We have ourselves a fresh new signing to talk about!
Ok, so it’s not exactly like the old ‘Sol Campbell turns up when everyone thought it was Richard Wright’ level of surprise and intrigue, because we all knew this deal was going to happen and we’ve been fed enough information to know it was more a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. But still, it isn’t ‘done’ until the dot com says it and yesterday they said it. And Albert ‘Sambi’ Lokonga (Sambi is what he wants to be known as) is now the latest additional to the Arsenal family, wearing big Sol’s old number too, as number 23 for The Arsenal.
It is a good move. It is the right type of move. Young enough that he has plenty of upside. Has played plenty of games for RSC Anderlecht and whilst the league in itself doesn’t have the intensity of the Premier League or the ‘big’ divisions in Europe, Sambi joins Arsenal from a club with a fairly decent track record of unearthing some world class players. Lukaku, Tielemans, Kompany, anyone?
It was supposedly Kompany and Thierry who had a word with Arteta and Arsenal about this deal and whilst the scouts and data will have then gone on a bit of a mission to find out all they can, it does show you that there still needs to be an element of ‘contacts’ in football. The challenge is, of course, to leverage the ‘right’ kind of contacts. The slightly malevolent grin of a Kia Joorabchian as he offers you another one of his crop of journeymen players for a huge wage and a fairly tasty sign on fee for himself is not what i’d call a ‘good contact’. But having people like Kompany just nudge us in the right direction, then stepping back and leaving Arsenal to make their own informed choices, feels more like it to me.
This is a good deal. It is at a price in which Arsenal can afford without having to sweat over monthly instalments for the next 32 years, it is a player whose asset value should remain in tact, plus his own trajectory should only improve us as he starts to grow. A midfielder who looks like he has physicality, versatility to play a more deep-lying defensive midfield role, or even a more advanced position (have a read of his breakdown on the official site here), he will bring us something that others may not. There is obvious excitement from us all on this signing, but I think there is also a dose of realism too. He is a prospect, will play a fair few games, but as it stands I’d be surprised if his arrival means Xhaka’s exit from the club just yet. This signing feels more like the replacement for Ceballos and if that is the case, it ‘feels’ like an upgrade on what Dani offered us. Certainly last season, anyway.
Lokonga is taller, more physical, I believe – although we will need to see it with him in an Arsenal shirt – he will be quicker than Ceballos, so already it is feeling like we’ve strengthened. The challenge will be whether he has end product too. Ceballos contributed a grand total of two goals and five assists over TWO seasons. That simply wasn’t good enough and although I doubt Sambi will be told to maraud forward every time he’s on the pitch, those numbers Ceballos posted feel very catchable indeed for the young Belgian. Ceballos also did it over 77 games so, Sambi, you have a bit of time and a few matches to show that you are a big upgrade.
But again, he will probably come in as an understudy rather than the main man, so hopefully that lack of immediate instant pressure enables him to grow as a player.
There might be a few that are wondering ‘what next then’ in terms of signings and this is where I find it interesting, because I haven’t really heard too many rumours of another player in that central midfield coming in. There have been some, but they have been quite quiet links, like that Koopmeiners chap from AZ Alkmaar, but again, that’s just been a few of the gutter transfer trash websites making noises, so I haven’t put too much stock in it yet. Perhaps there is an internal solution that is being looked at? Maitland-Niles has been given some minutes there, Willock is back in the team, so might we see Arteta decide to give one of those guys a shout if Roma don’t cough up enough money for Granit Xhaka?
I’d be surprised. I know Willock had a heck of an end to the season and Maitland-Niles has looked pretty good in the middle of the park during the last couple of friendlies, but it feels to me like Arsenal are probably just taking a firm ground on Xhaka and saying that unless Roma pay an appropriate asking price, then he can return to Arsenal and we’ll get another season out of him. He has two year’s on his deal and whilst keeping him for a year might mean we get less next summer in terms of a transfer fee, better that than accept a low-balled figure for a player who has just starred at a major international tournament. We need money, but that doesn’t mean we should be put in a corner by a club like Roma.
And if Xhaka stayed with us next season I’d be ok with that. A midfield of Partey, Xhaka, with Sambi slowly taking over the reigns from the Swiss passer would be ok with me. We all know we eventually need to move on from Xhaka and maybe that is Sambi after a year of bedding in, perhaps?
That would be an ideal scenario for me. Let’s have a gradual phasing out of Xhaka because we know that we might need to give Sambi some time to be the best he can be. But if Roma really want the player then he’s available, but you gotta pay the asking price guys, because we should be in no rush to shunt him out.
That’s it from me for today I think. Back tomorrow with some more musings, as we all now desperately turn to the next exciting shiny new thing, forgetting that we only just bought one.
Catch you all tomorrow.