The departure of Joao Virginia to Everton came as a considerable shock, with the goalkeeper having been widely seen as an excellent prospect for the future.
Virginia developed very well since joining Arsenal’s academy from Benfica three years ago and certainly possessed the potential to eventually break into the senior squad, but the 18-year-old elected to move to Goodison Park, where he feels his chances of getting into the first-team will be significantly greater.
While it is very disappointing to lose a prospect of Virginia’s quality, Arsenal now have to look at their remaining options at youth level and there could now be a major opportunity to shine for summer signing Karl Jakob Hein.
The Estonian, who was signed from Nomme United in his homeland, is just 16 years old yet he is very tall and an excellent commander of his penalty area, while he is already fluent in English.
This week Hein made his first appearance for Arsenal’s U23 side as he featured in the friendly victory against Hornchurch, and, with Matt Macey out on loan and Virginia having left permanently, the new arrival could receive a considerable amount of playing time for the second string.
Deyan Iliev, at 23 years of age, will undoubtedly be the first-choice goalkeeper for the U23s but Hein now has a real chance to establish himself as the primary back-up to the Macedonian.
There are other young goalkeepers who will be competing with Hein in that regard, with Arthur Okonkwo, Tom Smith and Daniel Barden all currently on scholarship contracts.
However, at present it is Hein who is in the driving seat and it will be intriguing to chart his development during his first campaign at the club.
The youngster will, in all likelihood, feature mostly for the U18s but there is a possibility that he could be involved in the Checkatrade Trophy and an injury to Iliev could even lead to him becoming first-choice for the U23s.
There may well be times when Emiliano Martinez, should he remain at the club, will feature for the U23s, but, in the main, it will be Iliev who is the main goalkeeping option at that level.
With Virginia no longer at the club, Hein now has an opportunity to become an important figure for the U23s.