Being a goalkeeper can be very difficult, but especially so if you are a young player. Whereas rookie outfielders are often given run-outs as substitutes, the same can’t be said for goalkeepers, other than in the event of an injury or a suspension for the first-choice shot-stopper.
For young goalkeepers attempting to make inroads into the first-team, particularly at a club as big as Arsenal, things can be very challenging. With Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez (two players who have many years ahead of them in their respective careers) part of the first-team squad, David Ospina currently installed as first choice and stories of a move for Petr Cech continuing to gather pace, the club’s contingent of young goalkeepers could be forgiven for being a little worried about their future prospects.
Following the departure of Josh Vickers, it appears that, at the start of the season at least, there will be three goalkeepers competing for game time in the Under 21s- Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Ryan Huddart.
It is a pivotal year for Macey (pictured) as from the 2016/17 season he will be classed as a senior player, meaning he would have to be named in the club’s Premier League squad if he was retained. A goalkeeper with good reflexes who was signed from Bristol Rovers two years ago, Macey has frequently impressed for Arsenal’s second-string, but he struggled during a loan spell at Accrington Stanley last season and will be hopeful of enjoying a more fruitful temporary transfer at some point next season.
Iliev, a Macedonian goalkeeper who has been with the club for nearly three years, was surprisingly rewarded with a new contract last season despite missing much of the campaign due to injury. He is also a very good shot-stopper, but can often be rash in his decision making and remains somewhat error prone, leading some to wonder just why he was kept ahead of Vickers.
Huddart, meanwhile, has already been called up to the first-team squad on two occasions and also made tentative inroads into the Under 21 set-up last season. A good commander of his penalty area, he will seek to build up more experience of second-string football next season.
Beyond that trio there are some more promising goalkeepers. Finland youth international Hugo Keto impressed during a challenging season for the U18s, whilst schoolboys George Phillips and Jordan Perrin are both highly regarded.
It will, though, be very difficult for any of them to make a sustained breakthrough at the club given the current regime. They will all be aware, however, that things can change very quickly in football and that circumstances may dictate that they will be afforded an opportunity somewhere down the line.
Ultimately, the most important thing for the club is to be successful and to win trophies. To do that, you clearly need to have an established goalkeeper who has some experience of senior football under his belt. Cech has that in abundance and would be an excellent signing.
The knock-on effect from that may well see some of the aforementioned young goalkeepers leave the club earlier than expected.