Arsenal have announced that Deyan Iliev has signed a new contract with the club, despite the young goalkeeper having struggled with injury for the majority of the campaign.
Iliev, who has been capped by Macedonia at U21 level, featured for Arsenal U21s against West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium in August but wasn’t in action again until last month, when he marked his return from a serious injury by playing in the victory over Newcastle United.
The 20-year-old joined Arsenal from FK Belasica in 2012 and went on to feature regularly on the European stage for the youth teams during his first two seasons at the club. A goalkeeper who possesses excellent reflexes but is still somewhat rash in his decision making, Iliev’s Arsenal career appeared to be reaching its conclusion last summer when he was strongly linked with a move to Belgian side Mechelen, but he stayed in North London and now looks set to continue his development at Arsenal with his contract situation having been sorted.
Arsenal’s decision to retain Iliev will cause some questions to be asked about the goalkeeping hierarchy at the club.
It appears that it will be difficult for Iliev to break into the first-team squad given that the club’s three main goalkeepers, David Ospina, Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez, are all still relatively young in goalkeeping terms.
An opportunity could emerge, however, for Iliev to establish himself as the club’s first-choice custodian at U21 level before the end of the campaign.
There are ten second-string games remaining this season and Iliev will be confident of featuring in the majority of them, although he will face competition from Matt Macey, who has returned from an ill-fated loan spell with Accrington Stanley.
Josh Vickers has fared rather better at Concord Rangers this season, but the Hale End product won’t be too confident regarding his long-term prospects at the club following the news of Iliev’s new contract.
There will be further competition for places in goal at U21 level next season, with Ryan Huddart set to step up on a permanent basis from the U18s, whilst Hugo Keto should continue to feature regularly for the younger age group.