Four of Arsenal’s u23 squad joined up with the first team for training this week, ahead of the Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague.
With a few injury concerns and the larger bench allowed in the Europa League, there’s some potential for one or two of Arsenal’s u23 squad to make the step up to the matchday squad on Thursday night.
As a result, a few members of the u23s stepped up to join first-team preparations for the Slavia Prague clash.
Firstly, goalkeeper Karl Hein took part in the session, as he’s set to make the bench. As we’ve covered previously, Runar Alex Runarsson is ineligible for the knockout stages, so a youth goalkeeper has to step up in his place.
The other three to join the senior squad in training were Miguel Azeez, Joel Lopez, and Zane Monlouis.
Azeez is a talented midfielder who made his senior debut for Arsenal earlier in the season. He’s arguably now reaching the point where he’s ready for more senior opportunities, but obviously, Mikel Arteta will want to find ways to ease him in carefully.
Martin Odegaard is carrying a minor injury at the moment, so Azeez is ready to step up to take his place in the squad if necessary. Azeez posted a pre-match graphic for the game on his Instagram story, suggesting some involvement.
Lopez is a left-back, which explains why he’s getting a chance. With Kieran Tierney out for at least the next month, Arsenal will need to get creative with their solutions in the position.
You’d expect Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka to make most of the starts, but it’s good to have options. Lopez has had a good season at u23 level so far but is still waiting on his first senior squad call-up.
As for Monlouis, he’s a young centre-back who is clearly highly rated by Arsenal. He’s earned chances in the u23s this year despite his eligibility for the u18s, and he regularly steps up to first-team training as well.
Monlouis is the least likely of the three to get competitive first-team involvement immediately, but this will be good experience for him. Either of the other two could easily step up to replace the likes of Tierney and Odegaard.