Who is the Arsenal youth left-back Joel Lopez spotted in first team training after Kieran Tierney injury?

Arteta hints at back 3

It has been confirmed by Arsenal head coach and manager Mikel Arteta that the Scottish international Kieran Tierney has suffered an injury serious enough to keep him out of play for possibly up to 6 weeks.

Arteta was asked if Tierney’s absence could see Arsenal return to playing with a back 3 and responded with a seemingly open mind to the idea.

“The team has to have the flexibility to adjust when it’s needed,” Arteta said. “Sometimes because of what the opposition is doing and sometimes just to adapt the quality of the players that we have.

“Sometimes because opponents cannot just predict what we are going to do. So there are different ways of doing that and we have to be flexible.”

Being flexible may mean the possibility of Bukayo Saka playing in a left-wing back role. Hector Bellerin could be recalled to play as a right-wing back. The Spaniard hasn’t been in regular use with Calum Chambers preferred for his defensive qualities.

Who is Joel Lopez?

Arsenal released images of their training sessions ahead of the match against Slavia Prague on Thursday which revealed the inclusion of youth team left-back Joel Lopez.

101 have produced a player profile on the former Barcelona full-back including expert insight from Arsenal youth assessment site Next Generation Arsenal (NGA).

Within it, NGA speaks of how the 19-year-old still has much to learn and show but has promise.

“Is he ready? His performances in the U23s this season have seen some adversity but also some hopeful displays. The biggest issue Joel faced was finding some consistency, he’s struggled with injuries and the physical side of the game in general,” says NGA.

“In terms of technical ability, his strengths are clear. He’s always graceful in possession and can move well with the ball at pace. The Spaniard is always keen to get forward and make an impact in the final third and he’s shown quality in his final ball.

“Defending does not always come easy to the 18-year-old. Positioning and 1-1 duels have often seen Lopez leaving a lot to be desired. It’s clear he needs more experience in the PL2 to further his development, it would be a big risk to play him in the first team currently, but one that could go either way.”

Whilst it makes sense for Lopez to be prepared for an emergency call up, as NGA points out, he is still very raw and it would be a huge risk to throw him in at such a pivotal stage of the season for Arsenal.

The likelihood is that Arsenal will either persist with the unorthodox choice of Cedric who has had some good performances earning a recall to the Portuguese national side, or to switch to the aforementioned back three.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Manchester City FC 31 45 74
2 Manchester United FC 30 25 60
3 Leicester City FC 30 19 56
4 West Ham United FC 30 11 52
5 Chelsea FC 30 16 51
6 Tottenham Hotspur FC 30 19 49
7 Liverpool FC 30 15 49
8 Everton FC 29 3 47
9 Aston Villa FC 29 11 44
10 Arsenal FC 30 5 42
11 Leeds United 30 -1 42
12 Crystal Palace FC 30 -16 38
13 Southampton FC 30 -14 36
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 30 -11 35
15 Burnley FC 30 -16 33
16 Brighton & Hove Albion FC 30 -5 32
17 Newcastle United FC 30 -20 29
18 Fulham FC 31 -17 26
19 West Bromwich Albion 30 -34 21
20 Sheffield United FC 30 -35 14
Player Team Goals
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 19
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 18
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 16
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 14
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 14
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 13
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 12
Gundogan, Ilkay Manchester City FC 12
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 11
Lacazette, Alexandre Arsenal FC 11
Rashford, Marcus Manchester United FC 10
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 10
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City FC 9
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 9
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City FC 9
Barnes, Harvey Leicester City FC 9
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 9
Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick Arsenal FC 9
Soucek, Tomas West Ham United FC 9
Maddison, James Leicester City FC 8

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