Former Arsenal academy left-back Joel Lopez has joined Spanish third-tier team Cultural Leonesa as a free agent after leaving the Gunners this summer.

Joel Lopez in training with the Arsenal first team (Photo via Twitter)
Joel Lopez in training with the Arsenal first team (Photo via Twitter)

Perhaps Arsenal’s most surprising free transfer departure this summer, Joel Lopez was one of a group of players released at the end of their contracts in June.

Charles Watts reported at the time that fellow Arsenal youngster Lino Sousa had made a big impression on the club staff since joining in January, suggesting that could have pushed the Gunners to let Lopez leave and free up opportunities in his place.

Whatever the reasoning behind the decision not to extend the youngster’s deal, Lopez was left searching for a new club.

The defender has now completed a move to third-tier Spanish side Cultural Leonesa, signing on a one-year deal with an option to extend by a further year.

Writing on Instagram, Lopez said: “Happy to be here this year. So nice. Let’s go Cultural!”

Joel Lopez in first-team training with Arsenal (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)
Joel Lopez in first-team training with Arsenal (Photo via Lopez on Instagram)

Dropping down the divisions will presumably give Lopez an opportunity to break into senior football on a regular basis, and he’ll hope that will help him climb back up to the top tier.

Lopez scored two goals and assisted five from left-back last season, a solid return including a goal against Premier League 2 title winners Manchester City and an assist as Arsenal knocked Chelsea out of the EFL Trophy.

Yet he ultimately struggled to break into the Arsenal first-team, and a move to a club that can offer him those first-team opportunities is probably best for all parties.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.