Miguel Azeez and Joel Lopez have lessons to learn despite Arsenal first-team involvement

After a lengthy period without any members of the U23 squad being called up to the first-team, Miguel Azeez and Joel Lopez have both found themselves on the periphery of the senior set-up of late.

Both players were on the bench against Slavia Prague in the Europa League, while Azeez was also named amongst the substitutes for the Premier League clash away to Sheffield United, with Lopez travelling to that game as the extra man.

It is possible that Azeez and Lopez could make the bench again for the trip to Prague this week, but they found themselves back in the U23 side against Derby County last night.

It can often be difficult for youngsters to readjust to being back in the U23s after sampling life in the first-team, and neither player was at their best as Arsenal secured a rather fortuitous 3-2 victory.

Lopez, for instance, was fortunate not to get sent off, gave away a penalty and was frequently caught out of position.

The left-back does have some admirable qualities, such as his dangerous crosses and his ability to make precisely-timed interceptions, but there is a concern that has hasn’t developed as quickly as hoped.

It has been evident for some time that the 19-year-old is in need of a loan spell, and, despite Arsenal’s left-back issues, he doesn’t seem ready to be considered as an option for the first-team at present.

Azeez’s situation is rather different. One of the standout prospects in the academy, there is little doubt about his superb passing range and his impressive technique.

Yet there is one flaw in Azeez’s game which still hasn’t gone away – his tendency to lose possession at crucial moments.

That was in evidence yesterday as an error from the midfielder resulted in Derby scoring. If he can be punished so ruthlessly at U23 level, it is safe to say that this would also be an issue on the first-team stage.

Unlike Lopez, Azeez is ready for first-team minutes as he looks to build upon his impressive showing as a substitute against Dundalk earlier in the campaign. It is hoped, though, that he will become more defensively aware.

Both Azeez and Lopez have a chance of succeeding at Arsenal in the long term (the former looking more likely to make an impact) but last night was a reminder that they still have some way to go in terms of their overall development.

4 comments

  1. When English clubs played in the Football Combination there was more of a mix in the age profile of the players, so you’d get 1st team squad players playing in the ‘Stiffs’ alongside young 16 and 17 year olds.
    For example you’d get maybe an Elneny or a Ceballos playing alongside Azeez and they would pass on their experience and almost coach young players. I guess that’s why the loan system is so beneficial now, but I’m sure that despite the flaws in his game that Miguel would learn a lot more coming on occasionally from the subs bench for 10/15 minutes if the circumstances allow rather than in 20 games at U21/23 level.

    Therefore giving Azeez a run out at Sheffield Utd when we were leading 3-0 might have had better long term prospects for us rather than bringing on Elneny. The downside of that would have been the response from our increasingly negative fan base if say Miguel had come on and Arsenal had conceded?

    1. there is no reason why we can’t use a few senior squad men in the EPL2 fixtures, those that are not getting regular game time for the first team, but we only seem to use any of them when they are coming back from long injury layoffs

  2. Certain things in football come from innate abilities and somethings come from an ability to take on information and a desire to work at improvement.
    To succeed you need both attributes.
    Sounds like both players have the first which is the one that is the hardest to teach.
    Maybe keeping them at a level for which they might be too good is retarding their desire to push to get rid of the flaws.
    It might be time to put them at a higher level where they will have to depend on more than innate abilities to be successful.
    It will then be up to the individual to show that they can take on information and work to improve.
    Playing at U23 will only mean regression.
    A good example is the progress being shown by Maitland Niles in just a few games in midfield with some of the same issues, losing possession, decision making.
    It also takes the right environment, so the current Arsenal first team might not be the best place, maybe a loan to a team with appropriate needs and positive atmosphere.

  3. Matt Smith must be wondering what he’s done to deserve this season, after starting so well at Swindon they hits the skids and the manager gets the sack, his replacement doesn’t fancy Matt and he doesn’t play anymore so we move him to Charlton in January where he starts to play but in no time the Addicks manager goes to Birmingham and his replacement again doesn’t fancy Smith who is now in the Charlton U23’s…

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