Thursday, July 7, 2022

Iliev impresses on loan but Arsenal future remains uncertain

Deyan Iliev was back in action last weekend, with the Arsenal loanee returning to the starting lineup for Polish side Jagiellonia Bialystok.

Iliev had missed several games through injury prior to the break, but he was restored to the side for the 1-0 victory against Cracovia and produced a largely impressive performance.

There were some concerning moments in the first half as Iliev was unable to keep hold of the ball on a couple of occasions.

However, in the second half he produced two superb stops to ensure that he kept a clean sheet.

Having been at Arsenal since 2012, Iliev is one of the club’s longest serving players, yet he is still awaiting his first-team debut.

That can partly be attributed to the fact that he spent two years out injured as an academy player, but it is also very difficult for young goalkeepers to break through at a major club.

Iliev has been on the bench for the first-team on three occasions, including for the Europa League final defeat to Chelsea last year, while he has also been called up by North Macedonia at senior level and gained experience on loan at Sered earlier in the campaign.

At the age of 25, though, Iliev is surely at the stage where academy football is beyond him.

There is a possibility that he could finally be promoted to the first-team squad as third choice this summer, with Matt Macey’s contract set to expire at the end of this month.

Even then it appears highly unlikely that Iliev, despite the improvements he has made in recent years, will come close to challenging Bernd Leno to be first choice in the near future.

It would be unsurprising, then, if Iliev’s lengthy spell at Arsenal was to come to an end within the next couple of years, but for now he is focused on concluding the season strongly in Poland.

Jeorge Bird is the author of Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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Let him go. Even allowing for goalkeepers to peak later he’s too old to be an ‘inexperienced’ third or fourth choice. I’d rather give that job to a proper youth player

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