Emi Martinez has aimed a fresh swipe at Arsenal ahead of his latest reunion with his former team this evening.
The Argentine goalkeeper played a key role in the Gunners’ FA Cup win at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, but lost his place in the team upon Bernd Leno’s return to fitness.
After a decade at the Emirates, Martinez had no intention of continuing to play second fiddle to anyone and pushed for a transfer to Aston Villa where he has cemented his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in England.
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The 29-year-old kept two clean sheets against Arsenal last season as Villa recorded a league double over the Gunners and he returns to the club this evening again hoping to show his former team what they lost when they sanctioned his exit.
‘When I was on a high, I still felt like they didn’t deserve me because of the way they were treating me,’ said a still rueful Martinez ahead of tonight’s match.
‘They couldn’t guarantee me the games I needed so I thought that if they couldn’t guarantee me the games I needed, then I’m moving on.
‘They didn’t say to me that I wasn’t going to play, they just didn’t guarantee me the games that I wanted to play.
‘So, after 10 years, I decided to leave, and it was very difficult. My family didn’t understand why I was leaving when I was at such a good level at Arsenal, but it was my decision to leave and I’m really proud I did it.
‘It was a gamble, but I always believe that if you stay in the comfort zone, you will never reach anything in life. I decided to take the step up.’
Arsenal spent an initial £24m on Aaron Ramsdale during the summer window and the England keeper has since gone on to usurp Leno.
‘We made decisions with the best possible intentions and looking for the best interests of the club,’ said Arteta when asked if he regrets the decision to sell Martinez.
‘But as well it was a very strong participant, it was Emi, who deserves all the credit for the amount of time he spent at the club and don’t forget that he had different spells in his career and he got to a point in his career when under me he started to play in important games and he did extremely well.
‘His ambition, his belief and where wants to take his career was very different and it was urgent for him because he was so patient for so long and I’m really happy that he’s doing so well.
‘He’s a great keeper, I played with him, I managed him, and he has tremendous personality as well and he’s showing that at Aston Villa and the national team. I can say that I’m happy for him.’