Friday, June 2, 2023

Five goalkeepers competing for involvement for Arsenal U23s

Competition for places can be a positive, but with regards to the goalkeeping position in the Arsenal U23 side, there are perhaps too many individuals in contention at present.

Deyan Iliev is still in the U23 squad at the age of 25 but it is difficult to envisage him playing at that level this season, especially after he gained experience on loan last campaign with Sered and Jagiellonia Bialystok.

Karl Hein was the first-choice shot-stopper for Steve Bould’s side last season and also trained with the first-team in the closing stages of the campaign. The Estonian is a fine shot-stopper, although he does occasionally make costly errors.

Arthur Okonkwo, meanwhile, is back available after missing a year of action. The England youth international previously produced some excellent performances for the U23s and will hope that he will soon be able to reclaim his place in the side.

Then there is James Hillson to consider, who was previously at Reading. Hillson also has good reflexes but was used sparingly last season and it will be intriguing to see what is in store for him this time around.

Completing the quintet is Tom Smith, a Hale End product who helped Arsenal U18s to win the Southern section title a couple of seasons ago. Last season Smith produced some encouraging performances on loan at Salisbury but injury curtailed his campaign.

It is clear, then, that Arsenal have some decisions to make about their young goalkeepers. Iliev will probably go on loan again, while Hein is set to start the season as first-choice for the U23s with Okonkwo providing backup.

Hillson could possibly go on loan, perhaps abroad to gain experience, and Smith will hope that he will be able to receive playing time whether at Arsenal or elsewhere.

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

Related articles



newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

When was the last time we produced a first-team goalkeeper?


Wojciech Szczęsny ?


Excellent point!

Toure Motors

Probably Stuart Taylor, but I know he didn’t play often in the first team. That’s if you don’t count Szczesny, who joined when he was around 16


When Leno got injured?


Our beloved Emi !!!! Genuinely hope he is chosen to he number 1 this coming season Bernd is an awesome keeper and one of the very best in the Premier but Emi oozes calm authority and he has that Seaman presence about him ! Looking forward to the academy producing some defensive talent sometime soon btw we need some central defenders to come through ? Anyway we are extraordinarily well stocked with some promising young keepers
Well done Per keep it up !!!!


What a babble !!! Fingers and brain working like Sanogos legs !!!!


We need to try harder to produce quality keepers (and quality every other position, come to that). Money is tight and will get tighter so more home-grown players are an obvious route through. Of course it’s easier said than done and it takes time and patience. Let’s hope we can improve as quickly as possible.

Giuseppe Hovno

Feed me more Arsenal news I am hungey

Dave cee

Iliev surely needs to be sold , if even for a pittance with sell on clause. He is never going to be our GK. Hilson is another place holder. Okonkwo I wish the best of luck. He is a talent. Such a shame he has lost a year, but the talent is there. Hein, jury is out for me, but he has something. Of the lot I think Okonkwo is the best bet, but GK is such a tough position to get a chance at. Most likely we will continue to buy 1st team GKs as the need arises. It… Read more »


I hope Okonkwo wins his place back and gets to perform regularly in the U23s. Genuinely excited about him. None of the others really move me. Mind you, that’s how I felt about Emi for years and now I love him!!


We currently have 11 goalkeepers on the books vying for 3 spots, one feels that is too many. Certainly 2 should be sold with may be 1 or 2 more going loan. Personally I would try to sell iliev, with sell on fees. Then loan out Macey, hein and hillson. Tom Smith is a man mountain in the making, whilst okonkwo is a very good keeper. Those 2 for the u23s with Leno/Martinez taking all the first team action.


Must be very hard being a goalkeeper?
How far down the table would these lads have to go to be assured of quality playing time?

Share article

Featured on NewsNow

Support Arseblog

Latest posts

Latest Arsecast

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x