There have been many great stories in the Premier League this season but few can match that of Emiliano Martinez.
Having joined Arsenal as a teenager in 2010, he would spend most of the next decade going out on loan. From Oxford United to Reading and many more in between, the stopper seemed destined to have a career as a number two in the top-flight or in the lower leagues.
Even his prominent role in helping the Gunners win the FA Cup last season didn’t convince everyone. After all, he still hadn’t played consistently over a period of time to judge him properly. Therefore, the Londoners were happy to sell Martinez in September, with Aston Villa signing the Argentinian for around £17 million.
Emiliano Martinez Can Help Argentina to International Success
2 – Emiliano Martínez is the third goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in their first two Premier League appearances against a club they’ve previously appeared for in the competition after Shaka Hislop vs Newcastle (1998-99) and Mark Schwarzer vs Middlesbrough (2008-09). Missed. pic.twitter.com/EPUyNFcUwu
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 6, 2021
And, to say that looks like a smart bit of business would be a massive understatement. That’s because the keeper has been outstanding this season, and there’s every chance he will be named in the Team of the Year.
A quick look at the latest Premier League betting odds shows that Aston Villa are seen as a team that can now compete with anyone on their day, and they are pushing for Europe at 15/8 to finish in the top six. Playing a key part in taking the West Midlands outfit to the Europa League would be a fantastic achievement for Martinez, but he might have his eyes set on a bigger prize in 2021.
That’s because Copa America is set to take place at the end of the season, with Argentina co-hosting the competition.
Incredibly, the 28-year-old hasn’t been capped by La Albiceleste, but he has made recent squads and there’s no way his form will be going unnoticed. The goalkeeping position has been problematic – bordering on embarrassing – for Argentina in recent major tournaments, so they could have found an answer to a key issue.
Of course, the focus, as always, will be on Lionel Messi when it comes to the national team. And, given his age, the Barcelona great knows the clock is ticking as he chases that elusive title at international level.
But, as we’ve seen, he can’t do it by himself for Argentina. There has been a real lack of balance in the team over the years, and not having a reliable, sound goalkeeper is partly to blame for that.
It’s worth remembering that Martinez is one of only a few differences in this Villa team from last season when they finished 17th and survived on the final day. So, playing with a keeper you can trust does bring out the best in others. Where they were defensively vulnerable, Dean Smith’s centre-backs now look assured.
Obviously, it’s not all down to Martinez, but you can’t underestimate the role he has played in giving belief to his teammates. Now, he needs to be given the chance to replicate that for his country.
#SelecciónMayor Lionel #Messi continúa estirando su ventaja como el máximo goleador histórico de la Albiceleste: llegó a 71 goles con @Argentina https://t.co/T6SCX0dWev pic.twitter.com/Nl15nHPX2a
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) October 9, 2020
The pressure of playing in Copa America, at home, in a competition Argentina will be expected to win from their notoriously demanding fans, is huge. However, it’s a challenge that Martinez will relish, and an opportunity he deserves.
If he can have the same impact on the national team as he has done in the Premier League, then it could be a summer to remember for Messi, Martinez and that footballing mad nation.