Arteta says everyone's been surprised by £18m Arsenal man's performances
Mikel Arteta has suggested that the current midfield issues Arsenal are experiencing provides a great opportunity for Albert Sambi Lokonga, with the Gunners boss admitting that the Belgian has played a lot more than anyone would have expected since his arrival.
Lokonga, of course, is one of the Gunners’ only remaining options in the middle of the park. Both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are away on international duty. Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka had been unavailable due to Covid.
That meant that Lokonga started alongside Charlie Patino for the FA Cup tie with Nottingham Forest at the weekend. And of course, it proved to be a difficult night for the Gunners.
Lokonga has shown glimpses of his potential since his £18 million move. However, he went into the clash at the City Ground having not made an appearance in almost a month.
Arteta suggested that it would be unfair to criticise Lokonga for his most recent display as he reflected on the amount of playing time he has enjoyed since joining Arsenal.
“The heat of defeat or the heat of a performance cannot lead to anybody making the wrong conclusions,” he said. “With Sambi he needs more minutes, I think he has done much more than anyone expected.
“He is playing many more games at a really high level than anyone expected. Now he has a great opportunity to keep playing.”
Lokonga does have brilliant chance to stamp authority on place in Arsenal midfield
Arsenal are currently working on bolstering their midfield options. And they will hope to have Xhaka back in the near future. But there does appear to be a real opening for Lokonga at Arsenal.
Partey was probably playing the best football of his spell before the turn of the year. But alongside him, there is an opportunity for a player to stamp their authority on a place in the side. And of course, Partey has not always had the easiest time staying fit either.
Lokonga needs to set his sights on moving himself up the Arsenal pecking order in the weeks ahead. He certainly has the talent to prove a point.
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