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.
18 thoughts on “The U23 Goalkeepers: Who Is The Next David Seaman?”
Cheers Kev. That is a great journey into the depth of our goalkeeper resources, but I must say I know very little about these players. So it is hard to comment. We do feel bare in the cupboard of GKs from the way you describe it, and it would not surprise me if Arsenal were to buy another GK – a nr.2 to Leno – in January.
I guess we also have to look at the GKs Arsenal let go over the last few years. Fab at WH, Martinez Happinezz at Villa and of course Szczesny at Juve. I feel that there was never a need to buy Bernd if the personnel planning department (Wenger) had made better choices. For example, Szcz made so many expensive mistakes for us, especially in the CL, but he was still young and you could sense he could come good. We developed him and now he is nr1 at the Italian Barcodes… did we even get any money for him?
Btw, what do you know about the GK coach?
It was nice to see Saka play the whole game for England and this will do him good. Also a great night for Tierney: the Scots are so happy to qualify for the Euros and there is a great tenacity to the team. AMN also made national team minutes and Xhaka had half a game v Belgium midweek and will now face a big game v Spain this weekend. I hope to see some of that game at least. Bells did ok for Spain v Netherlands and this experience may do him good (but he is still too timid for a wingback). I cannot think of other Gunners in action at the moment, but maybe Eris (you need to do your footie predictions!) can tell us about the African giants’ international involvements…?
TA, Kolasinac didn’t play mid-week, Leno sat on the bench against the Czechs, and Rúnarsson was not involved either when my countrymen booked their place in the EUROs. Auba played the whole game and scored a goal (later proved to be the decisive one), and Pepe played 79 minutes and provided an assist, so both our guys won their respective ACN qualifyer. Though I heard Pepe wasn’t playing too good… Elneny will play tonight against Togo.
Eddie played the last 18 minutes in England U21 win over Andorra U21, but didn’t score.
Brazil’s Olympic (U23) team is playing against South Korea’s U23 as I write these words, but I have no information whether Gabriel is on the pitch. He is in the squad though, so he bloody should be. 🙂
Kev, great idea to write on the academy teams, and a good piece too.
While I don’t agree on your evaluation on Bould – don’t take it too hard, I’m developing a reputation of an @$$hole, who doesn’t mind criticizing club legends – but I enjoyed and shared your assessment of our U23 goalkeepers.
The competition between Okonkwo and Hein could have been a healthy one bringing the best out of each other, but I’m honestly not sure if Arthur can make up for the time lost. (I’m not entirely sure it was a health issue, as there is too much secrecy around it. If it was some illness or injury they are usually upfront about it. I suspect something different, but it doesn’t matter, let’s focus on the future.)
I agree with you about the difficulties of a thin – but individually really strong – squad, except from the goalkeeper and CM positions, where we have an abundance of quality players. Bould’s access to Macey and/or Hillson doesn’t help to bring Arthur up to speed either…
I don’t know where Arteta is going with Rúnarsson: he could become a 2000 minute #2 goalkeeper behind Leno in cup games, but it is equally possible that Bernd would rather follow the footsteps of Neuer and MAtS, insisting to play every possible games (4500+ minutes per season) leaving only breadcrumbs (3-5 games) to the Icelandic guy.
Nevertheless I think the only goalkeeper with the possibility of becoming Arsenal’s #1 is Hein. He is young (18), tall (not a giant as Macey, but 10 cm taller than Rúnar), already has senior caps (!) for Estonia. He has good feet and hands, capable of playing from the back. He doesn’t have such razor sharp reflexes as Okonkwo, and he is prone to a few costly errors in judgement, but if he can work on them, he might have a future here. (Most of my intel is from Jeorge Bird and Dan Critchlow, seen a few U23 games live, and I never miss an academy highlight on Arsenal Viewer.)
Thanks for the international updates, PB. And congrats to the Hungarians for qualifying for the Euros!
Total, I think that our goalkeepers from the Fabianski and Szczesny era suffered from the goalkeeping coach we had at the time. Arsene was perhaps too loyal to his staff back then and allowed things to drift too much, imo.
I don’t know much about our goalkeeping coach except that he’s Spanish (I think?) and we got him from Brentford.
Yes Total, Saka really played well, I just hope that he doesn’t get overplayed as he is still developing and very young.
I thought that Maitland Niles’ style seems suited to the tempo of international football, I reckon that he’ll do very well for Southgate.
Fingers crossed that all our guys return in one piece…
PB, no problemo on Bouldy and I appreciate your opinions even if they differ from mine at times as it keeps me on my toes.
I know that you’re a fan of the academy and therefore I’m always interested in what you have to say and I know that like me you enjoy seeing young players developing into our squad so we have more in common in the final analysis.
It’s unfortunate that I don’t get to the games anymore because spotting a new talent and seeing them eventually makes the 1st team is very satisfying.
What do you think of the guy at Salzburg, is he a better option than Aouar?
Agreed Kev, Saka should not be overused. But I like it that our main wing players all play at international level too. And a goal for Aubaba is also good news.
Thanks, Kev, for your understanding (and patience).
I think our U23 squad is really strong on the individual level (albeit 1 CB could have remained, my candidate would be McGuinness), and with proper tactics and team cohesion they should be favorite to any PL2 game. Hein, Lopez, Cottrell, Azeez, Cirjan, Balogun are already “on top of their game”, Dinzeyi, Lewis, Akinola and Möller look promising, and when Norton-Cuffy or Monlouis/Awe gets called up from Arsenal U18 they don’t look out of their depth either. Indeed, there is little flexibility for fitness/tactical substitutions – especially on the wings and at CB – but our best XI is really very good. And when Saliba and ESR are involved, the team started to show quality…
On Szoboszlai, he is nowhere near as good as Aouar. But he is more than 2 years younger than the Frenchman, hence there is some chance that he can become that good at 22. And he cost 40% of Houssem (at least he did a week ago), so he could be a good signing for that price, but for the same money I would definitely go for Aouar.
