The Arsenal Goalkeepers – how many do Arsenal need, and who will be first choice?

by Andrew Crawshaw

I believe that Arsenal currently have eleven goalkeepers at the club who will be looking to play for the U18 team or higher.  Here is a quick breakdown of them in descending order of age :-

DOB Team HG Contract Expiry
Petr Cech 5/20/82 First N 6/30/19
David Ospina 8/31/88 First N 6/30/19
Emiliano Martinez 2/9/92 First Y 6/30/21
Bernd Leno 3/4/92 First N 6/30/23
Matt Macey 9/9/94 First Y 6/30/18
Deyan Iliev 2/25/95 First Y 30/06/2018 (CO)
Joao Virginia 10/10/99 U23/First Y 30/6/19
Daniel Barden 1/2/01 U18/U23 Y 30/6/20
Arthur Okonkwo 9/9/01 U18/U23 Y Scholar
Karl Jacob Hein Age 17 U18/U23 Y Scholar
Tom Smith Age 16 U18 Y Scholar

With the arrival of Bernd Leno, the positions of Petr Cech, David Ospina, and Emiliano Martinez must all be under threat.  I cannot see more than one or two of them being retained at the club, this summer.

Petr Cech is probably safe but is likely to be a backup to Leno at best.  Despite holding the PL record for clean sheets at 201, his performances have declined in recent years.  The big dip in the graph is the year of his major head injury.  My opinion is that he has never really recovered to his pre-injury prowess and is now merely a good keeper rather than a great one.

David Ospina strikes me as a competent No 2 but never likely to become an outstanding No 1 keeper.  He is significantly shorter than most No1 keepers in the world.  In my opinion he is most likely to be sold, although we shouldn’t expect more than a couple of million pounds for him.    Here are his Premier League stats.

Emilliano Martinez signed a contract extension not too long ago and has always struck me as a very competent goalkeeper.  In the PL he played two matches in 2016/17 and four in 2014/15 and all were clean sheets.  I would be very happy for him to be retained for our first team instead of Petr Cech.  I do think it is quite likely that he will be sent out on loan again.  That decision will probably be made during pre-season.

Bernd Leno is our new goalkeeper and will probably expect to be our main keeper this next season.  From his Bundesliga figures, he consistently plays most games and keeps about one third of them as clean sheets.  Probably we shouldn’t read too much into that as Bayer Leverkusen aren’t a team challenging for the top of the league although regular participants in Europe.

As far as I can tell from published information both Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev have contracts that expire at the end of this month, both were included in the list of retained players that was sent by the club to the Premier league with Iliev indicated as having had a new contract offer.  Both count as home grown and, if retained will have to be included in our 25 man list of senior players.  I would assume from this that Macey will be on his way this summer.

Deyan Iliev is therefore likely to be retained assuming he signs the contract on offer.  His immediate future will depend on how he features in pre-season.  It is possible that he will stay in the club and be the No1 for the U23 team (for which he is still age qualified), or possibly go out on loan either abroad or to a lower league team.  I must point out that goalkeeper loans probably lead to less playing minutes than those for outfield players so are not necessarily a good way of providing experience.

Joao Virginia is another player whose immediate future depends on how well he shows in pre-season.  With us having entered an U21 team in the Checkertrade trophy I think he will stay with the club till January at least and be our No1 keeper in that competition.  He should also vie with Deyan for the U23 starting slot.

Daniel Barden will probably begin the season as No 1 for the U18s but will certainly have designs on usurping one of the U23 slots.

Arthur Okonkwo has been offered an Academy place, but it wouldn’t be a great surprise if he moves away, I believe he has offers from Celtic and RB Leipzig.  Aged 16 and already 6ft 5in tall he has the physical attributes to succeed and he has been capped by England at U17 level.  A name to note for the future wherever he goes.

Tom Smith is another 16 year old who has been offered an Academy place this year.  Of our three 16 year olds he is probably in last place at the moment and will have to put in a lot of effort to push above Arthur and Karl

Karl Jacob Hein is the third of our first year Academy goalkeepers.  He joined us earlier in the summer from Estonian side Nomme United.  An Estonian U17 international, he is on a one year academy deal with a three year professional contract likely.  He will be looking to supplant Daniel and Arthur to become the undisputed U18 No1.

