Martinez Finally Getting His Chance To Shine After Years Of Neglect At Arsenal

The goalkeeper is finally getting to prove his Premier League quality for a club which has given him the chance to shine
15:35, 22 Oct 2021

When Emiliano Martinez was an Arsenal goalkeeper he played more league games for Reading than he did for the Gunners. His was not an unusual story, with players regularly loaned out for first-team opportunities, but his subsequent form with Aston Villa and Argentina has left his former employers with egg on their faces.

From a fringe figure in north London, the 29-year-old has become one of the Premier League’s most reliable shot-stoppers and in the summer was between the sticks when Argentina won their first Copa America title since 1993.

It is a far cry from the situation he found himself in as an Arsenal player. After years trying to make his name, with temporary moves to the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Getafe helping to increase his experience, it appeared to some onlookers that he was finally set to get a look-in with his parent club after years of toil behind the likes of Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone, David Ospina, Petr Cech and Bernd Leno.

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When the 2018-19 season came around, Martinez was picked to play in the under-23s derby with Tottenham Hotspur and made the bench in only two Premier League fixtures before being sent out on loan to Reading for the second half of the campaign. 

Following Cech’s departure that summer the Argentine became Arsenal’s second choice keeper behind Leno, but it took an injury to the German in the first game of Project Restart for Martinez to actually get any game time. After playing out that campaign in Leno’s absence, his £20 million transfer to Villa felt like the best for all concerned. After 13 league starts in a decade, he finally had a club ready to give him a significant run in the top flight at the age of 28.

Arsenal’s struggles under Mikel Arteta in 2020-21 came at a time when Martinez was showing what everyone had been missing. He kept 15 clean sheets for Villa last term, including two against his former employers, in an ever-present first campaign in the Midlands. Such was his form that Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni gave him his first international caps on the way to La Albiceleste’s Copa triumph in Brazil.

In the meantime, Arteta and Arsenal were finding it difficult to find a replacement for Martinez, with former Brighton & Hove Albion keeper Mat Ryan their best alternative to Leno. Their move for Aaron Ramsdale this summer raised eyebrows, seen as a costly backward step from what they had had so recently in Martinez. Ramsdale’s £24m arrival after a miserable season with Sheffield United hardly captured the Arsenal fan base’s imagination.

Aaron Ramsdale
Aaron Ramsdale

Ramsdale has broken into the Gunners’ first team of late to decent reviews, but it is fair to say that Friday night’s clash with Villa will be the brightest spotlight under which the 23-year-old has played thanks to the identity of the guy in the opposite net. Another positive performance from Martinez and three points for Villa will leave pundits and supporters alike questioning just why the Argentine wasn’t given more of a chance at the Emirates.

“He’s a great keeper, I played with him and I managed him,” said Arteta this week when asked about Martinez. “He has tremendous personality and he’s showing that at Aston Villa and the national team. I can say that I’m happy for him.”

But nobody will be more happy for Martinez right now than the goalkeeper himself. After years of receiving short shrift at the Emirates from multiple managers, he is finally getting to prove his Premier League quality for a club which has given him the chance to shine.

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