Joel Lopez has completed his free transfer move to Cultural Leonesa from Arsenal. The 20-year-old defender has now returned to his home nation after completing the transfer. The left-back left Barcelona academy to join Arsenal’s academy in the summer of 2018. Lopez made the move in search of more game time in the senior team rather than spending time in the academy.
Joel Lopez showed his quality on multiple occasions by contributing to important goals from the left-back position. Lopez scored two goals while also registering four assists across all competitions last season (stats via transfermarkt). An important goal against Premier League 2 title winners, Manchester City and an assist to knock out Chelsea from the EFL Trophy left everyone impressed with Lopez.
However, he still failed to feature in the senior squad of Arsenal on a regular basis. Competing against Kieran Tierney and Nuno Tavares is certainly a big ask for a 20-year-old academy player.
According to Daily Cannon, Joel Lopez has completed his move to Cultural Leonesa and has expressed his joy on Instagram saying,
“Happy to be here this year. So nice. Let’s go Cultural!”
In addition, Lino Sousa had made quite an impression on the Arsenal staff after joining in January 2022. His rapid development might have played a part in the departure of Lopez to Cultural Leonesa. Nevertheless, this move will give him the required first-team exposure and he might return to the top-flight with some valuable experience.
🔴 OFICIAL | La @CyDLeonesa incorpora a Joel López
— Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa (@CyDLeonesa) August 5, 2022
Lopez’s contract with Arsenal expired in June along with a few other players. Very few would’ve thought about Joel Lopez leaving the club, especially after showcasing his skills on a number of occasions. Nevertheless, the decision was taken keeping in mind the best interests of both the player and the club.
Why Joel Lopez Leaving Arsenal Is Best For Both The Parties?
Joel Lopez has been a part of Arsenal’s academy since 2018. He did not train with the senior team but had felt the need to start playing with the senior squad by now. However, to train with the first team meant having to challenge Tierney and Arsenal’s new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko. Tavares has joined French side Olympique Marseille on a season-long loan.
The chances of Lopez getting first-team minutes at Arsenal were very slim. Now he has found a place where he can consistently get into the starting XI.
Cultural Leonesa will give him the required experience to play in the top flight in the future. The 20-year-old defender will have to work his way up to first-tier football. Moreover, playing in his own country may also benefit him to keep his performance levels high.
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From Arsenal’s perspective, the departure of Lopez did create a vacant space in the U-23 Arsenal side. Nevertheless, the emergence of Lino Sousa has solved Arsenal’s doubts over the vacant spot. Sousa is still a 17-year-old left-back and has more to learn than Joel Lopez.
The Spanish youngster, Lopez might cross paths with the Gunners again later in his career if he develops his game. However, he will have to be patient for that chance as moving up from a third-tier side to the top-flight is a time-consuming process. This can be accelerated if Lopez keeps performing at the best of his abilities.
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