Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will have some interesting decisions on his plate in the coming weeks this summer regarding the future of talented young midfield duo Sambi Lokonga and Miguel Azeez.
There is no question that the Gunners are looking to reinforce the center of the park during the transfer window after links continue to connect Arsenal with a move for Belgian international Youri Tielemans.
Though there are murmurings that a failure to secure Champions League football by the end of term could throw that move into jeopardy, the fact that the club was also so close to securing a loan deal for Juventus midfielder Arthur in January is proof positive that Arteta intends to strengthen in the center of the park, which stands as an immediate roadblock for both Lokonga and Azeez regarding their ability to log considerable first-team minutes at the Emirates next season.
But for Lokonga, that does not appear to be an issue according to his brother and representative Paul-José M'Poku.
"We don't worry. Other players like Kevin De Bruyne or Romelu Lukaku also took time to establish themselves in the English Premier League. The difference with the Belgian championship is big, and Arsenal is not a mid-ranking club."
"We would have signed with both hands for a first season with 33% of playing time. And Albert is progressing every day, especially thanks to training. But the competition is tough in the team, with boys like Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, or Mohamed Elneny, and the coach has to respect a certain hierarchy. This season, the rotation has been very difficult because Arsenal doesn't play only one game a week on average."
Despite his lack of minutes when compared to being one of the first names on the teamsheet at RSC Anderlecht before his move to north London, Lokonga has continued to impress Mikel Arteta, who has full confidence that Lokonga has no intentions of leaving Arsenal temporarily in search of increased responsibilities.
The same may not be able to be said about Miguel Azeez, however, after the England youth international did not complete his full season away from Arsenal at Portsmouth in 2021-22 after returning to the capital in January after managing just six appearances (four starts) on the south coast.
For Azeez, a talent in his own right, a heavy desire to log minutes of first-team action is at the root of his personal motivations for the coming 2022-23 campaign according to an exclusive interview with Football.London.
When asked about his being pressed into service immediately at his temporary club after the summer move, Azeez responded with determination; "I enjoyed the game [Portsmouth debut against Cambridge]. Playing against men is a different environment from playing with 23s players. I enjoyed the experience of playing against men and I wanted to push on from there."
"I want to play the full season in men’s football, wherever that is. Whether that’s here, or someone else, it is what it is, but that’s the main goal for me."
Given the fact that Azeez is currently no higher than sixth in the midfield depth chart at Arsenal before any summer business that could transpire at the Emirates, his immediate future certainly seems to be away from the capital but by no means is indicative of his long-term thought process regarding whether or not he wants a future thereafter coming through the ranks at Hale End.