Albert Sambi Lokonga has admitted he was surprised by just how good William Saliba is, and that Arsenal let him leave on loan last year.

William Saliba playing for Arsenal (Photo via Arsenal.com)
William Saliba playing for Arsenal (Photo via Arsenal.com)

Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga hadn’t spent any time on the pitch with William Saliba before this pre-season, having joined the Gunners a few days after Saliba left for Marseille on loan last summer.

Having now had the experience of playing in front of the Arsenal defender, Lokonga admits he’s impressed with what he’s seen.

“I didn’t know he was so good,” Lokonga said. “I never saw him playing before, and when I saw him for the first time I said ‘wow, he’s really, really good’.

“So I was surprised that Arsenal let him go on loan and he didn’t play.”

Lokonga went on to agree that the loan seems like it was the best thing for the defender, given how it’s helped him to push on.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: William Saliba #12 of Arsenal and Dominic Calvert-Lewin #9 of Everton go after the ball in the first half during a preseason friendly at M&T Bank Stadium on July 16, 2022. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: William Saliba #12 of Arsenal and Dominic Calvert-Lewin #9 of Everton go after the ball in the first half during a preseason friendly at M&T Bank Stadium on July 16, 2022. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Saliba has certainly looked imperious in pre-season, with Arsenal avoiding conceding a single goal while he’s been on the pitch. But the centre-back now has to translate that to the competitive matches.

If Saliba is named in the starting lineup against Crystal Palace on Friday, as many expect him to be, it will be his Premier League debut.

He hasn’t played a single minute in the English top tier, and there are never any guarantees about how a player might adapt.

But the signs with Saliba are all positive. He did well against English opponents in pre-season, and Lokonga is clearly impressed with the 21-year-old’s contributions.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.