Crystal Palace are looking to wrap up a swift move for Arsenal’s Albert Sambi Lokonga on transfer deadline day, who could arrive at Selhurst Park on a loan deal…
What’s the word?
According to Goal correspondent Charles Watts on Twitter, “talks” are “underway” between the respective London clubs for the temporary transfer of the Belgian, who has failed to cement a starting berth at the Emirates Stadium since his £17.2m arrival in 2021.
Palace are scouring the market for central acquisitions who can bolster their midfield, and Lokonga would seem to be the perfect fit to spark new life into that area for the remainder of the campaign.
The 23-year-old has not featured for the Gunners in the Premier League since the 3-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the start of October.
“Next Yaya Toure”
When Lokonga arrived in north London, departing from Anderlecht in his homeland, there was an optimistic feeling at the club that Mikel Arteta might have unearthed a diamond. Upon the transfer in July 2021, the Arsenal manager hailed the youngster as “a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity”.
Then, just over a year ago, the Gunners boss said of the Belgian: “I think he is growing, he is playing better and better. I think he had a really good game the other day against Liverpool, his understanding of the game, he is managing the physicality much better, he is maturing.”
While he remains a utility option at the Emirates, the £50k-per-week gem has racked up some impressive performance figures. As per FBref, he ranks among the top 2% of midfielders for pass completion and the top 7% for progressive passes in Europe’s top five leagues over the past year, which hints that his ball-playing, transitional prowess could be the perfect remedy to Palace’s current woes.
Indeed, Matt Woosnam stated in a recent piece for The Athletic that Patrick Vieira ‘has been hamstrung by the lack of a well-functioning midfield’, which suggests that this has been an evident area of weakness at Selhurst Park.
With former Manchester City titan and current Burnley manager Vincent Kompany stating that Lokonga is the “new Yaya Toure”, the Eagles manager – who knows a thing or two about starring from a central midfield role – could harness such abilities to resounding effect.
Toure was a robust and imperious midfielder with imposing physicality and devastating power. He was hailed as a ‘human train’ and a ‘ colossus’ in his playing days, completing a remarkable 88.9% of his passes across all competitions in his final ten seasons in Europe from 2009 to 2019, also taking 1.8 shots and making 1.1 key passes per game in that period.
If Lokonga, who already exudes quality with the ball at his feet (as hinted by the aforementioned passing metrics), can inject a bit more vigour and physicality into his game, he could emerge as a brilliant component to add to Palace’s midfield.
Tackling is one of his biggest weaknesses, ranking in the bottom 3% of positional peers among Europe’s top five leagues for that metric over the past year.
It hasn’t quite worked out at the Emirates so far for this talented ace, but by crossing to the other end of London, Lokonga could finally tap into his full potential and help the Eagles to get back on course after falling somewhat off Arteta’s radar at Arsenal.
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