With Kieran Tierney out for the rest of the season, let’s take a look at the Arsenal academy players who could potentially step into the first-team squad.
Due to the small size of Arsenal’s current senior squad, there’s no doubt that youth players will be stepping up on every Premier League matchday from now on.
With Kieran Tierney out of action for the rest of the season, Takehiro Tomiyasu out for at least another week or two, and Thomas Partey a major doubt for this weekend, there will be at least three openings on the Arsenal bench against Brighton on Saturday.
One of those openings will presumably be filled by a left-back, given Tierney’s absence. Below are the four realistic options available to Mikel Arteta.
Mazeed Ogungbo is perhaps the most likely choice, given he made the squad against Crystal Palace on Monday. But the 19-year-old Ireland u20 international has mostly played at centre-back this season.
Ogungbo is perfectly capable of playing at left-back or left-wing-back, but he’s probably the most defensively-minded of Arsenal’s academy options in the position. Perhaps that’s a good thing, it’s up to Arteta to make that call.
Lino Sousa could be thought of as the wildcard option for Arteta, and the January signing has made an excellent start to life with Arsenal.
Sousa has quickly progressed from the u18s to the u23s (for whom he has two goals in two starts) and he even provided an assist for the first team in their recent international-break friendly match.
The teenager is possibly the most exciting option Arteta could call upon, particularly going forward. Football.London report that he’s catching the eye of first-team staff, including Arteta.
But he’s very young (just 17), very inexperienced even at u23 level, and it may be too soon for him right now.
Former Barcelona academy defender Joel Lopez would usually be the obvious choice for a left-back call-up.
At 20 years old, with 28 appearances for the academy this season at left-back or wing-back, two goals, and five assists, he’s the player you’d expect to step up.
The problem is that he’s injured. He’s been out of action for a month now, with no clear timeline for his return. When he is back, he’ll probably need a game with the u23s to get up to speed.
So with Arsenal needing reinforcements immediately, Lopez isn’t the solution.
Like Ogungbo, Zak Swanson is another youth player who has already been making the bench for recent Premier League games. In fact, he’s now made the squad for six consecutive league fixtures.
Swanson is naturally a right-back, but he brings some versatility as he also has experience on the left.
Of the four options listed here, Swanson is the only one who has played competitive senior football, albeit on a brief loan to MVV Maastricht.
So 21-year-old Swanson is the most experienced option, but he’s likely to continue providing cover at right-back while Tomiyasu is out.