Thus we have eleven talented goalkeepers aged between 16 and 36.  Realistically we have space for two or three first team keepers, two U23 keepers and two at U18 level probably with one spare somewhere in the system.

U18 team

I would expect Atrhur Okonkwo not to take up his Academy place, leaving three keepers at U18 level of whom one could step up to U21/U23 level if required.

U23 team

Joao Virginia and Deyan Iliev are likely to be the two main keepers starting at this level (assuming that Deyan signs the contract offer I believe is on the table).  With support from improving U18 keepers (or overage keepers keeping sharp) this would seem to be sufficient.

First team

There are 5 players for a maximum of three slots.  Bernd Leno is obviously in the team meaning that two of Cech, Ospina, Martinez and Macey will have to make way.  I believe that Matt Macey’s contract expires at the end of the month and I can’t see it being extended now so I would expect him to go.  I think that one of Cech or Ospina will go this summer and it will probably be Ospina who I think offers no more than Emi Martinez (who has the additional bonus of counting as homegrown).  My choice for our first team keepers next season is therefore Leno, Cech and Martinez.  Their individual ranking I will leave to our coaches during pre-season.



20 Replies to “The Arsenal Goalkeepers – how many do Arsenal need, and who will be first choice?”

  1. Excellent work, Andrew, as usual.

    Normally, I’d say:

    Leno No. 1, Čech No. 2, Ospina to be sold, Martinez to be loaned out or even sold somewhere he can get a regular first team football and either Macey/Iliev to stay in order to get game or two in either Europa League or either of domestic cups.

    I wrote “normally” because Mr Emery had three goalkeepers at PSG: the German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, the French goalkeeper Alphone Areola and the Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. The way he handled their playing might tell us a thing or two.

    Trapp had German caps under his belt, Sirigu was capped by Italy while Areola is a goalkeeper who was promoted to the first team through the youth team. In fact, Areola had spent years being loaned out to various clubs before he got a chance…under Mr Emery.

    In Emery’s first season at PSG, Sirigu was loaned out to his former club Sevilla FC.

    The remaining two goalkeepers had almost equal amount of playing time in 2016-17 – Trapp started 24 league games, Areola 14. Areola had advantage in Champions League Group Stage (including both games against us) but it was Trapp who was in charge in both legs against Barcelona in Ro16. Trapp had advantage in League Cup, Areola was the first choice for FA Cup. You’d struggle to find more balanced ratio of games played and games on the bench between two goalkeepers at the same club anywhere else.

    In 2017-18, however, Areola has become the first choice in both Ligue 1 and Champions League. Trapp was used sparingly – a few league games (5) with domestic cups.

    The whole point of this insight is simple: Mr Emery believes in hard work and is not obsessed with the international reputation of his players. A youth player can kick an established/experienced/expensive international player from the starting line-up. That’s good news for Emi, Dejan and Matt.

  2. I foresee problems with both Cech and Ospina; Cech must be on sizeable wages and the club will be irritated to be paying them to a back-up keeper; Ospina will not want to be second choice again, to a new keeper, and has tried for a move before.

  3. What big head injury did Cech sustain in 2014/15 season? His skull was broken in 2006. 2014/15 he was simply on the bench for Chelsea because of Courtois.

  4. In fairness to our first team goalies, they haven’t always had the protection they are entitled to, especially in the last two seasons.

    I was a tad suspicious of the wisdom of taking Cech because when Mourino discards a regular player it has usually proved to be the right decision.

    I don’t attend games so I don’t have the right to assess a players ability or contribution to a game. Thanks for this Andy, an interesting read,

    21/06/2018 at 8:24 am

    I don’t know how you came by your info but it is interesting.

    To this sentence of yours: ”That’s good news for Emi, Dejan and Matt.” I would add ‘and for all of Arsenal’.

    It seems we are working on the defense and it is a work in progress before it is finish we already know that one midfielder will not be with us next season.

    Usually life without Arsenal games in the summer makes it an empty summer, but thanks to the ‘IG’ revolution, this could be one of the most interesting Arsenal summers in our life time.

  5. With a new man in , one or both of our main keepers , may be allowed to leave. I personally don’t have a favourite , but good luck to them.

