Tag Archives: Albert Sambi Lokonga

Arsenal must cash in on Balogun (and others)

With our Prem position all but settled, barring an epic collapse from Man City, we have to look ahead to the summer transfer window. We’ll have to clear out quite a lot of players, and there’s no room for misty-eyed sentimentalism, no room for nostaglia, no room for myopic dreaming. In this post, we looked at first teamers who might find themselves surplus to requirements. In today’s post, we look at fringe players who’ve been on loan to see who among them we should, if possible, jettison.

Continue reading

Do it for Vieira. Do it for Lokonga. Just do it!

Eleven matches. Eleven. That’s all that stands between us and Prem glory. There is but one path to follow. We really have no choice other than to fully commit to those eleven matches, and that commitment starts against Crystal Palace. Fortunately, they’ve made the choice crystal-clear after having sacked an Arsenal legend after refusing to back him. It would have been nice to see an Arsenal legend establish himself as a successful manager, all the more so given the meagreness of melanin among the managerial ranks, but that’s another axe to grind on another day. 

It wasn’t so long ago that various Gooners were going mad for Vieira as a manager who’d be better than Arteta, and, while the jury might still be out, given the difference in each club’s backing for their respective managers, we can only play the hand we’re dealt. Vieira did as well as he could with his hand, which amounted to receiving three cards in a game of five-card stud. We’d gone over the silliness of his sacking in this post.

One of the longer-term setbacks to his sacking would be to the development of Lokonga, who had shown signs of progress under the tutelage of one of the greatest #8s of all time. Lokonga had a long ways to go before even entering the vestibule to join the wait-list of those who may or may not be on the shortlist of those who could pay the cover-charge of those who wanted to sit in the waiting room of the next great #8, but Lokonga had at least earned the Frenchman’s respect. That could have gone a long way for Lokonga, but the way is shut. It might have been nice to see how much futher Lokonga could have grown, even if he really only had another six weeks or so with Vieira.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to state that I’m not a petty or vindictive man, and it’s with that in mind that I’m relieved that my own petty grievances align with larger goals. We have no choice but to go into this match seeking no other result than a victory. Yes, one part of that is a desire to take all three points. However, another, almost-as-large large part of that is to see justice done not just to Vieira but also to Lokonga.

We have a chance to eight points clear, at least temporarily. Anyone needing any further motivation beyond us having been bounced from the Europa League might want to have their heads examined. Put simply, we simply have to smash Palace, and I’m past the point caring which reason we point to. Let’s just get it done. 

Partey's injured? Sign Caicedo at £75m—please!

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Or something. Going into the FA Cup fourth round tie with Manchester City, it looked like we were going to have our cake and eat it too. Despire a fair amount of rotation amid the hostile environs of the Etihad—wait—does jaded diffidence count as “hostile”? Were it not for the boiserous away fans, one might have thought we were back to COVID-lockdown era empty stadiums. Anyway, a mixed squad had Man City on the ropes for long stretches until Thomas Partey picked up a knock and had to come off. Instead of all that cake, we came away with the blurst of times: got knocked out and suffered a major injury to a vital player.

Okay, so “major” injury might distort the situation. We don’t know the extent of Partey’s injury ot the length of his layoff. From the look of things, Kevin de Bruyne delivered a sharp elbow to his rib cage. Whether he cracked a rib or only has a boo-boo that can be fixed with a My Little Pony brand bandage, we’re looking down the barrel of a gun where the light at the end of the tunnel is the same stumble we suffered at the end of last season. This is arguably the one position we’re most vulnerable at. Elneny’s injury means that Partey’s most-reliable backup will also be unavailable for some time, and Lokonga sadly showed that he’s not ready to deputise. 

All of this makes crystal clear what all of us—including, I’m sure, Arteta and Edu—have worried about since the start of the season. Painful memories from the last few weeks of last season now fade in comparison. Instead of clinging desperately to fourth, we’re now standing proudly atop the table, five poitns clear with a game in hand. It could all just slip away again…

…unless we can pry Moises Caicedo away from an increasingly stubborn Brighton, who may resent us somewhat after taking the frozen-out Trossard off their hands. He has after all already shown his quality in his two brief appearances since joining. Whatever the thinking is over at Brighton doesn’t seem to make much sense. They’ve apparently told Caicedo that he will not be in the squad when Brighton face Liverpool on Tuesday and to stay away from the training gound until the transfer window closes on Wednesday. While they have a right to be irritated at Caicedo’s statement in which he stated that he “would be proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton”. I also understand their reluctance to sell this late in the window, which doesn’t leave much time to actually use that record fee. Last I checked, the Seagulls had a reasonable chance at Europa League qualification.

