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  • EXCLUSIVE by Alessandro Schiavone

Emiliano Martinez adds to Arsenal's regrets in five-star display v Everton for Aston Villa

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Report by Alessandro Schiavone at Goodison Park

Everton 0-0 Aston Villa

Before every game a recurring question always pops up: can anyone put the ball past unwanted former Arsenal goalie Emiliano Martinez? Aston Villa have the fourth least beaten defence of the division and a huge debt of gratitude surely goes the Argentine’s way. The late bloomer turned legend who barely got a look-in during his ill-fated time at Emirates Stadium proved monumental again yesterday when his outstretched right leg denied Dominic Calvert-Lewin through on goal. Randal Kolo Muani and French supporters watching Aston Villa’s dull goalless draw with Everton at Goodison Park and still trying to come to terms with the painful World Cup final miss, will surely have been haunted by this routine save, an especialidad de la casa. Because that’s what it is for him: a routine blovk. To get the better of him on a one-v-one the finish has to be delivered with near-surgical ruthlessness and deadliness. But don’t undermine the psychological aspect of facing a specimen with a proven record of pulling off Hollywood stops like that. It can get to you. And he repeated the feat seconds later when he got down to his left to palm away James Gardner’s net-bound strike to earn the applause of his numerous fans who made the journey from Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street. A big chunk of the bitter Arsenal fanbase will probably point to some risky attempts to play out from the back in the early stages which almost cost Unai Emery’s side when Onana, smelling blood, almost intercepted a wayward pass. But that’s nit-picking. There’s a reason why Martinez won the 2023 Golden Glove, having arguably been the Premier League’s finest keeper and a key factor as to why Argentina ended a 36-year drought to win the World Cup in a tough post-Maradona era and in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in the country's history. His genius and recklessness put a smile back on many Argentines who love him to bits. And to think that he was on Arsenal’s books for eight years, playing a lowly 38 times(!) for the club. Not many have given it too much thought but his meteoric rise may never have taken place had it not been for a moment of luck. Because life, after all, is a blend of unfairness and payback. Hence who knows how his caree had been panned out had ex Brighton & Hove Albion striker Neal Maupay not involuntarily got Bernd Leno injured in June 2020? Aston Villa’s hot-headed no.1 has not looked back since, winning the Copa America, the World Cup and clocking up hundreds of Premier appearances. Unlike Mikel Arteta, who pulled the trigger on him to make way for Leno only to then go back on his decision and wield the axe on the German before making way for Aaron Ramsdale. And when the Englishman's questionable distribution became a concern, he demoted him to the bench for David Raya. Yet if Villa are in with a shout of making the Champions League for the first time in four decades no player has played a bigger part than the man they regard as a flop in North London. If the Birmingham outfit won’t, the best keeper in the Premier League is unlikely to stick around for much longer. 


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