Emiliano Martinez joined Reading on loan this week in a move that will hopefully provide the Arsenal goalkeeper with some much-needed regular playing time.
The repercussions of Martinez’s temporary departure, meanwhile, could be hugely beneficial for some of Arsenal’s young goalkeepers, especially Deyan Iliev.
Iliev, who turns 24 next month, has been unchallenged as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper at U23 level this season, mainly due to the fact that, after the departure of Joao Virginia, there is a significant age gap to the club’s next crop of young shot-stoppers.
With Martinez out of the picture for now, Iliev is effectively Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper for the first-team, meaning that he is likely to train regularly with Bernd Leno and Petr Cech.
In truth, Iliev hasn’t been especially convincing for the U23s this season, as evidenced by the fact that he has conceded 32 goals in 14 games. The defence has to take some of the blame for that sorry statistic, but Iliev’s kicking leaves a lot to be desired, while, although he has made some superb stops at times, he has a tendency to make costly errors.
Nonetheless, he now has an opportunity to impress Unai Emery as he aims to potentially break into the first-team squad next season once Cech retires, although Matt Macey, who is on loan at Plymouth Argyle, will also want to be considered.
Beyond that, Arsenal have two exciting prospects between the sticks in Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein, who are aged 17 and 16 respectively.
Okonkwo, a graduate of the Hale End academy, signed professional terms earlier in the season and elected to stay at Arsenal despite interest from abroad. A fine shot-stopper, he does still have some improvements to make but is progressing well.
Hein, meanwhile, arrived from Estonian club Nomme United last summer and, despite a difficult start, has managed to establish himself as first-choice for the U18s ahead of the highly-rated Okonkwo.
Martinez’s loan means that, on the occasions that Iliev isn’t available, such as when he is playing for the U23s, one of Okonkwo or Hein will be selected to train with the first-team, which will surely help their progress immensely.