Talking Tactics

Can Lokonga withstand pressure from Man City midfield?

By Adrian Clarke 8 Mar 2023

Adrian Clarke highlights the Crystal Palace man's qualities and importance against the champions

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who could be decisive in Matchweek 27.

Albert Sambi Lokonga

Lokonga has settled in well since joining Crystal Palace on loan from Arsenal, but his midfield assignment against Manchester City will be his toughest examination so far.

TV Info

Patrick Vieira’s side are on a nine-match winless run in 2023, but despite their struggles Lokonga has produced some tidy performances.

Cheick Doucoure is suspended for this weekend's match, meaning James McArthur, Will Hughes, Luka Milivojevic or Naouirou Ahamada will partner Lokonga.

When Doucoure was suspended earlier in the campaign, Palace’s weakened midfield was badly exposed in a 3-0 defeat at Everton.

With that in mind, Vieira may consider changing the shape of his team to accommodate two others to play alongside Lokonga in a reinforced three-man midfield.

Careful in possession 

When Palace recover possession from Man City, they must look after the ball carefully.

This will help them relieve pressure on their defence and give them an attacking threat of their own.

Lokonga will be a key man in this regard because he is the most technical, press-resistant player in their starting line-up.

Lokonga withstands Liverpool pressure

In the 1-0 loss at Aston Villa last time out, Lokonga recorded an impressive 94.7 per cent pass accuracy.

And in the goalless draw at home to Liverpool before that, Lokonga’s 82.5 per cent pass success rate was comfortably the best by a Palace midfielder.

Palace's best passers 22/23
Player Passing accuracy
Albert Sambi Lokonga 87.5%
Marc Guehi 86.8%
Chris Richards 83.2%
Cheick Doucoure 82.4%
Wilfried Zaha 82.3%

Vieira will require the 23-year-old to bring calmness to the team whenever they have possession.

He will also be looking for Lokonga to pick the right passes to his forwards, who have troubled Man City on the counter-attack in previous meetings.

Breaking up City’s attacks

Although Vieira is trying to implement a more controlled, possession-based style of play, Palace are unlikely to have much of the ball against Man City.

In last season’s 0-0 draw in the corresponding fixture, the Eagles had just 26.2 per cent of possession.

While Lokonga was primarily signed to add quality on the ball, he is averaging 8.5 ball recoveries and 2.5 successful tackles per 90 minutes, which leads the way in Palace’s rankings.

Lokonga's recoveries & interceptions v Liverpool
Lokonga's defensive performance v Liverpool
The blue triangles show Lokonga's recoveries and interceptions, while the green triangle shows where he made his tackle

In their last home match, Lokonga’s ability to recover possession really stood out as he made a match-high 12 regains, as well as one interception and a successful tackle.

There will be plenty of defensive responsibility on Lokonga's shoulders this Saturday and his display will be key to Palace's chances of upsetting Man City. 

Also in this series

Part 2: Why AFC Bournemouth must fear resurgent Salah
Part 3: Can Guimaraes get the edge over Neves?
Part 4: Why Solomon is Fulham's biggest threat to Arsenal

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