  6. Surely the answer will be to retain Cech as No.1, with Leno to be brought on as sub whenever Arsenal have to defend a penalty. 😉

  7. Personally I wouldn’t have a problem with Leno being No1 with Macey & Martinez as cover.
    Both Cech and Ospina can be infuriating GKs who can make excellent saves one moment and awful errors the next moment in the same game.
    It’s true that our defence blows hot and cold which adds to the problem, but both have let in far too many saveable goals these last couple of seasons.
    I think a large part of bringing Cech in was that he’d add a certain calmness of thought to our defence but if he has, I’ve missed that.

  8. @colario

    You are absolutely right. If a goalkeeper doesn’t get enough protection, he can be an octopuss and he won’t save the team from a defeat.

    I checked the data at transfermarkt but I also recall how surprised I was that Areola, a goalkeeper who was on loan, managed to kick two more established goalkeepers out of the PSG goal (in Sirigu’s case, even out of the club as Sirigu left PSG for Torino on a free transfer).

    When it comes to new signings, two names that hold the keys of our future purchases are Lucas Perez and Joel Campbell. If Mr Emery decides to stick with either or both of them, we won’t sign a new player. If he doesn’t, I reckon we’ll be on the market for a winger/attacking-minded player.

    My guess for “25”, even if we take into account that Kos is probably out until New Year which means he can be left out of the registration list, is:

    Martinez/Macey/Iliev HG

    Bellerin HG


    Chambers HG
    Holding HG

    Ramsey HG


    Iwobi HG


    Welbeck HG
    Akpom HG

    That’s 25 players, with 8 HG players and 17 non-HG players. U21 players for 2018-19 are players born on or after 1st January 1997 which means Alex Iwobi and Cohen Bramall no longer qualify for the list. Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Joe Willock and Gedion Zelalem (remember him?) are still U21 players and don’t have to be registered.

    Also, if Akpom, Welbeck, Chambers or any other rumoured HG player leave the club – permanently or on loan – their place on the list of 25 can be taken ONLY by a HG-player.

    My list doesn’t include HG-players Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall as I believe neither of them will stay at Arsenal as we have excellent four solutions for the full-back/wing-back positions – two (relatively) young FB/WBs (Bellerin, Kolašinac) and two experienced ones (Lichtsteiner, Monreal).

  9. I forgot to add one big thing:

    there is every possibility that, as Andy Mack suggested, we ship out BOTH Čech and Ospina with Martinez and Macey/Iliev as our two back-up goalkeepers. It would be a very strong move by Mr Emery as Leno, a new goalkeeper in English Premier League deprived of VAR and other important parts of competent refereeing, might be our only truly experienced option. We have seen previously that Mr Emery isn’t afraid to do something like that. If that happens, we would have two HG obligatory places filled with two goalkeepers which would leave us with another option for a non-HG outfield player to join regardless of Perez/Campbell departure.

  10. i think emery has studied arsenal’s main problems.we struggled at the back last season due to some silly and preventable mistakes from our midfield(xhaka mainly)and at the back(mustafi,cech).two players in,need only three….dm,centre back…and if possible a quick winger or creative midfielder to hasten our attacks and replace carzola/wilshere.interesting time to be a gooner…(silent regular follower of this website from Kenya)

  11. Arsenal’s main problem, is a bunch of people who call themselve’s fans, but are not fans.

  12. I’m with Andy and Matt B.

    Cech knew his performances hadb’t been up to par, instead of criticising himself, or apologising, he questioned his team mates and never once reflected on his own errors. Adding fuel to the fire and questioning the manager, in the company of Shearer no less.

    That was my final straw. Ospina is worth more than £2m, if on;y for his age and ignificant ability, he’s going to Fabianski, who hs flourished since his move, earning a move to West Ham merely days ago.

    On 3 GK’s if you want to be sensible, you’d use an U21 as third choice, remaining aware that if all registered GK’s are injured, you may register a replacement.

    In regards to contracts, I am lead to believe that Macey has a year remaining, with Illev having been offered an extension. And lets hope that if our 18yo is talented, he decides to continue, does our Arthur.

