Arsenal fans noticed the same thing after Alexandre Lacazette’s mistake led to the Gunners’ second goal against Lyon this evening, but it’s not what you’d expect reading that description. Albert Sambi Lokonga has been hailed en masse for his role in the move, which Eddie Nketiah finished to double the lead in Dubai.
Mikel Arteta named a strong team as Arsenal looked to shake off the rust in their first friendly since the World Cup break began last month. The Spaniard’s side wasted no time rediscovering their rhythm, with Gabriel Magalhaes heading in Martin Odegaard’s corner for a 19th-minute lead.
Nketiah struck after the half-hour mark to make it 2-0, stemming from former Arsenal striker Lacazette carelessly overrunning the ball and losing possession just outside the Gunners’ box. From his error, Lokonga delivered a pinpoint long-range pass out wide to Fabio Viera, who carried the ball towards the Lyon area before squaring it for Nketiah to slot home from 12 yards.
Viera added a goal of his own just six minutes later, curling a magnificent effort into the near-top corner from outside the box after a sequence of neat one-touch passes in the final third. But Lokonga earned most of the first-half plaudits, making viewers drool by showcasing his passing ability.
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@flosenhausen wrote: “That pass from Sambi [3x fire emojis].” @trisfamkris added: “My oh my. What a nice pass to Fabio Viera.” Meanwhile, @_IKENNA_ reacted with a request for his Arsenal brethren: “Great vision and ball from Lokonga. Let’s give him some love.”
@OlisaOsega praised Lokonga’s all-round performance: “Sambi Lokonga is having a fabulous game in that LCM role. I’ll never give up on him. There’s definitely some talent in there.” @adroitcode said: “Lokonga… Whatever Arteta and his coaching staff must have done to this guy during the short break, I love it!”
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Lokonga has struggled to set the world alight since joining Arsenal from Anderlecht in an £18million deal in July 2021. He’s made just 14 Premier League starts since his Emirates Stadium arrival but has regularly been called upon in the Europa League and other cup competitions, starting all six outings in Europe this season.
With Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard ahead in the midfield pecking order, minutes will likely remain hard to come by in the second part of the 2022/23 campaign. But the 23-year-old has shown real glimpses of quality against Lyon, reminding supporters of his potential.
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