All sympathies aside, we have a Prem title to chase. If our credentials were fragile before, they look positively shattered now. I’m not one for hyperbole. There’s nothing I hate more. Nothing. Much as I would love to see Brighton finish above Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham, I would thrill to see us win the Prem. Caicedo is Prem-proven and on the radar of many other clubs. For as maddening as the Mudryk saga was, it showed that we do have a few quid laying around—something Brighton have surely noticed as well. They’ve been obdurate in their opposition to selling him, but everyone’s available if the price is right. What we have to do then is to find that right price, that Goldilocks zone between what they want and what we’re willing to pay. I’ve supported Edu’s stance of not getting into bidding wars and of walking away if a fee exceeds his valuation…but I hope there’s some elasticity to that stance.

What’s Caicedo worth? How high should we be willing to go? Is this all just an overreaction to what may end up being a mild bruise?

Have Arsenal prepared a SHOCK sale of Partey?

Sigh. Here we go. With little other club news to report, and even less Arsenal-related World Cup news to report, would-be journos are suggesting that Arsenal are ready to offer Thomas Partey and £20m to pry Ismaël Bennacer away from AC Milan and bring him back to Arsenal after his brief spell in the youth set-up didn’t work out. It must be said that Bennacer has impressed with the rossoneri, boosting his valuation to something close to £40m. Still, the idea that we’d swap the midfielder who is arguably our most irreplaceable for a relatively unproven player is enough to suggest that the silly season has indeed begun in earnest, and several weeks early to boot. Then again, with little else to delve into (except maybe the pseudo-retirement of Messi to Miami), let’s have a look at this little rumour, shall we?

First things first, these rumours started with Calciomercato, which I won’t link to. Those with an affinity for birdcage liner but tired of The Mirror or El Metro are encouraged to hunt down the original “source”. That said, we do have to admit that Partey is both evaluating his 401(k) and assessing his injury record while also looking at Miami real estate. For as good as he is—for as irreplaceable as he is—all involved have to admit that his shelf life looks to be shorter than that of a jar of mayonnaise left out in the hot sun. He’s 29 until he’s 30, let’s put it that way. 
Along similar lines, his deputy, Albert Sambi Lokonga, has not yet earned the right to be referred to as ASL and is more likely to go out on loan than he is to displace Partey from the starting lineup. As a matter of fact, should Partey go down, Arteta is more likely to reconfigure the lineup than he is to start Lokonga, moving Xhaka back to a more defensive position, and we are all still recovering from the PTSD of seeing Xhaka try to shield a backline without two-footing someone for the heck of it whilst Jon Moss reaches around his prominent posterior to produce a red card.
With all of of that in mind, should we be looking at Bennacer? At £40m, he might prove to be more-vital to our aspiratoins than the more-sensational (in multiple senses of the word) Mudryk, who might cost quite a bit more while offering quite a bit less. Yes, we do need cover for Saka and Martinelli, and Mudryk could conceivably offer that…but we don’t know how well he’ll manage the leap from the Ukrainian Premier League to the British one. We do have waiting in the wings (aha…see what I did there?) Reiss Nelson and Marquinhos, each of whom has shown in fits and starts that they can contribute. There’s also Vieira, and Emile Smith-Rowe should soon be back from injury.
With all of that in mind, we’d be wise to seek reinforcements in defensive midfield, and Bennacer might just be good enough to bring in—but not as part of a trade-deal that sends Partey away. Perhaps we can convince AC Milan that Lokonga or Elneny is Partey. Failing that, a straight transfer would make much more sense even if that does mean we’d be splashing out something closer to that £40m. Should we be able to secure his services, we could even look to recoup some of that by selling Partey (whose contract doesn’t expire until June 2025) for a decent fee, unloading his rather-large £200k per week salary along the way. Partey’s been vital to us, but we’ve seen enough of ageing players on large wages leave on a free transfer in recent years. 
We’ve craved a vital, dominant defensive midfielder for decades. Partey has slaked that craving, but he’s saddling up and sizing up the horizon. Signing someone like Bennacer, someone who at just 24 fits Arteta’s profile and is just starting to come into his own, makes sense of multiple levels. It makes more sense than a less-expensive move for someone like Danilo, who’d have to make a massive leap from Brazil’s Série A. 
What do you think? I assume we’re in agreement that we shouldn’t offer Partey in a sign-and-swap to get Bennacer. Do you rate Bennacer enough to make a January move for him? He wouldn’t be cup-tied for Europa League, for one thing. He’s familiar t osome degree with the club and the Prem…but would he be better than Lokonga, Elneny, or a re-deployed Xhaka? Enlighten me in the comments-section below, will you?

A Leviathan Rises From the Deep…

Three wins from three. Five goals scored from five different scorers. At a risk of sounding melodramatic, there is absolutely no other conclusion to draw other than the Arsenal, the mighty, mighty Arsenal, are back. Okay, so that was a touch more than melodramatic, but, still, it’s hard to resist letting just a touch of optimism creep in after such a dire start to this campaign and after such gloomy campaigns prior. Consecutive 8th-place finishes are nothing to write home about, and it’s perhaps little surprise that yours truly had stopped writing. This, my friends, is my first post since April 2019—approaching 30 months, give or take. I wonder if I’m as bad as this now as I was back then. Time will tell. Enough about me. It’s my least-favorite subject. Back to the action on the pitch and, well, adjacent to it.

Continue reading