Tolaji Bola could be in line to travel with the first-team squad to Lisbon on Thursday, thanks to the injury struggles of fellow left-backs Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac.
On Monday, Unai Emery had to make the rather unconventional decision to play first Stephan Lichtsteiner, then Granit Xhaka, at left-back. Monreal and Kolasinac were both short for the game, so the head coach had to improvise with his selection.
Unfortunately, Lichtsteiner struggled in the new position, and Emery didn’t seem able to confirm that Monreal or Kolasinac would be back for Thursday’s match against Sporting Lisbon. He said only “we’ll look how they are – I hope they’ll be near”.
As a result, rumours are starting to build that the boss might look to the academy for a replacement. Youth expert Jeorge Bird writes that there’s a ‘possibility’ that Tolaji Bola travels to Lisbon, after training with them and being subbed off early in his u23 match on Monday.
Tolaji Bola (left back) was taken off after 66 minutes for U23s. Possiblity he could travel with first team to Lisbon. Trained with them yesterday
— Jeorge Bird (@jeorgebird) October 22, 2018
Given he didn’t suffer an injury, it does seem suspicious that Bola came off early against Everton. He’s played the full 90 minutes in all seven other matches he started this season.
For those who don’t know Bola too well, he’s 19-year-old full-back who loves to get forward. Not to be confused with former Arsenal academy full-back Marc Bola (no relation), Tolaji got himself four assists last season on the way to the Premier League 2 title with the u23s. He already has one this season to add to the collection.
That makes him a good fit for Emery’s system, with Hector Bellerin admitting after Arsenal’s game against Leicester that the boss encourages the full-backs to push on.
Whether the head coach deems Bola ready for first-team football just yet, we’ll have to wait and see. The inclusion of Zech Medley in the Premier League squad on Monday proves the Spaniard isn’t above taking chances on youth though.