Arsenal boss has a decision to make over the long-term future of midfielder Matteo Guendouzi – who made a public plea for a permanent switch to Marseille this week
Albert Sambi Lokonga’s impressive start to life at Arsenal should pave the way for Mikel Arteta to ditch Matteo Guendouzi following the Frenchman’s public plea to remain at Marseille this week.
Guendouzi is current midway through a season-long loan spell in France, but declared this week that he wants to commit to the Marseille project for the “long-term”.
The midfielder was shipped out to France after falling out of favour under Arteta, who was irked by the youngster’s attitude following a clash with Brighton’s Neal Maupay last year.
In his absence, summer signing Lokonga has hit the ground running at the Emirates and his form suggests that Arteta can afford to grant Guendouzi’s wish for a permanent exit this summer.
Lokonga even stressed that the best is yet to come when on national duty for the Belgium team this week – insisting that he’s already told the Gunners boss he’ll see “an even better” player next year.
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“Yes, it’s gone a bit quicker than anticipated, but I was well prepared on physically, mentally and on a football level,” Lokonga told RTBF this week when discussing the start of his Gunners career.
“I don’t want to say that I had the required qualities but apparently they suit the manager? I’m fighting for my spot, I play games and I’m getting minutes. I’m very happy. I made the right choice, but I already knew that.
“The manager speaks to me a lot, I like that, but he doesn’t let me rest. I was told that he’d said that my integration and my performances impressed him. Good, but next year, he’ll see an even better Sambi!”
The £15million deal to bring Lokonga to London from Anderlecht this summer was made with one eye on the future.
But his impressive start to life in the Premier League has given Arteta much to ponder.
And it’s hard to see a way back for Guendouzi following Lokonga’s somewhat unexpected emergence.
The midfielder was farmed out on loan to Hertha Berlin last season before linking up with Marseille this term, although Arteta was adamant earlier this year that both he and Guendouzi would assess his future at the end of his temporary stay in France.
With both Lokonga and Guendouzi aged just 22, it seems like a no-brainer for Arteta to put his faith in the fledgling Belgian ace rather than hand another chance to Guendouzi.
There have been rumblings of attitude issues with Guendouzi before, whereas Lokonga has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival back in July.
He’s just one of a host of young stars, including Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale, who have helped Arsenal launch an eight-game unbeaten run to propel themselves back into the race for a Champions League spot.
And Lokonga should go from strength to strength as he clocks up more experience in the Premier League playing alongside the experience Thomas Partey in a double pivot at the base of the Gunners midfield.
It’s a no-brainer for Arteta to stick with Lokonga rather than facilitate an Emirates return for Guenzoudi – and that’s probably an outcome that all parties would be pretty content with.
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