Petr Cech is firmly established as Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper, but at present it is extremely difficult to predict how game time will be distributed between the club’s shot stoppers next season beyond the Czech Republic international.
Arsenal appear determined to keep hold of their young goalkeepers, with Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev, Ryan Huddart, Hugo Keto and Joao Virginia having all signed new contracts within the past year.
With the futures of senior custodians David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny uncertain, there could be a chance for some of the aforementioned youngsters to edge closer to the senior set-up in the near future, but how will Arsenal’s goalkeepers be deployed next season?
As alluded to, Cech will remain first choice, although it is questionable whether Ospina or Szczesny (who is currently on loan at Roma) will want to stay at Arsenal as there is seemingly no way that they will be able to surpass the Czech Republic international.
It seems likely that Arsenal’s second choice goalkeeper at first-team level next season will either be Ospina, Szczesny, or, in the scenario that both depart, a new signing, with the back-up shot-stopper being used in cup competitions.
Emiliano Martinez, who is currently on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers, could return as third choice and may perhaps be sent out on temporary transfer again later in the campaign.
From there, matters get rather complicated. Matt Macey, perhaps a little surprisingly, signed a new deal yesterday, but from next season the 21-year-old will be classed as a senior player, meaning he would have to take up a place in the club’s Premier League and Champions League squads if he remains with the club.
It is possible, therefore, that Macey could go on loan for at least part of next campaign to add to the experience he gained during a spell with Accrington Stanley last season.
Iliev, meanwhile, signed a three year deal in 2015 but hasn’t featured at all this season because of injury. The Macedonian will hope to be fully fit for next season and will have designs on establishing himself as the club’s first choice goalkeeper at U21 level, although he could also go on loan as the season progresses.
Huddart signed a new deal recently and has trained with the first-team squad on several occasions this season. The youngster will want to feature prominently for the U21s next season. In addition there is a possibility that Huddart could feature in the UEFA Youth League as an overage player.
Finnish youth international Keto has been hugely impressive of late, particularly in the club’s FA Youth Cup run. He will, however, be ineligible to feature in that competition next season and will be seeking to break into the U21 side at some point. Keto may share Youth League duties with Huddart, while he will still be eligible to play in U18 league fixtures due to the rule relating to overage goalkeepers.
Virginia, a Portuguese youngster, should be the first choice for the U18s in the league next season and will also have a prominent part to play in the FA Youth Cup. He will be backed up in both competitions by Hale End prospect Daniel Barden, who will be looking to earn a scholarship deal for the following campaign.
In summary, here’s a breakdown of how Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation could look next season.
First-team: Cech, Ospina/Szczesny/new signing, Martinez
Loan: Macey, Iliev (part of season)
U21s: Iliev, Huddart, Keto
U19s: Huddart, Keto, Virginia
U18s: Keto, Virginia, Barden
FA Youth Cup: Virginia, Barden.