Emiliano Martínez has joined Aston Villa, bringing an end to a ten-year association with the club.
Martínez initially joined Arsenal from Argentinian side Atlético Independiente, for a reported fee of £1.3m.
For the first few years of Martínez’s Arsenal career, he was loaned out to a number of clubs including Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Getafe and Reading.
Martínez was also a mainstay of Arsenal’s early League Cup matches under Arsène Wenger, making his full Arsenal debut against Coventry City, in a 6-1 win and was also between the sticks for Arsenal’s historic 7-5 win over Reading in the League Cup.
Though Martínez made limited appearances in the Premier League, it is known that Wenger privately felt that Martínez was capable of becoming Arsenal’s number one at some point in the future, however, when the Frenchman called time at Arsenal, Martínez’s future was plunged into uncertainty.
Though Martínez had battled against top goalkeepers in the past, such as Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański, under new head coach Unai Emery, the Argentine found himself wedged in as third-choice goalkeeper behind Petr Čech and new signing Bernd Leno and though Čech would later announce his retirement, it was felt that Martínez’s time at Arsenal may be coming to an end and he would do well to seek pastures new.
However, following Čech’s retirement, Martínez’s decision to stay at Arsenal seemed vindicated as he became the default second-choice to Bernd Leno and was Arsenal’s main choice for FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League matches.
Following football’s resumption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martínez deputised for Leno after the German was injured in a clash with Brighton & Hove Albion’s Neal Maupay and his displays were nothing short of extraordinary.
Leno has quickly become a firm fan favourite because of his acrobatics and his abilities in goal, however, Martínez was showing fine form of his own, producing outstanding displays that often won Arsenal points on their own, notably in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Premier League.
It therefore was no surprise that Martínez was entrusted by Mikel Arteta to stay between the sticks for Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final, which culminated in a tearful Martínez lifting the trophy aloft alongside captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Martínez’s story is an inspiring one for any aspiring footballers of dedication, hard work and determination. Martínez promised his father that he would one day become Arsenal’s number one and although the Argentine was ultimately unsuccessful, he leaves Arsenal as one of the bright sparks of a forgettable season and was once again in top form in his final appearance for Arsenal in the Community Shield against Liverpool.
For their part, Arsenal tried in vain to keep Martínez at the club to compete for the number one spot, but Martínez opted for a move away from the club in the pursuit of breaking into the Argentina national team and rejected an offer of a contract extension from the club.
From Arsenal’s perspective, the deal makes a lot of sense. The rumoured deal is thought to be in the region of £20m including incentives and allows Arsenal to invest in other areas of the squad, with Lyon’s Houssem Aouar and Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey both thought to be of interest and Lucas Torreira also thought to be on the move.
It is thought that 26-year-old Matt Macey will follow Martínez out the door, which leaves Arsenal a potential problem with regards to a substitute goalkeeper.
Brentford’s Spanish goalkeeper David Raya is thought to be of interest, though the finances may prove to be a stumbling block (though there have been rumours of Arsenal potentially signing Raya and loaning him back to Brentford, which is not to dissimilar to how they signed William Saliba), so Dijon FCO’s Icelandic goalkeeper Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson may be of interest to Arsenal, following a recommendation from Goalkeeping coach Iñaki Caña Pavón, who worked with Rúnarsson at FC Nordsjælland.
Arsenal fans will no doubt be sad to see Martínez leave the club, however, for the reported fee and the possibility of other players entering the club, Martínez will likely leave with both the manager and the fan’s blessing.