Mikel Arteta’s use of new signing Sambi Albert Lokonga in Arsenal’s behind closed doors friendly win against Millwall suggests that the Belgian could well end up being Granit Xhaka’s long-term replacement.
The Gunners easily saw off their Championship opponents in a 4-1 victory, with Calum Chambers, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe and Folain Balogun getting on the scoresheet.
Lokonga’s £15m move from Anderlecht to the Gunners was confirmed on Monday, and the 21-year-old midfielder became the second new face through the door at the Emirates this summer following the capture of Portuguese full-back Nuno Tavares.
He got his first taste of action in an Arsenal shirt as he came on as a substitute for Mohamed Elneny at half-time, and impressed playing alongside Thomas Partey in the middle of the park.
With Xhaka seemingly set to join Roma, there has been some talk over who will be his replacement in the defensive midfield role.
And judging by the positions Lokonga took up on Saturday, it appears likely that he could be that man.
The youngster quickly settled into the game and provided a much-needed energy boost to the team, dictating play from deep and occasionally covering left-back Kieran Tierney when he made offensive runs down the flank.
It was a hugely encouraging first 45 minutes of action, and it will be intriguing to see how quickly Mikel Arteta decides to integrate him into the first-team when the new Premier League season kicks off in just under three weeks time.
Speaking about his new player after his unveiling, Arteta said: “Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development. He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht.
“I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons.
“We’re confident Albert’s ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence.”
Arsenal are next in action when they take part in The Mind Series, which will see them take on London rivals Chelsea on August 1 and Tottenham a week later ahead of their Premier League opener against Brentford on August 13.