Albert Sambi Lokonga did not make the Belgium squad for two of their three matches during this interlull with Robert Martinez leaving the midfielder out because a ‘discomfort’ in training but he looks to have recovered in time to face Norwich.

Belgium s Albert Sambi Lokonga pictured during a press moment of Belgian national soccer team Red Devils to prepare three qualification games for the 2022 World Cup, Monday 30 August 2021 in Tubize. Copyright VIRGINIE LEFOUR
Belgium s Albert Sambi Lokonga pictured during a press moment of Belgian national soccer team Red Devils to prepare three qualification games for the 2022 World Cup, Monday 30 August 2021 in Tubize. Copyright VIRGINIE LEFOUR

When Belgium confirmed their squad list for three international fixtures over the September break, Arsenal summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga was on the list. It was Lokonga’s second international call-up, having also joined the squad for the final break before the Euros.

In a sign that he is now an Arsenal player, but not yet fully blooded in the ways of the Gunners, the midfielder then picked up a niggle in training while on international duty.

If he’d been at Arsenal longer, it would probably be a lot more serious.

Speaking to the media, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez said, “Regarding Sambi, it is not a sporting choice. There was a small warning, I would not speak of injury, but of discomfort, in training.

“So we decided not to take any risk given the complicated conditions. It was not a sporadic decision on my part.”

That’s refreshing, with most national team managers only considering their own games.

September 2, 2021, Tallinn, Harjumaa, Estonia: Karol Mets R of Estonia and Albert Sambi Lokonga L of Belgium are seen in action during the FIFA World Cup, WM, Weltmeisterschaft, Fussball 2022 Qualifiers game between Belgium and Estonia at A. le Coq Arena..Final score Belgium 5:2 Estonia Tallinn Estonia Copyright: Hendrik Osula
September 2, 2021, Tallinn, Harjumaa, Estonia: Karol Mets R of Estonia and Albert Sambi Lokonga L of Belgium are seen in action during the FIFA World Cup, WM, Weltmeisterschaft, Fussball 2022 Qualifiers game between Belgium and Estonia at A. le Coq Arena..Final score Belgium 5:2 Estonia Tallinn Estonia Copyright: Hendrik Osula

Sambi made his Belgium debut against Estonia on 2 September when he came of the bench in the 71st minute.

He was not, however, included in their games against the Czech Republic (5 Sept) and Belarus (8 Sept) indicating that it might be a little more than a ‘discomfort’.

That being said, given Sambi is not yet an integral part of the Belgium set-up, resting him costs them nothing and could well have helped the midfielder return to fitness in time to face Norwich with Arsenal in light of Granit Xhaka’s suspension.

Sambi was back in training on Friday, along with Emile Smith Rowe who was also a doubt after being ill.

Albert Sambi Lokonga in training ahead of Arsenal vs Norwich
Albert Sambi Lokonga in training ahead of Arsenal vs Norwich
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