When Arthur Okonkwo was promoted to the first-team squad last month it seemed clear that he had won his battle with fellow goalkeeper Karl Hein.
The pair, who are both 19 years old, were named on the bench for the first-team on various occasions last season but it was Okonkwo who was given the number 33 shirt as well as a new long-term contract.
Hein’s future remains rather uncertain as he is reportedly into the final year of his contract, but, in an unexpected turn of events, he has seemingly edged back ahead of Okonkwo in the pecking order at Arsenal, at least temporarily.
Indeed, it was the Estonian who was named on the bench for Arsenal’s Premier League opener away to Brentford, with Okonkwo also travelling with the team but not being included in the matchday squad.
At present, with Alex Runarsson possibly leaving and another goalkeeper not yet signed, Hein is effectively Arsenal’s second-choice goalkeeper and it is possible that he could be on the bench against Chelsea next weekend.
Hein’s resurgence came after he performed considerably better than Okonkwo in pre-season. The latter is an excellent prospect but seemed rather nervous at times in Scotland, while Hein, in contrast, appeared considerably more composed, perhaps helped by the fact that he already possesses some experience of senior football having represented Estonia.
What happens now? Much will depend on if another goalkeeper is brought in. Then either Hein or Okonkwo can be third choice with the other going on loan. It is perhaps too much of a demand for one of them to be second choice for Arsenal right now.
There is also a concern that Hein and Okonkwo could spend a lot of time training and travelling with the first-team and therefore miss out on playing in U23 matches, which may affect their development slightly.
Furthermore, Arsenal already have several other goalkeepers competing for minutes at U23 level, with James Hillson, Ovie Ejeheri and Hubert Graczyk hoping for playing time.
Hein has a lot of potential but if Okonkwo can bounce back from a difficult pre-season then he has much to offer as well. Perhaps it was a little early for him to be thrown into a first-team environment, but his promotion has certainly helped to bring the best out of Hein.