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.