With the majority of our better U23’s out on loan and with the heart of that squad playing elsewhere but at the same time gaining invaluable experience, we have had to endure some quite disappointing results at the under 23 level, which when you look at it logically is understandable given the mishmash of U18’s, rejects from other clubs given a chance and general long shots that make up Steve Bould’s squad. Bould has actually, in my opinion, taken a lot of unfair flak for the teams results up until winning 6-0 at Blackburn. He’s had to turn a sows ear into a silk purse with a collection of players who have had virtually no pre-season, who are in the main new to each other, the club and are really at quite varying levels in quality.
The soul of Bould’s squad are scattered across the Championship, League One and Two whilst in their place are a selection of players who a year ago were playing U16’s alongside some more experienced players harvested from other academies who are mostly filling in while the 16 and 17 year olds grow. It seems to be a new policy to me and I’ll touch on that later in this series of rambles.
I don’t get to see the reserves, U23’s or ‘Stiffs’ much these days, the slog to Borehamwood isn’t really a realistic option for me which is a shame as I loved popping into Highbury in the middle of my shift to take in a Combination match or maybe an evening game in the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup, it was a joy way back when. Therefore most of my knowledge is second hand, but you can still access the odd reserve game on You Tube and then there is the peerless Jeorge Bird and a few notable Twitterers who I access from time to time for info.
Looking at the present squad, the rump so to speak, it’s difficult to really pick out any players who I think may make it to our senior squad or even for that matter stay in the Premier League with another club, but I’m willing to give it a try so that Total can take a well earned break and attend to his sporran and tartan clogs.
Let me look at the goalkeepers to start with:
We have a clutch of goalkeepers at Arsenal at this time, which makes it all the more mysterious why Bould went into a game recently without a sub goalkeeper. Bould is an experienced coach, he isn’t an idiot, so we can only guess why that was and the reason will probably remain in-house as it should, but I reckon that it was possibly injury related or disciplinary?
I don’t currently see anyone who can step up as the new Emi Martinez and that probably explains why Arsenal doggedly pursued the Brentford goalkeeper and latterly brought in the Icelandic goal minder Runarsson. Both were recommended to the club by our goalkeeping coach who has worked with them both in the past but time will tell if his judgement was sound or not?
I guess that the long serving Matt Macey might have been harbouring, post Emi Martinez uprooting for the West Midlands, some ambitions of becoming the No.2 to Leno this season, but it seems that our goalkeeping coach and the others on the coaching staff doubted that he’s really up to it – those same self coaches who were comfortable with selling Martinez to Leeds last winter if the Elland Road outfit had come up with the required fee, thought to be £10m, so let’s park that thought….
After Macey is Dejan Iliev our Macedonian goal minder, but I suspect that at 25 and after numerous loans that his future lays away from North London. Iliev is among that group of aspiring keepers who are in a kind of a twilight zone, clubs’ need back ups in case of injury but despite the injury to Leno last season those opportunities arise very rarely and so you are stuck in a routine of training, playing the odd game in the U23’s, going out on loan or if you’re really lucky getting a seat on the subs bench in a League Cup tie or a dead rubber in the Europa. Ultimately you are not thought to be good enough to get the 1st team gig and eventually you’ll leave to join a lesser club and be left wondering why you wasted so many years in the forlorn hope of becoming the next David Seaman?
I think that James Hillson and Karl Hein fall into the above although Hein is I understand thought to be the best of that bunch.
The one who could make it and who is the most naturally talented is in my opinion Arthur Okonkwo, but he’s had quite a troubled last 18 months with losing the entirety of last season due to health issues and recently I’ve read that he’s had some disciplinary matters so, it true, that’s not great. Young Arthur has not had a good time of things so I reckon that the club will give him time to recover his equilibrium as he has undoubted talent.
After Arthur my knowledge is sketchy, Tom Smith is on loan with Dover Athletic and there is Hubert Graczyk and Ovid Ejeheri, both 2nd years and Remy Michell a 1st year.
Schoolboy goalkeepers are Alex Kovacevic and James Telfer who I believe both made the subs bench in the U18’s last season.
If any of you know anymore than me about these youngsters then I’d be delighted to be enlightened…
Onwards and Upwards.