Arsenal Youth season review- Part 1- Goalkeepers

An eventful and enjoyable season at youth level is nearing its conclusion, so now seems the best time to reflect on the progression made by the club’s youngsters over the past 10 months. 

In the first part we look at the club’s young goalkeepers.

Ever since Wojciech Szczesny made the progression from the youth team to the senior side, there has been an added sense of pressure on Arsenal’s young shot-stoppers given that the Polish international is unlikely to relinquish his position as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper for quite some time.

However, with Lukasz Fabianski set to leave when his contract expires at the end of June and Emiliano Viviano poised to return to Palermo without having played a competitive game for the Gunners, there may well be an opening for a young goalkeeper this Summer.

A senior back-up to Szczesny, along the lines of Chelsea’s signing of Mark Schwarzer last year, would be ideal, but the position of third-choice goalkeeper is open to considerable debate, with Damian Martinez, Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Josh Vickers all possessing considerable claims for promotion.

Up until last Summer, Martinez certainly appeared set for elevation to the first-team. The Argentinian has developed well since joining from Independiente, even if his two senior starts for Arsenal in the Capital One Cup last season yielded mixed results. Agile and with good reflexes, Martinez headed to Sheffield Wednesday on loan this season in a bid to further his development. He had a spell in the side at the Championship club, and turned in some impressive performances, but has been edged out in recent months by the experienced Chris Kirkland. Martinez will be 22 in September, which is still a relatively young age for a goalkeeper, but he will be seeking regular football next season and could go on temporary transfer again.

If that scenario occurs, then Macey would appear the most prominent candidate for promotion to the first-team. Signed from Bristol Rovers early in the season following a successful trial, Macey has fended off competition from Iliev to establish himself as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper at U21 level, making 19 appearances for the second-string in total. If you were to read through the match reports of each of those fixtures, then the phrase “spectacular save” would undoubtedly have been used on numerous occasions. Macey has made a habit of producing phenomenal stops, including many from close range, and has built up a good understanding with his team-mates over the course of the season.

Matt Macey. Photo by Kieran Clarke.

Matt Macey. Photo by Kieran Clarke.

He is still a little error prone and has trouble dealing with corners and crosses, but Macey has much raw potential to work with and a measure of his progress was provided by the fact that he trained with the first-team at Emirates Stadium yesterday prior to the Premier League fixture against Newcastle United.

Iliev’s season has rather petered out, with the Macedonia U21 international hardly featuring in recent weeks. Like Macey, he is a good shot-stopper, but with the caveat that he can sometimes make costly misjudgements. A case in point was his dismissal in the UEFA Youth League defeat to Barcelona which effectively ended Arsenal’s chances of progressing from the tie. Iliev seems as if he will have a future at a relatively high level, but requires some drastic improvements if he is to succeed in the long-term in North London.

Vickers has spent most of the season away from the club on loan at non-league Canvey Island. The move appeared a somewhat bizarre one at the time, but the switch enabled the goalkeeper to play regularly, something which he certainly made the most of. As well as impressing in the Isthmian League, Vickers was outstanding for Arsenal’s youth teams in the cup competitions, with his performance away to Charlton Athletic in the FA Youth Cup particularly noteworthy. He will hope for an opportunity to prove himself for Arsenal at U21 level next season, but, at present, both Macey and Iliev are ahead of him.

England U17 international Ryan Huddart has developed well this season, with the youngster featuring regularly for Arsenal at U18 level. He has conceded a high number of goals, but has never had a consistent defence in front of him and has still performed heroics on occasion, prompting the club to offer him professional terms in March.

Following the departures of schoolboys Harry Girling and Corey Addai, there is a vacancy for a back-up goalkeeper to Huddart at U18 level, which may well be filled by Marcus Beauchamp, the Bristol City youngster who featured for the Gunners against Fulham U18s recently.





  1. Great write up but surely we don’t need 4 U21 keepers ?

    The youth results this season have been awful not exciting as you state and whilst new coaches are to start next season it appears many of the current U21 are not Arsenal standard.

    Martinez is 22 and can’t get a game at Wednesday. Vickers is sub in the lower leagues.

    A lot of players need to be shipped out sorry


    To name a few

    1. Boateng miquel and ryo, I agree with. All 3 are born 1992, meaning they will need to be named in the 25 or delisted like Eastmond and randall was once. Neither have earned the right to take a place. Bar martinez the rest are all born 1993 or earlier, I say give them at least another season.

    2. If a player who started 40games for his loan club and 10/15games for he’s parent club was a sub, then they need to change the description of a sub in the dictionary

  2. Vickers was never a sub,he was a regular. On Aneke,we should not be in haste to release him go else we will have another Yaya Toure episode. Those who has seen play will agree but those who base there assessment on mere commentary on the net will not. JB I challenge you to do an indepth analysis on Aneke without bias let all know since alot of people believe you more. Atid you pick up the challenge also.

  3. Kasper Schmeichel is being strongly linked with a move to Arsenal on a Bosman this summer. Reports in Denmark say AFC have made him a contract offer.

    I see Harry Girling has signed for Millwall Academy.

  4. Even though he’s the smallest of the three, Vickers is probably the most talented in the bunch that includes Iliev and Macey, but that’s too many keepers at one level to keep happy and allowing for personal development through exposure to constant game time. Competition for places is a positive, but there could be too many keepers behind Martinez (presuming he stays). If nobody is released, I feel more loans are needed to allow better GK development all round.

    Some strange decisions are seemingly made with Arsenal keepers at U16’s level. Releasing this years crop of two keepers (including Harry Girling) has resulted in a much younger boy having to represent the U16’s since Christmas. Plus, unless Arsenal sign a scholar level keeper, or if one of the 1st year pro’s step back down, Huddart will have no competition at U18’s level, so there is a void there.

    I read the Chelsea U18’s report about a game they had with West Brom. It seems that Ethan Ross, the U16 keeper released by Arsenal at the end of last season had an excellent game, receiving many notable mentions about his abilities. Is this another case where another promising Hale End GK talent is released without enough faith in their longer term future (like Girling, like Reece Cook). Reading the game report, it sounds like Ross would have given Huddart the much needed competition he needs to retain the shirt.

  5. I feel that there is a major problem with the decisions that they are making with the youth set up of gks especially with regards to reice cook and Girling

    I am a close friend of the millwall head of recruitment, who I recently spoke To about young gk Girling , he said he and the other members of millwall have not been as excited about a player in a long time , he also said there is a high possibility that he may he will be in with the under 21s next year after impressing holloway and the under 21 coach when training with the first team

    Also cook being playing in the bury first team clearly shows that he is highly regarded at the club after playing with the 18s for so long with arsenal I cannot understand the decision they made and why they let him go

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