Arsenal let Emi Martinez move to Aston Villa in 2020, confirming Bernd Leno as the north London club’s first-choice goalkeeper, but Leno has since lost his starting spot to Aaron Ramsdale
Arsenal faced a crossroads back in the summer of 2020 when it came to the goalkeeping future of the club.
Bernd Leno had missed the end of the season through injury and, in his absence, long-time backup Emi Martinez had stepped up in a big way.
Fresh off an FA Cup win, Martinez wanted first-team football. Arsenal and Mikel Arteta couldn’t make that promise, but Aston Villa could, and the Argentine made a £20m switch to Villa Park just days into the new season.
As he prepares to face his former club, the 29-year-old is likely to come up against Aaron Ramsdale rather than Leno, with the latter falling out of favour at the Emirates Stadium.
However, despite making another change between the sticks, Arteta remains convinced his club made the right decision last year.
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Speaking in a press conference ahead of Arsenal’s Friday night Premier League game at home to Villa, Arteta spoke highly of the goalkeeper but maintained the Gunners made the right call.
“We made decisions with the best possible interest of the club. But as well a big participant was Emi,” Arteta said.
“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.”
Martinez has gone from strength to strength since joining Villa, playing every single game in the Premier League last season as Dean Smith’s side spent most of the campaign in the top half before eventually finishing 11th.
Only six teams conceded fewer goals than their 46, with the goalkeeper’s form helping his team record its best Premier League points tally since 2009-10.
And now, with Leno’s future hanging in the balance, it is tempting for supporters to wonder whether Arteta made the wrong call.
The Germany keeper was solid for Arsenal last season, conceding fewer league goals than his former rival and helping his club finish in the top half.
However, things have changed since the start of the 2021-22 season, with new signing Ramsdale establishing himself as a starter after arriving from Sheffield United.
Leno is out of contract in 2023, and reports claim he could leave as soon as January as he attempts to force his way back into the reckoning at international level.
Few will have too many complaints with Ramsdale, even if questions were asked of the £30m fee required to bring him down south.
The 23-year-old appears popular with his team-mates, and has won over plenty of fans who had their reservations when he arrived.
David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arteta might be tempted to argue the arrival of a new first-choice – and a younger one at that – means the Gunners are in a better spot than when Martinez was sold.
Not only has Martinez thrived for Villa, but he has established himself as Argentina’s first choice, helping his country win the 2021 Copa America.
All it took to achieve that was one solid season as a Premier League starter – he didn’t make his international debut until 2021 – and this is something which Arsenal could have offered him if they’d opted to cut their losses on Leno.
When Arsenal take to the field on Friday night, they’ll do so with a popular goalkeeper with a bright future at the club attempting to keep their opponents at bay.
Still, when Arteta looks towards the other goalmouth, part of him might wonder how things would look if he’d made a different choice in September 2020.
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