Deyan Iliev picked up an injury in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Friday, which leaves the club very light in the goalkeeping position.
Iliev was forced off with 13 minutes of the u23 North London derby left to go, with young Tom Smith coming on in his place. Smith turned 17 less than three weeks ago, and he hasn’t even featured for the Arsenal u18s before, let alone the u23s.
Meanwhile, Emi Martinez has gone out on loan to Reading for the remainder of the season, Daniel Barden has left for Norwich City and Karl Hein has also picked up an injury. Fortunately, the u18s have just taken James Hillson on loan, so he may be called upon much more than anyone expected.
If Iliev ends up being out for an extended period of time, Arsenal’s goalkeeping options will be as follows:
- Bernd Leno (26)
- Petr Cech (36)
- Arthur Okonkwo (17)
- Tom Smith (17)
- James Hillson (18) – Youth Loanee
- Hubert Graczyk (15)
For the u23s, Okonkwo would be most likely to take up a starting role, as he’s been on the bench for the team on nine occasions this season. That would make the talented but very inexperienced youngster Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper. Hillson would probably take up the u18 spot, with Smith playing back up at either level.
If anything then happened to Leno or Cech, you’d have to imagine the club would consider recalling Matt Macey or Emi Martinez.
Let’s hope the injury is nothing serious, and Iliev is available again soon. On the other side of things, this is a great opportunity for Arsenal’s young goalkeepers to train with the first-team a bit more. Hillson had his first session with the senior side on Friday, and it’s unlikely to be his last now.