Arsenal's "next Yaya Toure" not in Mikel Arteta's plans and on verge of exit

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Arsenal's "next Yaya Toure" not in Mikel Arteta's plans and on verge of exit

Albert Sambi Lokonga was once tipped to become the "new Yaya Toure" ahead of his move to Arsenal but two years later is on the cusp of an Emirates exit.

The Belgium international has failed to live up to the hype that greeted his arrival with the Gunners, despite the fact that Arsenal forked out £17million to bring him to the club from Anderlecht. Lokonga was club captain of his former side at 21 and has struggled since becoming a smaller fish in a bigger pond, failing to get the amount of game time many expected he would.

At 23, Lokonga is at a stage of his career where playing regular football has to be the priority and it is becoming increasingly clear that is not something he'll get to do at Arsenal. Mikel Arteta has signed two midfielders already this summer in Kai Havertz and Declan Rice for a combined fee of £170m.

Add in club captain Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Fabio Vieira, and Mohamed Elneny and it is apparent Lokonga is some way down the pecking order of midfielders at the club. Which is why the Gunners are thought to be mulling over letting him join Burnley on loan next season.

It is unclear whether the loan deal would include any sort of obligation or option to buy, though at this stage an obligation to make his stay at Turf Moor permanent if he plays a certain number of games seems the most likely outcome.

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A loan to Burnely would also see Lokonga reunited with a man that thinks incredibly highly of him in Burnley boss Vincent Kompany. The pair worked closely together at Anderlecht, where the now Clarets manager made him captain of the club.

Arsenal's "next Yaya Toure" not in Mikel Arteta's plans and on verge of exitAlbert Sambi Lokonga looks set to join Burnley on loan from Arsenal (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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Kompany was also the man behind the now infamous Yaya Toure comparison when he told Rio Ferdinand's YouTube channel FIVE about the first time he saw Lokonga. "The first thing I did when I saw Sambi is I went to Mikel and also Pep [Guardiola], but Mikel first and said, 'You got to watch this guy, he's the new Yaya Toure.'

"I'm not sure I'm doing him a favour saying this stuff. Look, you know what I like about Sambi, what Yaya did have, is, he wants the ball no matter what. If the team is not doing well, give the ball to Sambi. Team doing well? Give the ball to Sambi. He will never hide away from his responsibilities."

While a glowing assessment, it's not exactly accurate to how his time at the Emirates has played out. Over the course of two seasons, Lokonga has made just 39 appearances for the Gunners - though he did spend the latter half of last term on loan at Crystal Palace, which was perhaps the first sign he isn't destined for Arsenal greatness.

Josh O'Brien

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