.

Attitude and body language comes across strongly in football. As Mikel says, it is what you transmit to the team

In recent games he has given me the Guendouzi vibe with his defensive side to the game


I am not sure why White is in the same situation as Lokonga.


Storm in a teacup…


Agreed. Let’s read into one interview a complete breakdown of his personality.


Yes it’s an obvious translation mismatch. Saying “j’étais dégouté” in french does not equal to” I was disgusted “. It’s more I was gutted not to be selected” not at all the same sentiment or meaning. Nothing wrong with him hurting for not being selected but that makes him sound like he had a personal vendetta against Martinez. Very unfair translation for click bait


He’s good on the ball and has got decent stats when defending deep. But severely lacks in what TP and GX are best at: anticipating balls and winning duels high upfield. That’s a crucial part of our game and if he doesn’t improve maybe it’s best for all parties if he moves on.

Merlin’s Panini

Sambi has to shake off this kind of shit and knuckle down. From these comments and his sulking in All or Nothing he comes across as being a bit precious, like Yaya Toure. He needs to do his talking on the pitch. If you want back in to the national team you don’t start slagging off the manager, you just get on with it and make him want to pick you. The Belgium national side is rammed with talent. Everyone knows that. He has to knock Xhaka or Partey off their perch to be selected. He’s talented enough but has… Read more »

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