It’s a gut-wrenching thought we never thought we’d have to ponder on June 20th.
Prior to Arsenal’s trip to the AMEX Stadium, if someone where to come in and offer £15m for Emiliano Martinez, precious few supporters would have bat an eyelid.
There would have been but a brief emotional moment. A short intake of breath as the club published a goodbye video on their social channels wishing the longest serving member of the team a fond farewell. We’d have sat for a few minutes with our heart strings receiving a light tug, then moved on to the more uplifting side of accruing a generous sum of money for someone who rarely ever played.
As the 2020/21 Premier League season approaches, few – if any – could have envisaged being trapped in a soul-stirring rollercoaster for a player who only played in nine out of the 38 previous league matches. While that is the truth, what is holding people back is the counterpoint that he played exceptionally well during that time. Exceptionally.
Taking his place in between the sticks at Wembley he was at his assured best, never looking flustered as he claimed two tear-jerking trophies as an Arsenal player.
A fairytale culmination to one man’s hard work and dedication. Six loan spells in eight years. Biding his time for the opportune moment, he grasped it firmly with two hands. Just like every ball that came his way.
Said culmination, however, should also be his perfect Gunners swansong, if the price is right.
Above all other factors, the fee Arsenal may or may not accrue is, it goes without saying, paramount. Considering how superb the Argentine has been since coming into the first team fold, letting him go for anything less than the valuation the club have placed on him would be folly.
Aston Villa are the side making their interest best known this window, submitting an offer (as per The Athletic) thought to be “substantially closer” to the Gunners’ £20m asking price. Such money is invaluable to the club this summer if they’re to pursue their preferred targets.
Villa may see that fee as a steal for a goalkeeper who has been so spellbindingly good, but given he’s only made 15 career Premier League appearances and has two years left on his deal it does seem a fair sum.
However, if he is to go then another goalkeeper needs to be brought in. For that £20m to be of any use then whoever comes as number two must be on some form of loan deal, or Arsenal will find themselves back at square one with what we can safely assume would be an inferior keeper.
David Raya is said to be the Gunners’ primary replacement – recommended by goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana Pavon, who worked with the Spaniard at Brentford – although the Championship side are reluctant to enter any negotiations regarding a potential departure.
Yet, easy to forget in all this, is just how good Bernd Leno is.
The German was the runaway Player of the Season behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, yet arguably just in front of Martinez in third. We all stopped counting how many times he bailed Arsenal out, how many points he won the team.
His shot-stopping ability is still what it is, as is his distribution, so it’s hardly like Arsenal won’t be left in literal safe hands. If the club were to head into the new season with him in goal there would be few complaints, as he’s grown in the role since joining in the summer of 2018 to the point where he’s looked like our best keeper since fellow countryman Jens Lehmann.
North London has been bereft of quality between the sticks and suddenly two have landed on the doorstep all at once. In an ideal world, that would remain in tact. Two extremely talented stoppers fighting tooth and nail for a starting berth is the level of competition you expect at a top club.
At a period where rebuilding involves smashing the piggy bank for loose change, such a luxury must be expended in order to fund an overhaul. Arsenal haven’t had one good goalkeeper for a while. Now there are two, the club mustn’t get greedy.
Again, I stress, for the right price.