“Wasn’t in my plans to sell”
When Arsenal decided to sell Emi Martinez in the summer of 2020, there were questions asked of the decision and very much regarding the choice to keep Bernd Leno as the club’s number one.
Martinez had come into the side due to an injury to Leno from a collision with Brighton’s Neal Maupay. He kept 3 clean sheets in his 9 league appearances and helped Arsenal to an FA Cup victory against Manchester City in the semi and Chelsea in the final.
Martinez though was sold because he could not be guaranteed a starting birth the following campaign with the return of Leno. The money from Aston Villa was too good for Arsenal to turn down also. Villa boss Dean Smith was ecstatic his side were able to sign the Argentina international.
“We moved for Emi when we saw the opportunity,” Smith said. “As it is rare to be able to buy a top-class goalkeeper who hasn’t yet reached their peak age and who can therefore be a key player for our club for the long term.”
Arteta explained how whilst he did not want to sell him, the ambition of the player, the financial implications and the lack of starting guarantees meant he couldn’t say no.
“Obviously, it wasn’t in my plans to sell him, but we gave him the chance because he deserved it. He performed really really well but we have to balance the books. We have to make the right choices in the market and obviously, I couldn’t guarantee him to be the number one,” he said.
But were Arsenal right?
Looking at the performances of Martinez, it would be very easy to simply say that Arsenal were fools for selling, but it isn’t so cut and dry. The summer for Arsenal was difficult and required the reported investment of their owners to pull off the Deadline Day deal for £45 million Thomas Partey.
Prior to the Ghanaian’s arrival, Arteta decided there were needs in the forward line and central defensive departments. The restrictions brought about by the pandemic were evident in the signing of Willian from Chelsea. Arsenal pounced on the Brazilian out of contract but reportedly paid him a significant wage and signing-on fee. Gabriel Magalhaes was signed from Lille for £20 million-plus.
Therefore, the £20 million deal for Martinez, a player who was third choice at the club just two seasons ago was an excellent recoup for the Gunners who had notoriously sold poorly in the past.
But, why not sell Leno instead? The simple answer is for what Arsenal would have wanted there simply weren’t the suitors. A market affected by Covid saw minimal fees being paid by clubs and considering the keeper had cost the club in the region of £20 million just a couple seasons prior and developed since, Arsenal would not have been willing to let him leave without a significant profit.
There is also the strong argument that Leno is still and has been a very good keeper. Granted the cataclysmic error against Wolves would say otherwise, however, Arsenal currently have the second best defensive record in the league, significantly thanks to Leno’s work between the sticks.
If Martinez, by which all reports and quotes suggest were the case, wanted to leave and Arsenal were offered the aforementioned fee whilst having a top-class keeper in Leno at the club, it makes complete sense as to why they sold him.
Arsenal fans have seen a host of players leave and do well since. Serge Gnabry, Ismael Bennacer and Donyell Malen to name but a few. But selling, specifically well, is an important part of a successful club and something the Gunners have lacked of late.
Had Arsenal brought in a better back-up, there is also the argument this discussion may not even be the case. Gunners fans should wish Martinez the best but also appreciate the quality what they have in Leno.
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