Before Bernd Leno’s injury, I doubt any of us had really paid attention to Emiliano Martinez but suddenly, fans were asking each other “Is he any good?”
There were long pauses and a few glances to the skies as supporters searched for a reassuring answer. Leno had saved Arsenal at one end on more than one occasion in a match, while Aubameyang secured the points at the other end.
Both players were pivotal in keeping Arsenal away from the relegation zone but with Leno’s injury, fans began to panic. They needn’t have worried because in stepped the towering Argentinian Emiliano Martinez (27) to calm the nerves and anxieties of the banished fans with a series of stunning and commanding performances.
Where did this star come from? Where has he been hiding? These were just some of the comments. Is he new? Asked others, far from it is the answer to that. Martinez had served his time at Arsenal, arriving when he was just 17.
He has been loaned out left right and centre but refused to complain, instead, he asked more questions of himself and demanded extra effort as he tried to establish himself in the Arsenal first team. This guy is not in it for the money or the promise of a lavish lifestyle funded by additional commercial activities, he loves the game and thankfully, the club.
Emi is a loyal, passionate, quiet, thoughtful, unassuming man, who only wants to do well to make his family proud. A throwback to a time when passion and pride were the currency of the day, long before agents and exaggerated wages.
He is a humble, decent, and honest guy who has seen hard times first hand and who is determined to make a statement with his work and performances. As a result, there isn’t an Arsenal fan today that doesn’t know who he is or who hasn’t succumbed to his charm and delightful ordinariness.
There’s no ego here, no attitude or bullshit, just a man determined to succeed and make his family proud. That’s why he’s been embraced by supporters but more importantly, he’s the player that embodies all the qualities that Mikel Arteta wants for his new-look Arsenal.
Emiliano Martinez ticks all the boxes and relishes his punishing workload, which became phenomenal during the Premier League restart. Training and three games in a week took its toll on some players after a prolonged layoff but Martinez couldn’t wait to push himself.
He’d waited in the wings for long enough and had been pushed out on loan to Wolves, Reading, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday. He now had the opportunity to impress in unfortunate circumstances and he seized it with both of his giant hands.
The problem will now be what will Arteta do next? Bring back the designated number one or does he stick with the man who has given him so much? Arsenal are now blessed to have two excellent keepers but it’s safe to say that no one envies Arteta’s conundrum. Someone’s going to be upset next season but the fans seem to be quite clear in their views on social media with the majority supporting Emiliano Martinez.
It’s a phenomenal story and one that has endeared the Argentinian man-mountain to his public, with his emotional display at Wembley, his pitchside video call and footage of him after the FA Cup win against Chelsea, heading to the changing room dismissing talk of bonuses:
“I don’t care about the money!”
Emiliano Martinez may have come from nowhere, but he is a very important figure in the Arsenal set up and I’m told that he is immensely popular with the entire squad. No one has a bad word to say about him and he is admired for his dedication by the players, including his captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
From humble begins and desperately difficult times to FA Cup winner, Emi recalled:
“It was not a poor, poor background but my family struggled a lot in financial terms. I arrived back in Argentina and, a week after, I had the offer from Arsenal.”
“I saw my brother and mum cry, saying: ‘Please don’t go.’ But I had also seen my dad crying late at night because he could not pay the bills. So I had to be brave at the time because I said ‘yes’ for them,”
Martinez has the number one slot and who would bet against him achieving his dreams, his hard work is now paying off and Leno’s return to the first team isn’t assured, far from it. He has had a taste of life in the first team and it would prove to be difficult if he were to lose that status, it could even tempt him to move clubs.
His is a touchingly honest story. One that gives hope to players, who for one reason or another, are failing to live their dreams. One hopes that Emiliano Martinez enjoys more success and perhaps a pay hike, not that he’s bothered about that.