Petr Cech was retiring and Arsenal needed a new number one, a younger goalkeeper that could serve them for the long haul and they visited Leverkusen to pluck their red rose between the sticks, Bernd Leno.
Leno’s ability has never been in doubt but he proved it yet again on Thursday when he singlehandedly masterminded the Reds’ exit from the Carabao Cup. In the game, he made six point blank saves and in the resultant shoot out, he stopped two of their kicks. He showed in the game that he is a complete goalkeeper who is adept at stopping shots, excellent in one on one situations and stopping spot kicks.
The hallmark of German goalies like Andres Kopke, Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehmann, Manuel Neuer, Marc Andre Ten-Stegen. Does this put to bed the “contest” for number one at Arsenal as some pundits and fans felt Emiliano Martinez in his cameo role had proven enough to be given a fair chance to battle the German for the top spot.
Arsenal fans were not outraged at the exit of Martinez because they doubted Leno’s ability to be the undisputed number one but their anger stemmed from the desire to have a competent and dependable backup. The fans that have endured the mediocrity of Manuel Almunia and Lukas Fabianski wanted to enjoy the brilliance of Leno and Martinez, an avaricious feeling that is quite understandable.
While the feelings of the fans is quite noted, we cannot begrudge Martinez for wanting to move on in search of regular opportunities. The goalkeeping position is not one you get too many opportunities to prove your mettle or displace the incumbent especially a consistent one.
You might not even get the chance unless he gets injured or suspended. Long term injuries to a goalkeeper does not happen often like the outfield players. Martinez felt let down that having been at the club for a long period without really enjoying first team opportunities but instead loaned out to six different clubs but after getting a chance to show how good he is after Leno’s injury against Brighton, he deserves more chances or should seek pastures new elsewhere.
Emiliano Martinez cannot be begrudged for wanting to advance his career and brighten his chances to become Argentine’s no one, the next edition of the FIFA World Cup is not faraway. He has already started his Villa career on the high, keeping 2 clean sheets in 2 games. If he keeps up his stellar performances, the battle with Sergio Romero for that Argentine number could get underway sooner than later.
For Arsenal, they have moved on with the signing of Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson from Dijon but does Mikel Arteta trust him yet? So far, he is yet to make his debut for the Gunners. In the words of former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, “the grass is not always greener on the other side”.
For the one that has chosen to move on, may he find pasture and for the club, hopefully Leno and Runnarson will keep the grass green at the Emirates.