Dominik’s stats are obviously more impressive – 90 goal contributions in 122 club games vs. Aouar’s 58 in 156 – but we must take the quality of opponents into account. (This is something our fellow fans neglect to consider when demanding Arteta to start Willock in PL games.) Houssem has already proven himself in a TOP5 league, while Szoboszlai plays in Austria, in the top club worth about all other 1st tier clubs combined. And what makes him a risk that he is Hungarian. Which might be a plus when it comes to talent and tradition, but we have a bad reputation to live up to the full potential. I hope Dominik will become an exception to the rule (of which he has good chance for not playing in Hungary any more), but it is always a liability that he will follow the footsteps of Krisztian Németh, Balázs Dzsudzsák or Nemanja Nikolic and others. But the strongest argument against going after Szoboszlai, is that even we would like to sign him (and don’t believe the Real Madrid rumors) there is a good chance that he ends up at RB Leipzig, just like 8 out of 10 talented Salzburg player.
Kev how do you know all this stuff? You are encyclopedic. I have nothing to add to a post this detailed. But I often think about Szczesny as TA mentioned. He’s number 1 at one of the biggest clubs in the world. I’m annoyingly reminded whenever I watch the champions league. We basically gave him to them for nothing. Even if it was 10m, what do champions league number 1 goalkeepers go for these days?
I’m not rewriting history, I was never comfortable with how his time with us ended. I felt he was actually making the step up in consistency with flashes of greatness too. It’s seemed we went 2 years without a penalty saved after he left. Juve scouts are very good and they love a bargain, which we gave them.
Kev mentioned our goalkeeping coach under Wenger and I remember him being criticized. I did see that point of view at the time. Fabianski has turned into quite a good prem keeper. Does anybody know where Mannone ended up? I remember he was player of the season for a team where we loaned him.
Arsene and the club really blew it with Emi. I don’t know why they didn’t recognize the quality over all that time, because I know he’s didn’t develop it all in the past few months. He was clearly better than Ospina, who wasn’t terrible, but a little lacking.
I am still nervous about Runnarson especially because Arteta didn’t trust him in the last Europa match.
On the other points, I don’t like hearing Saka playing 90 in internationals either, especially as I think he’s a little overplayed by Arteta. On AMN Southgate and staff must really see something to keep calling him, when you consider how little playing time he gets for us. It’s one reason I keep saying I want to see him play more for us, and maybe in midfield, depending on Parteys status especially now.
Thanks PB and yes, even if we signed Aouar he wouldn’t solve all the teams issues, yes he’d help of course but it’s a bigger job than just signing a playmaker.
Thanks J, I’m not sure about being encyclopaedic it’s probably because I’ve had too much time on my hands.
There’s some interesting stuff going down in Washington J with people getting bombarded in a restaurant and some elderly woman deliberately pushed off of her mobility scooter by these thugs dressed in all black and another old guy getting punched and hit with a stick.
These people in black have a striking resemblance to 1930’s Germany
Kev, the general media referred to those peaceful people at the March today in Washington as hateful bigots, therefore licensing those other 2 groups (often violent looters) that are never criticized, to abuse them verbally and physically. I have the videos of families being chased and abused, kids crying, and women being sucker punched for having different views.
I’ll drop the politics after this, but Bill Maher (self described liberal, progressive) did a brilliant monologue this week about the left getting out of hand. Anyone on the left, right or center would appreciate it. I recommend it to all of you — to show that our differences really are not that wide.
And Arteta stop being so stubborn! Use Auba as cf, sit Lacazette, and find a way to get Pepe facing the goal more.
I had to put in some football.
J, I see all this from a distance , but we have a similar mentality creeping into our society on this side of pond, I just find it interesting that the Republicans from what I see wave flags and are patriotic and the hard left are violent, have killed two people that I know of and probably more and are intent on a path of destruction and your media have ignored it for short term Democratic success. I have no strong affiliation with any political party in America but I’ve learnt some quite worrying things during this election, like the Democrats’ racist past and it’s links to the KKK, I never knew any of that before this election. It was the first time I followed your election with any strong interest, I heard Joe Biden say to a black voter that if he doesn’t vote ‘for me, that he’s not black enough’ what the hell does that mean? I heard Kamala Harris call Joe Biden a racist in a debate, what did she mean and how could she flip and serve alongside someone who she says is a racist?
And CNN say nothing.
You know what J, it’s made me even more cynical about news corporations in general than I was before and it’s happening in the U.K.
Up the Arsenal
Lol, I almost start to feel sorry for those hard done to shite losers! 🤣😂
Congrats to Lewis Hamilton. He raced like a champion today! 😁
New Post 🙂
Thanks for the insight Kev and I would agree that Arthur looks the most promising.
However, I would say that GKs are a whole different breed to the “normal” development at other positions. GK is probably the most difficult position to play and requires a level of maturity that can sometimes lead to more “late bloomers”.
The world class goalkeepers are usually identified earlier, but there are a decent amount of GKs that start performing consistently in their mid 20s once they’ve overcome some of the mental components that plague most people during their adolescence and early adulthood periods.
This is all just to say that it’s too difficult to accurately evaluate what we have in our GK prospects right now, especially after the amazing late development we saw from Martinez last year!