It would be fair to say that the Arsenal fans were in state of panic when, with Partey and Elneny injured, the club failed to secure midfield reinforcements at the end of the transfer window. Undoubtedly the fans, and the media, watching a last evening scramble for Douglas Luiz saw it as a gamble, similar to a gamble at this popular resource, that has backfired.
Now, a few weeks on, with Arsenal sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League going into the International perhaps our concerns were exaggerated. Yes, we lost to Man United at Old Trafford, but we dominated possession and Partey deputy, Sambi Lokonga, was very much part of that, as he had been in previous matches. I am not sure any of the individual mistakes which allowed United to score breakaway goals can be laid at the Belgian’s door. If anything, Lokonga, showed his manager that he can stand in for Partey, where he was not trusted to do so at the end of the last campaign.
Lokonga, who drew rave reviews from BBC pundit Danny Murphy after his display against Aston Villa, must surely have leapt over Elneny in the pecking order. Whilst the older head was trusted ahead of the youngster in the spring, the Belgian is possibly our future, where the senior loyal Egyptian certainly is not.
However, despite the deserved plaudits for Sambi, it is a huge responsibility to play as a sole 6 in Arteta’s 4123 formation at the tender age of 22, with limited top -light experience. Luckily for the Belgian, he can learn the role as understudy to one of Europe’s leading exponents. The return of Thomas Partey to the starting 11 against Brentford on Sunday, illustrated just how good the Ghanaian is, as he completely controlled the midfield, patrolling in front of the back four and acting as a springboard for Arsenal’s attack.
There are very few in the Premier League, or even Europe with the football brain, strength, pace and all-round athleticism to dominate, as Partey can, when fully fit. Of course, the key for Arsenal is having him regularly available, but in Sambo Lokonga, I believe we can now rest the main man, against lesser teams and certainly in the Europa League, allowing the Belgian to learn the role and improve with less pressure. Certainly, with the World Cup fast approaching and the longstanding Belgian midfield stalwarts not getting any younger, Lokonga, first called up last summer, will be eyeing a recall.
Slightly further up the pitch we have now seem Fabio Vieira and Marquinhos so perhaps the concerns at the end of the window were indeed over egged!
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