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Why Emiliano Martínez Should Be Arsenal’s Number One Goalkeeper

Although Arsenal have two elite goalkeepers in their first-team squad, Mikel Arteta should continue with Emiliano Martínez as his starter.

When Bernd Leno crumpled to the Amex Stadium turf on June 20th, 2020, Arsenal fans feared the worst. One of their best and most consistent performers was screaming and writhing in pain.

As the German was stretchered from the field, in strode Emiliano Martínez, a long-time servant who infamously made his debut in the memorable 7-5 Capital One Cup win over Reading in 2012. Despite widespread concern, over the next few weeks the 28-year-old proved himself to be an excellent goalkeeper. He was authoritative, sticky (his hands are like glue), and composed. So good were his performances, that a debate ensued as to whether he should keep his place upon Leno’s return.

Again, before his injury, Leno was one of Arsenal’s best and most consistent performers. His blunders against Chelsea and Olympiacos aside, he had not done anything wrong and his incredible saves ensured numerous points. However, Martínez is equally capable, if not (are you ready?) superior.

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There is little to separate Arsenal’s goalkeepers as shot-stoppers. According to fbref.com, during his nine Premier League appearances last season, Martínez’s post-shot xG minus goals allowed per 90 minutes was +0.48 (the positive number suggests an above-average ability to stop shots). When taking all competitions into account, that number fell to +0.27. For comparison, Leno’s was +0.22. Nonetheless, the statistics confirm that Martínez is more comfortable and capable with the ball at his feet and in claiming aerial balls, something which has previously troubled Leno.

Confidence will be the determining factor in who starts against Fulham on opening day. At this in point in time, Mikel Arteta and the rest of the starting squad probably have more faith in Martínez than they do Leno. Recency bias certainly has a role to play in that, but equally, Martínez has earned their trust and admiration.

Arteta’s decision to start the Argentine in the FA Community Shield – even with Leno having recovered from his aforementioned knee injury – is the clearest indication yet that he will continue as the starter between the sticks, provided that he remains at the club.

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been conflicting reports regarding Martínez’s future. Adam Crafton of The Athletic reported before the Community Shield that Arsenal are prepared to sell Martínez between now and the end of the transfer window. Crafton’s rationale was the player’s contractual situation, his desire to continue as number one, and the fact that Arteta and his staff consider Leno to be the first choice.

However, following Arsenal’s triumph, Mike McGrath of the Daily Telegraph wrote that Martínez was close to signing a new contract. Fabrizio Romano also vouched for another report which stated that Arsenal – rightly – do not want to part with Martínez.

After all these years, Martínez has earned his chance. For the time being, his commitment and strong performances must be rewarded with Arteta’s continued trust.

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