In most instances, when a team is forced to go to their third choice goalkeeper following injuries to the first two shot stoppers, there is a drastic difference in the team’s defensive makeup. In Arsenal’s situation, this is not the case.
The third keeper in line for the Gunners is 22-year-old Damian “Emi” Martinez. Martinez, previously a youth Argentina international, joined the north London club in 2010 from Argentine club Independiente. Martinez did not make his first senior appearance for Arsenal until a Capital One Cup match in 2012 and then was forced to wait until this season to make his Champions League and Premier League debut.
In wake of both Wojciech Szczesny (hip) and David Ospina (thigh) being sidelined, Martinez has stepped up and helped the Gunners earn three consecutive victories, all on clean sheets. The Argentine has not only performed well between the posts with blocking shots, but perhaps just as important, he has commanded the box extremely well (some would say even better than starter Szczesny normally does).
With Martinez playing extremely well, Arsenal fans should feel a bit relieved that he did not leave north London in the summer transfer period. The young keeper recently confirmed that he nearly left Arsenal to pursue a starting job a few months back. Martinez stated, “I spoke to my agent and my family about it in the summer and they said ‘let’s wait one year to see if you get the opportunity, don’t rush it.’ I was still young – I was only 21, I just turned 22 – and I think I did good to stay here.”
Martinez went on to say that he is thankful for the opportunity he has recently received with Arsenal. “I got the opportunity that my agent and family told me, so I am really pleased about that. Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world so I am in no rush to leave this club. I love this club.”
“I know I am young and I need to wait for opportunities. When the opportunity comes, you need to be confident and show the manager that you can play as well. I think I am doing it, I am breeding confidence in my defenders and I am really pleased for that.”
The goalkeeper also praised his defensive teammates following the string of impressive performances. Martinez said, “When you play with Per (Mertesacker), Lolo (Koscielny), Nacho (Monreal) – whoever is in the back four – you feel confident against any team. Lolo and Per are both experienced, organizationally strong and always talk to you. It is so easy to play behind them.”
As long as Martinez continues to shine for the Gunners, manager Arsene Wenger can afford to make sure Szczesny and Ospina are completely healthy before returning them to the pitch. According to WhoScored.com, Martinez has an average player rating of 6.85 this season, compared to a 6.35 rating for Szczesny.
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