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Arsenal's £17m transfer dilemma that Mikel Arteta desperately needs to solve

Arsenal are yet to announce any new signings in what has been a slow start to the summer transfer window. The Gunners went close to winning the Premier League title last campaign but ultimately lost out to a better Manchester City side.

Just two points separated the two clubs in the league and Mikel Arteta will be keen to bridge that gap between now and August 17, when the Gunners face Wolves on the opening weekend. football.london understands Edu and Arteta are intent on improving the squad between now and August 30, with signing a central midfielder the priority.

Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard will be guaranteed starters in the Arsenal line-up next season, you would think, but the third spot is open for someone to grasp with both hands. Thomas Partey, Jorginho and Kai Havertz impressed in periods last term, while Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe were also handed opportunities.

Bruno Guimaraes, Amadou Onana, Martin Zubimendi and Youssouf Fofana are just some of the midfielders tipped to make the move to Emirates Stadium. Arteta does have one option a little more closer to home, however, should he wish to explore it.

Albert Sambi Lokonga spent the 2023/24 season on loan at Luton Town and, in the main, impressed with his performances. While he missed a large chunk of the campaign due to a hamstring injury, the Belgian did feature 17 times in the league, scoring once and assisting his teammates three times.

The 24-year-old joined the Gunners in the summer of 2021 for a fee in the region of £17million and, in truth, has had a frustrating time in north London. The former Anderlecht man featured 24 times for the Gunners in his debut season, while he made the same number of appearances in the 2022/23 season. Lokonga failed to fully convince Arteta, though, which led to his loan move to Luton last season.

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Big things were expected of Lokonga when he arrived in the Premier League, with Vincent Kompany once describing the midfielder as "the new Yaya Toure". Speaking to Rio Ferdinand on his YouTube channel ‘FIVE’, Kompany revealed: “When I was still at City, I was coming to a point where I was thinking about my future, to become a manager or sign a new deal. I was watching football from different countries, different places and I saw Sambi play his first game, first two games for Anderlecht and then he got a big injury to his knee.

“The first thing I did when I saw Sambi is I went to Mikel and also Pep, but Mikel first and said, 'You got to watch this guy, he’s the new Yaya Toure.' Anyway, nothing comes of it, he’s got a cruciate ligament [injury].

“Then I fall into the management job at Anderlecht, so I’m working with him. I had the same conversation with Mikel and I believe the same thing now.”

Lokonga, now one year older, is expected to report for pre-season in the coming weeks and will no doubt have a conversation with Arteta about his future. It is still possible that he is taken to the US as part of the club's pre-season tour and have a role to play in Arsenal's midfield for the 2024/25 campaign. If it's decided the Belgian is better off departing, however, Edu should look to find a buyer sooner rather than later so the Gunners can demand a decent fee.

Lokonga has two years remaining on his contract so another loan move doesn't really help anyone. Interestingly, Lokonga was asked about his future last month and his response was telling.

Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio, via Luton Today, Lokonga said: "For me, I had a discussion with Arsenal and the conclusion was the best thing for me was to leave the club, so now it's up to my agent and the club to find something. I still have a contract there, one year plus a one-year option so let's see what happens."

More discussions need to be had and decisions need to be made in the coming weeks as Arsenal set their eyes on a third successive title challenge. It will be interesting to find out whether that title challenge will be with or without Lokonga.