The Athletic’s James McNicholas has compared Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga to former player Emmanuel Eboue.
Over the weekend, Liverpool swept aside the Gunners 4-0 in a comfortable Premier League win. Shortly after conceding the Reds’ second goal, Lokonga was discarded by Mikel Arteta, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles replacing the Belgian just eight minutes after the restart.
While discussing the loss on the Arsecast Extra podcast, McNicholas suggested that one of the reasons for Arsenal’s second-half capitulation was due to a ‘diabolical five minutes’, before drawing comparisons to the Gunners’ former Ivorian.
He explained: “I say this, honestly not to pick on a young player, but Sambi Lokonga in the first five minutes the second half, has like a diabolical five minutes.
“It was like when Eboue came on that time and had to get subbed off. Like, he just completely went to pieces, and I guess that can happen with a young player.
“It’s just a player who just needs, I don’t know, a timeout, needs something. And unfortunately, that sort of skittishness, I think, kind of infected Arsenal a little bit.”
“He was actually going to come off even before the second goal. He just was not there.”
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The Eboue performance McNicholas refers to came all the way back in 2008 in a match against Wigan Athletic. The Ivorian came on as a substitute but played so poorly he had to be brought off not long after, leaving the field to a chorus of boos from his own fans.
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While Lokonga’s outing was perhaps not quite as poor as that, there’s no doubting it was a difficult period for the young Belgian who ‘went to pieces’ at one stage.
Having arrived in north London over the summer, this was the first league match he had played against Liverpool. No doubt, it would have been a chastening experience for the 22-year-old, but he will hope to learn from it as he continues his otherwise impressive development with the club.