    Ospina, i a good goalkeeper, a little smaller than usual, but none the lesss top quality, he cares too much and it affects his game, he#s a confidence, enotional player, like Danny Welbeck, under pressure he makes errors in judgment, losing natural ability and instinctive decision making. Crank it u to max, Columbia or England duty, both produce. At midtable clubs, both will excel.

    Cech is Ideal for an Ita;ian club, the shooting style, and defensive mentality is suited to his game. David Ospina would easi;y slip into the set up at a Spanish midtable team, arguably someone is going to want a replacement fr a talent taken shortly.

    I wouldn’t accept under £5m for either, Cech still has the amassed knowledge, which is why I ask, why does he play like someone threatened his family occassionally, weird mistakes, KAris was almost unbelievable, Cech improabale, Karius, looks like he’s been watching old Brucey in the Liverpool archives.

    Leno; some high profile errors on international stage in last 3 years, hence ommitted, and at club level, hugely consistent, rarely injured, never dropped. Easily number 1, likely to improve, calm, driven character, good, not outstnding, I’d prefer him to Courtois, but I’d [refer, Cillessen, Kepa, Alisson, and certainly the top 2 of De Gea and Oblak, I’d say he’s a Stegen, who could develop into a Neur.

    Martinex has necer put a foot wrong when it comes to firt team appearances, I think he’ll need some experience, but I feel he and Macey, could get a shout in Cups, including Europa, I’d prefer that and recouping some funds for the current 1,2 combination and continuing the development of our younger stopper.

    Cech, largely professional was professional, about attempting to out the manager, secure hi 1 Jersey and potentially court suitors for the summer. He knew exactly what he was doing, I don’t give 3rd chances, and if you show such a lack of class, then once and you’re gone.

  13. Jeff from Kenya, sup! Obvious isn’t it.

    Love it Gord.

    I think Toreira maybe anounced, it ‘s sounding likely.

    My post from Wilshere page??

    Akpom, Campbell unlikely to be retained, the RWF could be solved by Perez, but he wasn’t retained, although he had a good ratio of contribution, for a reason. he’s not performed back in Spain, o arguably, he could well be retained. Stan would probably have us play him, and Welbeck and use the £120m of men in EFLC.

  14. colario – “when Mourino discards a regular player it has usually proved to be the right decision.” Wait, what? Mourinho is well known for selling players at a minimum who go on to become excellent players; De Bruyne, Lukaku and Salah are the first names that come to mind, but they are certainly not the only ones. In fact, I don’t think any other top manager has a worse track record for letting go of extremely talented players.

  15. Personally I would like to see Martinez moved up to our second choice and Macey as third. Have always been extremely impressed with Martinez every time I’ve seen him play, I’ve no idea why he hasn’t been allowed more opportunities at our club.

  16. I have to agree that MaureenO has let go of loads of very good players because he can’t manage them (we got a very good one in exchange for Alexis).
    On top of that, he didn’t let Cech go, Abramovich did, as he’d made a promise to Cech which MaureenO wanted him to break.

    As for our defence, Yes Mustafi and Cech made mistakes, but they also both had excellent MOTM games. Also Bellerin, Monreal, Kolasinac, Koscielny, Holding, (maybe Chambers) and Mavropanos all made the odd mistake that we got punished for. They’re all exceptionally good players on their day, but we need a calming influence to stop those brain fade mistakes, but we don’t need wholesale changes there.

  17. Speaking of sales…

    Two Men in New York were standing around and taking a break in their soon-to-be new store.

    As yet, the store wasn’t ready, and didn’t even have the shelves set up.

    One commented to the other,
    “I bet any minute now some Indian guy is going to walk by, put his face to the window, and ask what we’re selling.”

    No sooner were the words out of his mouth when, sure enough, a curious old Indian man walked to the window, had a peek, and in a soft voice asked,
    “Vat ya sellin’ here?”

    One of the men replied sarcastically,
    “We’re selling assholes.”

    Without skipping a beat, the old Indian man answered,
    “Must be doing well, only two left !!!

  18. Watching the WC game on TV & the VAR use. The sad thing is the official gave a penalty for a non existent offence. Handball has to be deliberate. The ball was headed onto a flailing arm of a player who was airborne. There was no intent nor movement towards the ball.

  19. Sorry the game was Denmark / Australia & Aussies got the penalty that was a gift from the ignorant.

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