Kolasinac absence should give Lopez a first-team chance

Joel Lopez with the Arsenal u21s (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)
Joel Lopez with the Arsenal u21s (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)

With Sead Kolasinac potentially missing the next couple of games after a positive Covid-19 test, Joel Lopez deserves a chance on Mikel Arteta’s bench against Molde.

Joel Lopez (R) alongside Calum Chambers in first-team training with Arsenal (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)
Joel Lopez (R) alongside Calum Chambers in first-team training with Arsenal (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)

For a year or so after he first joined Arsenal from Barcelona’s academy, people used to ask me about Joel Lopez all the time. At that point, the hype around signing a Barcelona youth player exceeded his preparedness for any kind of senior action.

Ironically, I don’t get the same question as much anymore, and he’s arguably showing his best form since joining.

Returning from injury to make five consecutive starts for the top academy sides (u23s and u21s), Lopez has been one of the most consistent performers across those matches. He always looks dangerous going forward, and his recovery runs are good as well.

Most recently, Lopez played a key role in goals in Arsenal’s last two academy fixtures. He forced a Blackburn Rovers own goal with a cross, then another cross against Gillingham led to Catalin Cirjan’s opener – even though he didn’t get an official assist for either.

The left-back joined the first-team in training over the international break, with some positive clips in the highlight reel going up on YouTube. Skip to 6:06 to see an assist and a tackle from the 18-year-old in their practice match.

Joel Lopez signs a new contract for Arsenal. Highbury House. Emirates Stadium, 27/6/19. Credit : Arsenal Football Club / David Price.
Joel Lopez signs a new contract with Arsenal. Highbury House, Emirates Stadium, 27/6/19. Credit: Arsenal Football Club / David Price.

The point is that he’s playing really well at the moment. He’s eligible for the Europa League squad, and arguably he’s the next most deserving of a debut on the squad list right now. With Sead Kolasinac out with Covid-19, there’s a spot open.

That’s not to say Lopez is ready for regular first-team starts. He still has work to do defensively, and there are four senior internationals ahead of him (Tierney, Kolasinac, Saka, Maitland-Niles).

In my opinion, the next step is giving Lopez one of the 12 bench places against Molde, perhaps a debut appearance in the final Europa League group games, and then loaning him in January.

Get his name out there using the extra squad spots we probably don’t need anyway and secure him a good loan move.