What Granit Xhaka did during Albert Sambi Lokonga’s Arsenal masterclass vs Aston Villa

You would have forgiven Albert Sambi Lokonga if he had gone into his shell a bit against Aston Villa.

The Belgian, who only turned 22 on the day of Friday night’s victory had had probably his worst display in an Arsenal shirt just four days prior after replacing Bukayo Saka in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

As the urgency for an equaliser increased the Emirates crowd began to turn on the young midfielder for his lack of ambition in possession. At such a young age this can be the kind of traumatic experience that scars a player for years to come.

Not Sambi though.

Key to the Belgian’s excellent play was his vastly improved ball work.

Against Palace, Lokonga’s passing success rate was 98%, which might suggest that he actually had quite a good game. However, just six of his 44 passes on the night went forwards.

Instead the ball was constantly circulated out to either Takehiro Tomiyasu or Kieran Tierney as Arsenal struggled to create many chances.

This was vastly improved against Aston Villa as the 22-year-old played 16 of his 43 passes forward and a quarter of those went into the final third.