Luton journey over for Lokonga as Arsenal midfielder labels Hatters move the 'best decision' of his life

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Belgian international plays his final game for the club against Fulham

​Luton’s on-loan Arsenal midfielder Sambi Lokonga has stated he will be back at Kenilworth Road in some capacity after declaring his loan move to Town as the ‘best decision’ of his life.

​The 24-year-old has been a huge favourite with Hatters fans during the second half of the season, after an injury-hit start to his time in Bedfordshire kept him out for three months following the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in September. Returning to the side in December, Lokonga went on to play nine league matches, forming a terrific partnership with Ross Barkley until injury struck again, as he had to come off at half time against Liverpool, Town letting a 1-0 lead slip to lose 4-1 at Anfield, sidelined for another chunk of games.

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Without him, and almost half their squad at times due to injury, Town couldn’t carry on the excellent form that saw them win three out of five top flight matches, including a marvellous 4-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, as by the time he was fit again in late April, Luton couldn’t produce an unlikely Great Escape and were unsurprisingly were relegated to the Championship.

Discussing his time in Bedfordshire on social media, Lokonga said: “My journey with you has come to an end but my love and respect for you will stay forever Hatters! I wanted to thank you all, my teammates, coach, staff and fans for the moments that we have shared together, you guys have brought the best out of me this season despite the final result. I will be cheering you on and I know this club will have a great future! Love and peace.”

The Town fans clearly made it known they would like to see Lokonga back in a Luton shirt next season, chanting for him to stay at the weekend, with a poll run by the Luton News showing how highly he is thought of too. Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio, asked what lies ahead for the Belgian international, who has played just 39 times for the Gunners since moving to the Emirates from Anderlecht for a fee of £17.2m in July 2021, he continued: “For me, I had a discussion with Arsenal and the conclusion was the best thing for me was to leave the club, so now it’s up to my agent and the club to find something. I still have a contact there, one year plus a one year option so let’s see what happens.”

"The love I had received has been amazing, it’s been unbelievable and I’ve never seen this kind of support. I will be back here for sure. If I’m not playing for Luton I will come for sure to see the guys because I think this was the best decision of my life to come here, to play for this club and I thank Rob (Edwards) for inviting me to join him and be on this journey.

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"I’ve loved everything about here, my time was amazing. I think what the club stands for, the values, that was the right place for me and I’m really happy that I made this choice, We’ve grown a lot as a team and the club also as the club has had to adapt quickly to the Premier League, so it was an amazing journey.”

Sambi Lokonga applauds the Town fans after Sunday's goalless draw with Fulham - pic: Liam SmithSambi Lokonga applauds the Town fans after Sunday's goalless draw with Fulham - pic: Liam Smith
Sambi Lokonga applauds the Town fans after Sunday's goalless draw with Fulham - pic: Liam Smith

Unfortunately for Luton, it wasn’t just Lokonga’s absence they had to deal with after the Liverpool game, as he was one of a number of first team players, up to 13 at one point, who were absent, meaning Town had to field a number of teenagers on the bench just to ensure they had a squad available. It was a situation they couldn’t recover from, but looking back at the campaign, the midfielder didn’t want to dwell on it, adding: “Of course we had a lot of injuries and I’m sure that affected the result at the end, but this is something we can change anymore. We need to move forward and hopefully Luton will be back in the Prem. We’d like to thank all our supporters as we tried our best towards the end.”

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