Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga has revealed how he “almost snapped” last season at his lack of game time — while he has also vented frustration towards Belgium manager Roberto Martinez for the same reason.
The 22-year-old joined the Gunners last summer for a fee just shy of £20m from Anderlecht, but he made just 12 Premier League starts during his maiden campaign, and has followed up this term by being named in Mikel Arteta’s first-team just twice.
Albert Sambi Lokonga news: Midfielder’s World Cup spot in doubt?
- Albert Sambi Lokonga has revealed he “almost snapped” last season at his lack of Arsenal minutes (click here for full quotes).
- The situation has translated to the Belgium national team, and Lokonga says he has been “pissed off” with Roberto Martinez.
- The 22-year-old has started just two Premier League games for Arsenal this season, and only 12 last term.
- He has started all three of Arsenal’s Europa League games, though, and they take on PSV on Thursday, with Sky Bet offering 15/8 Arsenal to win to nil.
Arsenal are currently leading the Premier League charge having won nine of their opening 10 matches, and Lokonga has so far been unable to break up the Granit Xhaka-Thomas Partey midfield partnership, as he has continued to play a largely peripheral role.
Despite the continued lack of consistent game time, Lokonga has conceded that, while he was vexed last term at his restricted role, he has made peace with the situation this campaign, and will be willing to fight for his position in Arteta’s side.
He told La Derniere Heure: “Honestly, it’s difficult. I’m at one of the best clubs in England. I could have played somewhere else every weekend, but that wouldn’t have been the right solution for me.
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“It’s a personal decision [to stay at Arsenal]. I wanted to give myself another year to stay at Arsenal and then see what happens.”
“At the end of last season, I almost snapped,” he added. “I called my agent to ask him if staying at Arsenal was a good idea. He comforted me in my choice, even though I know I need to start more often to develop.”
His lack of minutes in north London has directly affected his playing time for Belgium as well. The one-capped international has admitted he hasn’t been best pleased with Martinez’s treatment of him, with his World Cup place now in serious jeopardy.
He said: “I called him the day after the international match in March. I was really pissed off. I thought for a moment that I didn’t even want to play for the national team anymore. I was disgusted.
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“Martinez said he preferred players who are playing regularly at their club. He was also not completely satisfied with my training. I don’t think he can portray me as a bad boy who doesn’t work hard. It would be too easy to put up such a picture of me. He can’t use something like that to justify why I don’t get to play.
“If I’m already on the bench while De Bruyne, Hazard and the other stars are not there, then I don’t stand a chance if they are in the selection. Maybe Martinez doesn’t believe in my qualities or he doesn’t like my style. But I’d rather he communicate that clearly. I would have accepted his decision without hesitation.”