Arsenal could give greater role to ‘new Yaya Toure’ after under the radar first season

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Arsenal have been linked with several midfielders this summer, including Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans, however it’s now looking more likely that Mikel Arteta will put his faith in one standout prospect already at the club

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Arsenal’s Premier League Fixtures 2022/23

Reports this week suggest that Arsenal have cooled their interest in key Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans.

The Belgian has just one year left to run on his current deal at the King Power and Arsenal were tipped as one of many clubs who could make a move for him this summer. However, it seems Mikel Arteta might be keen to spend funds on other areas and look to instead hand greater responsibility to midfielders already at the club.

One of those expected to play a more significant role next season is Albert Sambi Lokonga who joined the club last season from Anderlecht. The 22-year-old arrived in North London with a big reputation, and he was even labeled as “the new Yaya Toure” by ex-manager Vincent Kompany.

Reflecting on the first time he saw Lokonga, Kompany told Rio Ferdinand’s YouTube channel ‘FIVE’,: “The first thing I did when I saw Sambi is I went to Mikel and also Pep, but Mikel first and said,” You got to watch this guy, he’s the new Yaya Toure. Anyway, nothing comes off it, he’s got a cruciate ligament [injury].

“Then I fall into the management job at Anderlecht, so I’m working with him. I had the same conversation with Mikel and I believe the same thing now. I’m not sure I’m doing him a favor saying this stuff, but look, you know what I like about Sambi, what Yaya did have, is, he wants the ball no matter what. ”

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Despite this high praise, it was not a straightforward first campaign for the midfielder. He got off to a promising start, but later fell out of Arteta’s plans and finished the campaign having featured in a little over half of Arsenal’s Premier League fixtures.

Despite this though, there was plenty of promise in those appearances, and as highlighted by Kompany, one of his most appealing traits was his bravery in wanting to show for the ball.

No matter the game situation, the 22-year-old was always looking for opportunities to peel off opponents and find pockets of space in which to receive passes.

According to Fbref, no Arsenal player received more passes on a per 90 basis than him last season (54.7), and when on the ball, he was a reliable passer, highlighted by the fact he had the best pass success rate (89.7 per cent ) of any player at the club who played over 1000 league minutes last season.

His pass selection was probably a little safer than you’d like to see, often opting for short and safe passes than more progressive balls through the lines.

Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard all averaged more progressive passes for 90 last season. However, some of that could come as a result of tactical instructions.

Furthermore, he makes up for it with unrivalled ball-carrying abilities.

Again on a per 90 basis, he averaged more progressive carries than any other Arsenal midfielder last season and also carried the ball more yards towards to opposition’s goal than any other player across the whole of Arteta’s squad too.

It’s his capacity to go on these powerful penetrating runs which capture best why he’s being compared to a Premier League icon in Toure. Arsenal will hope that he can develop in a similar manner over these coming years, and if he does, then it’s fair to say their faith in the youngster would have been more than justified.

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