Mikel Arteta has a number of big decisions to make with the new Premier League campaign around the corner. Perhaps the biggest of those is which of Emiliano Martinez or Bernd Leno is his “number 1” goalkeeper. It’s a good problem to have. Martinez stepped up in a big way when Bernd Leno went down with a knee injury in June. Until getting hurt, Leno was arguably the club’s most important player last season.
Some reports speculate that Arsenal are willing to sell Martinez with Leno back healthy. A number of teams have expressed interest in Martinez including Schalke, Aston Villa and Leeds, and Arsenal need money to fund other transfers.
Other outlets claim that Arteta wants Martinez to stay and fight for his place. Martinez still has two years remaining on his current contract, so the Gunners aren’t in danger of losing him for nothing quite yet. As I said, it’s not a bad problem to have, but keeping them both happy could prove challenging, especially since Martinez has made it clear that he wants more minutes.
Martinez has been with Arsenal since 2010 and in that time, has had six different loan spells. He never was able to break in to the first team due to the presence of Wojciech Szczęsny, followed by David Ospina, then Petr Cech, and now Leno. Before the restart and Leno’s injury, Martinez had played just 25 matches for Arsenal over ten years. He was always in the background, quietly waiting for his shot. To his credit, he remained determined to fight to become the Gunners’ number one and when given the opportunity, emphatically took it.
Martinez stepped in for the final 11 games of the season and proved himself a more than capable replacement. He conceded just 11 goals in those 11 appearances and kept 4 clean sheets, including one against Manchester City. He proved himself a capable shot stopper, but was most impressive was his command of the area. He’s quick off his line and claims aerial balls better than Bernd Leno. He’s also better than Leno with the ball at his feet.
Arteta picked Martinez ahead of a fit Leno for the Community Shield, which may have been a reward for his strong play to end the season. In the Community Shield, the Argentinian was solid once again and made two key saves from Sadio Mane attempts.
Martinez has made it clear that he no longer wants to be second choice. After nearly a decade waiting for his chance, he feels that he has now earned the right to be the Gunners’ number one.
Martinez recently spoke out on his future and is insisting that if he doesn’t get the chance to play regularly, he wants to leave.
The first loans were always with the option of returning to the club. When I came back from the last loan to Reading, I said that I didn’t want to leave anymore, that now was my time.
I wanted to be given the chance or if not, yes, leave.
We’ll see. I don’t want to go back to the bench and go months and months without playing. I’ll decide the best option for my career.
Martinez has performed so well that fans and pundits are currently divided over who is the better option in goal.
Bloody hell, I’d pick Martinez ahead of Leno every day of the week— Simon Reid (@Reidyboy30) August 31, 2020
Last week when Martinez looked as if he was leaving and you had a choice between him and Leno, the sample choice lead me to Leno. I don’t think we should entertain selling at all now, sats performance only reiterated that for me.— T Marx (@tjgmarks) August 31, 2020
Oh, well. Goodluck to Arteta as he tries to keep both of them happy. I'll still go with Leno, but Martinez deserves first team action too. He'll have to leave if there are no guarantees.— TWT (@tundebrooks) August 31, 2020
Martinez deserves to start over Leno— DeArsenal (@BantsAfc) August 31, 2020
I love Martinez but Leno is our number 1— Noah (@LChrisetin) August 31, 2020
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes Martinez deserves to remain in the starting lineup following his recent success.
I think Martinez is my No.1. He’s in possession of the place and should keep it. I know Arsene Wenger always considered him his future No.1. He’s always been considered a really good goalkeeper.
Another ex-Gunner agreeing with Keown is former striker Kevin Campbell.
What I’ve seen from Martinez, I would go with Martinez, because I think he makes that defense a lot more settled. They don’t panic when he’s behind them. I’ve seen them panic when Leno’s there. He’s made some key decisions, his handling is very good, he comes out and makes people feel comfortable from crosses.
Time will tell which way Arsenal and Arteta are leaning, but a decision is needed. Hopefully the Gunners find a way to keep both happy and at the club. But if Arsenal want make another big signing they need funds, and both Leno and Martinez are among the more valuable and attractive assets at the club.
Who do you think should be in goal for the Gunners when the new season begins and why?