Albert Sambi Lokonga has shed light on the role Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira played in his loan move to Crystal Palace on the deadline day of the winter transfer window.
He was signed by the Gunners from RSC Anderlecht in the summer of 2021 for a fee of £15 million. Sambi Lokonga enjoyed a decent debut season, where he featured in 24 games across competitions.
However, his prominence in manager Mikel Arteta’s side has dropped this campaign. He has only played 195 minutes of league football as compared to the 1,130 minutes last year.
Arsenal also signed Jorginho on a permanent basis from Chelsea in January, which would have pushed the Belgian further down the pecking order. Eventually, Sambi Lokonga ended up signing for Crystal Palace on loan.
But according to the midfielder, it wasn’t an easy decision. Speaking after his loan move to the Eagles was confirmed, the one-cap Belgium international told Palace’s official website:
“It was not easy [to leave Arsenal] because as you can see they are top of the league, but for me the important thing was the confidence of the coach.
“I had him on the phone and it was a good opportunity to come here, to show myself and to help the boys reach their objectives. He said to me ‘welcome’. He is going to push me to be a better player – I am looking forward to it.”
Vieira won three league titles during his stay in north London from 1996 to 2005 and is widely regarded as one of Arsenal’s greatest players ever. He has been the manager at Selhurst Park since replacing Roy Hodgson in the summer of 2021.