Emiliano Martinez will take some dropping now after scooping second trophy in a month despite Bernd Leno return
EMILIANO MARTINEZ has made it clear that he is not prepared to play second fiddle at Arsenal any longer.
After eight years waiting in the Emirates shadows, the Argentine goalkeeper believes he has finally earned the right to be the Gunners’ number one.
And if he finds himself playing back-up to Bernd Leno when the new Premier League season gets underway in two weeks’ time, he will ask Mikel Arteta for a move.
When Leno suffered a knee injury in Arsenal’s second game out of lockdown, Martinez stepped in for the final 11 games of the season and proved himself a more than capable replacement.
And it wasn’t just his shot-stopping which impressed. His command of his area, handling of crosses and ability to play out from the back all caught the eye.
Many Arsenal fans even consider him to be a more solid option than German international Leno, who cost £19.2million when he signed from Bayer Leverkusen two years ago.
Yet it was still something of a surprise when Martinez was given the nod to start against Liverpool at Wembley.
His return to pre-season training had been delayed by having to spend time in quarantine after returning from a summer holiday in Portugal while Leno is fully fit again after recovering from his knee injury.
I don’t want to keep them both happy. I want the one that is not playing to be upset and to challenge the other player for his place
But Arteta explained: “We have two fantastic keepers but Emi finished the season really strong, he was our keeper in the FA Cup final and he deserves to play in this game.
“I don’t want to keep them both happy. I want the one that is not playing to be upset and to challenge the other player for his place.”
Martinez would certainly have been happy with his lack of activity at Wembley today, where Liverpool barely tested him during the first-half.
Andy Robertson fired a few dangerous balls across the face of his goal but he didn’t have a save to make until the 55th minute when he rushed out to make a vital block from Sadio Mane.
But he had no chance with Liverpool’s 73rd minute equaliser, smashed in from close range by substitute Takumi Minamino as his team-mates started to flag late on.
They could hardly get the ball off Liverpool for the last 20 minutes and when Mane got the better of Kieran Tierney it took another crucial save by Martinez to take the game to penalties.
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He couldn’t get close to any of Liverpool’s spot-kicks, but then he didn’t have to because Rhian Brewster smashed his effort against the bar and Arsenal were remorseless with all five of theirs.
So that’s two winners’ medals in a month for Martinez and a growing belief that he is the man for the long-term.
He’s going to take some dropping now.
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