At a time when there is a lot of scrutiny over Arsenal’s options at left-back, Joel Lopez has returned to full fitness.
Lopez has been out injured for over a month, but the Spanish defender was involved in training with the first-team squad yesterday as he stepped up his recovery.
The 20-year-old’s future at Arsenal remains somewhat uncertain and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he was to leave on a permanent basis in the near future, but he will be determined to finish the season strongly.
Arsenal have two U23s fixtures remaining this campaign – away to Manchester United and at home to Leeds – while Lopez will also hope to benefit from Kieran Tierney’s absence by earning a callup to the first-team matchday squad in the Premier League at some stage before the end of the season.
Lopez was named on the bench in the Europa League last season and has largely been impressive for the U23s this year, although it was a major surprise that he didn’t go out on loan in January.
The suspicion remains that Lopez is far better suited to playing as a left wing-back than as a left-back. When playing in a four man defence he can sometimes get exposed, but as a wing-back he is afforded greater protection and can also push forwards to excellent effect.
Lopez really needs a loan spell in order to test himself at senior level, but he could well have concerns that he may be overtaken in the pecking order by Lino Sousa, the 17-year-old who has made a major impact since joining from West Bromwich Albion in January.
If Lopez can impress in first-team training before the end of the season then he could still end up carving out a long-term career at Arsenal, but he is now at the stage where he needs senior football, whether with the Gunners, out on loan or via a permanent move elsewhere.