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Arsenal are close to announcing the signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga, with the Anderlecht midfielder nearing the end of his time in quarantine. The Gunners’ move for Lokonga has been on the cards for some time and it seems the club are now almost ready to unveil the second summer signing.
Nuno Tavares kicked off Arsenal’s summer transfer window by joining the Gunners in a deal worth £6.85million from Benfica last week.
Lokonga has been on Arsenal’s radar for some time and is set to arrive to bolster Mikel Arteta’s options in central midfield.
The Gunners need to strengthen in midfield, with Granit Xhaka being pursued by Jose Mourinho’s Roma and Matteo Guendouzi moving on loan to Marseille.
Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock could also be allowed to leave following loan spells away from the club last season.
Lokonga made 37 appearances for Anderlecht last season, picking up three goals and two assists and is expected to join for around £18m on a five-year deal after undergoing his medical last week.
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The 21-year-old will be introduced to his new team-mates once Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Scotland is over and will be a part of the group which travels to the USA to compete in the Florida Cup.
While he has experience of the Belgian top flight, the expectation is that Lokonga will be afforded time to settle at his new club.
He is therefore unlikely to go straight into the side to partner last year’s £45m arrival Thomas Partey in midfield – and another unknown is his shirt number.
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The size of Arsenal’s current squad means there are not too many low numbers available, although departures will of course free up space.
Luckily for Lokonga himself and the Gunners, it seems unlikely the youngster is going to step on any toes, with Het Nieuwsblad reporting that he has an unusual request for a number.
The Belgian outlet says Lokonga will wear No 48 for the 2021/22 campaign – the same number he donned for Anderlecht – in reference to his hometown of Verviers, which has the postcode of 4800, 4801 or 4802.
If that reporting turns out to be wide of the mark, or Lokonga changes his mind then there are a few other options.
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Dani Ceballos has returned to parent club Real Madrid following a two-year loan spell in north London, vacating the No 8 shirt, while the iconic No 10 has been empty since Mesut Ozil’s departure to Fenerbahce in January.
Torreira currently holds the No 11, but could well leave this summer and the same goes for goalkeeper Alex Runarsson, who holds No 13.
Maitland-Niles is No 15 but has been linked with a transfer away from the club, Partey’s move to No 5 means No 18 is also available and David Luiz’s departure leaves No 23 open too.
As you go up the numbers there are plenty more gaps, like No 26 (formerly Emi Martinez) and No 27 (formerly Konstantinos Mavropanos), with Arsenal’s fringe players in a state of flux at the moment.
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