Macedonian goalkeeper Iliev poised for eventful campaign at Arsenal

He was not exactly the stellar transfer deadline-day acquisition that many Arsenal supporters had been anticipating last summer, but, as he prepares for what will technically be his first full campaign at the club, goalkeeper Deyan Iliev could find himself closer to the first-team picture than he initially envisaged.

The signing of the 18 year old, who was signed from FK Belastica in his native Macedonia late last August, caused some initial confusion given the large quantity of young goalkeepers on the club’s books at the time, but, with James Shea and Reice Charles-Cook poised to become free agents on Monday, Iliev is now Arsenal’s second-choice goalkeeper at U21 level behind Damian Martinez.

Given that Martinez is likely to head out on loan at some point this campaign, the door is poised to open for Iliev, who has been capped by his country at various age-groups, to establish himself as the first-choice custodian for the second-string, although he will face considerable competition from Josh Vickers, who made his debut at that level against Wolverhampton Wanderers late last season.

Iliev himself has yet to experience U21 action for the Gunners, although he is likely to feature heavily in pre-season, and, depending on what occurs with Martinez (the Argentinian could be promoted to the first-team squad if either Lukasz Fabianski or Vito Mannone depart), Iliev could soon find himself edging ever closer to the senior set-up himself, with a place on the bench in the Capital One Cup this season not beyond the realms of possibility.

His first season at the club can be described as somewhat mixed. The goalkeeper amassed 13 appearances combined in the NextGen Series and U18s, including all three FA Youth Cup ties, but, despite demonstrating his impressive reflexes, it was evident from a very early stage that his distribution requires much improvement.

That is still an area of the game that first-team goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny needs to iron out, but  Iliev also has additional problems to contend with; one of the goals he conceded against Chelsea in the semi-finals of the NextGen Series, for instance, should never have been allowed to slip past his grasp from long distance, whilst he will not look forward to taking on new signing Dan Crowley in training, having struggled to contend with the England U17 midfielder during the U18 league meeting against Aston Villa at London Colney.

That said, Iliev did impress on several other occasions, making some memorable stops in the earlier rounds of the NextGen Series, and will look to enjoy a more consistent campaign this time around. With Shea and Charles-Cook out of the frame, it could prove to be an eventful one for the Macedonian.



  1. Lets get rid of mannone & fabianski then buy an experience keeper 2 get de best outta wojciech & promote martinez as 3rd choice…u21 illev vickers u18 huddart glirling

    1. I’m certain that fabianski has signed a new 2 year contract as his original contract was due to expire this summer meaning mannone has 1 year to go fabianski 2 years and szczesney 3 years.

      I believe mannone will be sold this window or at least loaned out. But I am not convinced wenger will bring in a new keeper unless he can get a keeper better than the 2 poles.

  2. It seems Mannone is on his way to Sunderland to replace Mignolet.

    Fabianski won’t be going anywhere, he is very strong competition for Woj as long as he stays fit and retains his new found ‘mental strength’. He’s as good a shotstopper as Woj, has better distribution and he has improved a lot when it comes to claiming high balls. Woj is as prone to flap at a cross as Lukasz but fans don’t make a big deal out of it when Woj does it.

  3. totally agree wrenny, I dojnt really understand the clamour for Julio cesar??? I could understand it if we had a chance of getting casillas or even handanovic,whom I rate more than our current 2. however the likes of reina, valdes, begovic, cesar, mignolet and a few more are no better than our 2 poles. I think there is no value in keeping mannone, however with Martinez requiring a loan a 3rd keeper is needed at most clubs, so I would go for mark schwarzer to replace mannone, for a year or two, until Martinez is ready to challenge.

    1. I don’t believe the Cesar rumours, I don’t think he’s not an improvement on what we have and he’s not the type of goalkeeper AW usually goes for. He likes them tall and commanding in the air, whereas Cesar is like Given or Reina; small, great shotstoppers who leave the high balls to defenders. Also, Cesar would command big wages and want guarantees of being no.1 with the World Cup coming.

      I agree that we need to replace Mannone. The two Poles have suffered a few injuries and it’s not improbable they might both be out simultaneously at some point again, as they were at the beginning of the season. An older ‘keeper like Schwarzer would fit the bill nicely, act as a stopgap like you say until Martinez is ready. Unless Arsene wants to get a new no.1 rather than cover, but I think he has a lot of faith in Szczesny and doesn’t want to hinder him.

  4. Why get rid of Charles-cook he was class what a mistake arsenal have once again made. He should at least be still here in and round 1st team next gen proves that

    1. Thing is vickers and huddart are better than charles-cook and are just a little younger whilst martinez is not much older. Sometimes the club has to make decisions that are tough calls but right for the club and probably right for the player. The ones I feel most for are shea and mannone who have been kept for too long whilst younger keepers have been given their chances.

      Szczesney fabianski martinez iliev vickers huddart. Should be enough for us but like I said it would cost little and do no harm in bringing in schwarzer. He could work with the top two whilst tony roberts could continue to with the younger 3 allowing martinez to grab a loan spell. Then the 2 older keepers can sit on the benches if required.

      1. well I can only speak from what I know as a professional coach and scout. we all have decisions to make and if I was working for the arsenal academy, my decision over all of our keepers would be that szczesney, fabianski, Martinez, iliev, Vickers and huddart, would be retained whilst mannone, shea and Charles-cook would be sold or released.
        you are entitled to your own opinion, but to say that I need to get a grip of my senses when my opinion is based on my professional experience within the sport and exactly the same as the opinion made by arsenals academy directors, managers and coaches is just ludicrous.

      2. atid is right. CC was maybe a little bit better at the moment but we have a few in is age already. Vickers needs to play more regular and Huddart is a big talent. Below Huddart we have another promising goal keeper. I have no idea how ilev, Vickers and Martinez can play many games for the U18-U21.

        Martinez is the obvious U21 keeper but Ilev and Vickers needs to compete. Martinez on loan? My guess will be Vickers will be missing out on a lot of games unless Ilev is screwing up things big time.

  5. the shambolic youth england team under 20 world cup and euro under 21 went so well.the future bright for England lol. both manage by people who have been failure at club level. why all this idiot who dont know anything about developping young player get job with the FA

  6. Disappointed that Charles-Cooke has left, every time I’ve seen him play he was excellent. Vickers is a competent alternative, but probably needs to grow a couple of inches to be seen as an AFC Premier League keeper. Not really sure about Huddart, in the footage I’ve seen him play he looked indecisive and a bit erratic, even though he’s a tall lad. I guess time will tell with him.

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