Martinez played for Arsenal’s reserves and U-21s before joining the first team in 2012. Despite the Gunners running through a number of goalkeepers in the ensuing eight years, he never received sufficient opportunities. The Argentine shot-stopper was shipped out on loan to multiple clubs including Sheffield Wednesday, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Reading and Getafe.
Emiliano Martinez finally received a sustained run in the team during the 2019-20 campaign following first-choice keeper Bernd Leno‘s injury. Arteta deployed him 23 times that season, and the 29-year-old kept nine clean sheets in those games. Martinez also played a crucial role in the Gunners’ FA Cup success, featuring six times and conceding just three goals.
Following his incredible exploits, many expected the Argentine to usurp Leno as the club’s first-choice keeper. However, Martinez was also viewed as one of the few sellable assets that Arsenal had within their squad. Consequently, the Gunners chose to retain Leno and sold Martinez to Aston Villa in a deal worth around £20 million in September 2020.
The move has drawn plenty of criticism from fans and pundits. Martinez has gone from strength to strength with Aston Villa, while Leno is no longer the first-choice keeper at the Emirates. Summer arrival Aaron Ramsdale has started each of Arsenal’s last five Premier League fixtures.
Mikel Arteta has now defended the club’s decision to sell Martinez. Speaking at a press conference (via Mirror) ahead of Arsenal’s match against Aston Villa tonight (October 22), he said:
“We made decisions with the best possible interest of the club. But as well a big participant was Emi. He got to a point in his career where under me he started to play big games very well.”
“It was urgent for him because he wanted to play so long. He’s a great kid. I played with him I managed him. I can say that I’m happy for him.”
Arsenal have struggled so far this season
Heading into the clash against Aston Villa, Arsenal find themselves 12th in the Premier League table. The Gunners began their season with three defeats on the bounce to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City. They also failed to score a single goal in those games and found themselves in the relegation zone.
Arsenal then staged a mini-recovery, picking up wins over Norwich City, Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur. However, the momentum gained from those victories has dropped once again.
The Gunners have failed to win their last two matches. They first drew 0-0 against Brighton and then scored in the final minute to rescue a 2-2 draw at home against Crystal Palace.
A win in the clash against Aston Villa, who are 13th in the Premier League, will help Arsenal momentarily move into the top half of the table.