Young Arsenal goalkeeper Joao Virginia helped Portugal to victory in the u19 European Championships over the weekend, as he continues his impressive recent progress.
Virginia helped Portugal to a clean sheet in the semi-final of the tournament, before starting the final as his country won 4-3 after extra time against Italy. He’ll now return to Arsenal for the new season, but it’s not clear exactly what level he’ll be playing at.
In 2017/18, Virginia started the season as the u18s first choice keeper. He made 13 appearances in the league, and played the majority of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup run to the final. By the end of the season, he was getting chances for the u23s, and started in their Premier League 2 title-winning match against West Ham.
Virginia certainly earned that step up, with many impressive performances throughout the season. The problem is what to do with him next.
Regular game time for the u23s makes sense as the logical next step, but right now Arsenal have so many goalkeepers that he’ll have competition. Petr Cech, Bernd Leno and David Ospina are unlikely to drop down a level, and Matt Macey is going on loan to Plymouth Argyle. There’s still Emi Martinez and Deyan Iliev to think about though.
Virginia is clearly someone who is confident about his own abilities, and ambitious for the future, as you can see in Arsenal’s YouTube feature on him in March. Perhaps a loan move would be a better way to keep him happy and get him experience, rather than another year in the u18s. It’s up to Unai Emery and his team to make a decision now.
Below is a compilation of some of Virginia’s saves (with a slightly strange song choice over the top):