Premier League • England

Arsenal rift threatens Mikel Arteta success as player reveals when he ‘almost snapped’ at manager

Albert Sambi Lokonga, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding

There could be trouble brewing at Arsenal after midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga detailed the time he ‘almost snapped’ at Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal are enjoying a brilliant start to the new season which has put them top of the Premier League and top of Europa League Group A. Right now, they seem to be the best team to challenge Manchester City for the Prem title. And they must also be one of the favourites to win the Europa League, something the club has never achieved.

Arteta is getting the best out of his young group of players. Pretty much everyone knows their role and there is a real ‘feel-good factor’ around the club, as Roy Keane puts it.

They went four points clear at the top of the Prem after beating Leeds 1-0 on Sunday. And Liverpool did them a favour later that day by beating City in a dramatic clash at Anfield.

Arteta’s position as first-team manager came under threat last season when the club were beaten to fourth spot by rivals Tottenham. Things are going extremely well this season and the fans will be happy Arteta remained in his role.

However, there seems to be a problem emerging which could threaten that ‘feel-good factor’ in the dressing room.

Lokonga, who was signed by Arsenal from Anderlecht in July 2021, has explained how he ‘almost snapped’ at Arteta last season due to his lack of playing time.

During an interview with DH Sports (via Sport Witness), the Belgian was asked about his decision to remain with Arsenal in the summer. He replied: “It’s a personal decision. I wanted to give myself another year to stay at Arsenal and then see what happens.

Albert Sambi Lokonga discusses Arsenal exit with agent

“I think I have the qualities to succeed here. Last season, I didn’t perform at my best level. I still have things to prove.”

Lokonga added: “At the end of last season, I almost snapped. 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.”

It’s no surprise Lokonga is feeling fed up about sitting on the bench. Last season, he only played in half of Arsenal’s league matches.

And things have gotten even worse for the 22-year-old this term. He is yet to start a league game and is having to rely on late substitute appearances from Arteta.

Things are slightly better for Lokonga when it comes to Europa League matches. He has played most of their minutes in Europe this campaign.

While Lokonga has a right to feel hard done by, he must realise his place in the squad. He is behind Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey in Arteta’s pecking order when all his midfielders are fit. Xhaka and Partey are just a step above Lokonga right now, which is why they get the nod in the bigger matches.

Arteta does need to keep tabs on the situation, though. He will not want the dressing room camaraderie to be ruined by squad players such as Lokonga.

Perhaps he should give the Belgian a start in an upcoming league match to improve his mood. This could happen during the trip to Southampton on October 23.

Meanwhile, pundits Gary Neville and Roy Keane have been discussing Arsenal’s title chances after the ‘freak’ City loss.