The signing of David Ospina may serve to increase the pressure on Wojciech Szczesny to maintain his status as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper, but, beyond first-team level, there is also an engaging battle taking place between the club’s young shot-stoppers.
Damian Martinez earned a merited promotion to the senior squad in the summer, having developed well during his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday. The Argentinian is highly unlikely to see any first-team action this campaign, however, with Ospina seemingly being preferred for cup matches.
That could mean that Martinez will feature regularly for Arsenal’s U21 side as an over-age player, but that in itself creates a problem, with three other goalkeepers in much need of game time at that level.
Matt Macey is the usual number one for Steve Gatting’s side, with the former Bristol Rovers goalkeeper having also participated in the first-team’s pre-season tour of Austria. Macey is excellent at making saves from close range, but can be susceptible from set-pieces.
Beyond him, Deyan Iliev (pictured) has been at Arsenal for two years now but still can’t be described as consistent. The Macedonia U21 international also has good reflexes but remains somewhat error-prone, as evidenced by his sending-off against Barcelona in the UEFA Youth League last season.
Macey and Iliev have both featured for the U21s this season, but the same can’t be said of Josh Vickers, who spent much of last season on loan at non-league Canvey Island,where he performed well. The 18 year old returned to Arsenal for their Youth Cup matches towards the end of last season and produced superb displays away to Charlton Athletic and Chelsea.
That is not all. Ryan Huddart is next in line, with the tall shot-stopper having featured regularly for the U18s in the past year. He is already on professional terms and is likely to be joined in that regard by Hugo Keto, a promising Finnish goalkeeper signed in the summer.
How Arsenal will manage all of these young goalkeepers remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, at least one of them will end up hardly featuring whatever happens. Iliev was linked with a permanent departure last summer and that could still materialise in January, whilst Martinez could also go on loan, which could leave Vickers to compete with Macey for U21 duties.
With three rather young goalkeepers already in the first-team squad, though, it will be a difficult task for any of the fledgling custodians to make a sustained breakthrough.