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Is Emiliano Martinez a clown or not? Should he still be wearing those colours? Emiliano Martinez has become a bit of a hate figure recently. His over-the-top antics at the World Cup have not endeared him to many fans worldwide. It was seen as disrespectful. I agree. However, he didn’t ruin a player’s career with a dangerous tackle or physically attack anyone. I suspect that Argentinians love him as he was probably the biggest reason that Lionel Messi crowned his career with the greatest prize of all. The penalty takers only have to take one, Martinez had to face all of them and he did so twice against Netherlands and France. He triumphed both times. Messi must want to have his babies. Yes, we know you love Martinez, Leo I believe he is a top keeper, though. He is the guardian of the world champions. He has done extremely well at Aston Villa and I will take a look at his record shortly. He also helped enormously in giving us our only real trophy in recent years, the FA Cup. But we let him go and in truth, successive managers have underrated him. I would choose him over Bernd Leno, Peter Cech (the version that we had, he was never the same after the bad head injury given to him by Stephen Hunt), Lucas Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina who were all first choice in his time. I think a lot of Gooners would agree with me. Life could have been so much different for Arsene Wenger if he had given him his chance. He could still be there, leading us now and celebrating our World Cup winner. Wenger still at Arsenal? How so? Well, if I am right and he is better than all the names I have mentioned then that would have translated into points for us. In Leno’s last season 2020/21 we needed 7 more points to leapfrog Chelsea for the Champions league. The year before that 2019/20, we needed 11 extra points to overtake Chelsea again. In 2018/19 we needed only 2 to jump above the Spuds. In 2017/18 we needed 13 points to climb above Liverpool. In 2016/17 we needed 2 points to throw the Spuds below us. In 2015/16 we needed 11 points to kill the Leicester dream but we were a comfortable second and in Champions league. In Martinez’s first year in the first team squad 2014/15 we would have needed 13 points to sicken Chelsea at the top but again comfortably in Champions league in 3rd. Leno - not as good as Martinez A few extra points would have got extra Champions league places and extra money which may have bought us better players and even more points. Wenger would probably still be there now as he would not have been deemed to have failed. It seems he had a blind spot about Martinez as did all the managers who came after him. History has proved them wrong as he has several trophies to his name including the biggest one. An expensive blind spot Johnny Giles famously said that manager Don Revie’s blind spot about picking goalkeeper Gary Sprake over David Harvey cost the superb Leeds team of the 60’s and 70’s many trophies. We all could see Giles was right as Sprake was very prone to errors but somehow Revie couldn’t see it. Gary Sprake - cost Leeds lots of trophies? The difference between a keeper and an outfield player is significant. If you have a top player out for Arsenal, say Partey or Saka, and you bring in Jorginho or Reiss Nelson, against most of the teams in the Premiership, they are at least as good. Elneny, Vieira, Smith Rowe etc., would walk into most Premiership teams. My point being that Arsenal should, and most likely would beat most teams even with their second choice. That is not so true about a keeper. A keeper who makes a mistake against a team who parks the bus, hoping for a breakaway and luck, could lose a match for Arsenal as I believe Leno did sometimes as he allowed himself to be bullied. A better keeper, a Ramsdale or a Martinez, would, I am convinced, have given us extra points. Martinez’s record is outstanding So, what is Martinez’s record? It is good. In the 23 matches he played for Arsenal in 2019/20, his only sustained run, he kept 9 clean sheets. For Aston Villa it is 2020/21 38 games and 15 clean sheets, very impressive for a team in the bottom half of the table. He got player of the year at Villa. In 2021/22 he played 37 times and had 11 clean sheets , extremely good for a team who were close to being relegation candidates and finished 14th. For Argentina he has 7 clean sheets out of 26 matches. The boy was far better than his managers at Arsenal believed. It is as simple as that. Ramsdale - 12 clean sheets so far this season And Leno? In a much better Arsenal side than Villa in 2020/21 he had 16 clean sheets out of 50 games. The previous year 8 clean sheets out of 33. His first year 2018/19 he had 10 clean sheets out of 38. Martinez should have been given the number one spot he deserved. Now I reckon most of us are happy with Ramsdale. He has already got 12 clean sheets this season out of 28 matches. But we have to accept that, in world rankings, Martinez has to be rated above him. His record for Argentina, with his Aston Villa player of the season thrown in: FIFA World Cup: 2022 Copa América: 2021 CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions: 2022 Individual The Best FIFA Goalkeeper: 2022 FIFA World Cup Golden Glove: 2022 Aston Villa Player of the Season: 2020–21 Copa América Golden Glove: 2021 Copa América Team of the Tournament: 2021 We made a mistake It has to be acknowledged that we let a top player go for £20m and possibly bought a lesser player for £30m. However, he still may turn out to be the best choice. I certainly hope so. I would like to see Gnabry now in our colours Blind spots in not recognising your best players can cost points. Arteta got that wrong as Leno was not as good as Martinez. Wenger, Emery and Ljungberg also made this mistake about Martinez. Wenger also failed to recognise Gnabry’s abilities but I think that was partly due to Gnabry’s attitude. Once he buckled down to serious work at Bayern Munich he proved himself. Wenger didn’t let too many go that he regretted, in fairness. I hope Arteta is the same. We seem to have a lot of talented youngsters coming through, we need to keep the best of them and to do that, we have to play them or risk them going. Arteta will be extremely tested as a manager in the coming seasons, but one thing he cannot afford to do is not realise who our best players are. I have faith that the Martinez situation has been a learning one that Arteta has quietly understood. The keeper position is the most crucial one in the team, in my opinion. I feel and hope we have got it right in Ramsdale. But let's get back to Martinez: I hear his ambition is to be the world's best goalkeeper and he is a long way towards that in winning the World Cup and FIFA Best goalkeeper. I suspect in the summer the big boys will come calling, the giants of European football. He could still have many more years to go and his penchant for saving penalties will have them salivating. He could do it, you know? Many Arsenal players such as Martinelli (who is Brazilian and they have big rivalry with Argentina) say Martinez was always a gentleman and very helpful to everyone. And hey, after ten bleak years at Arsenal, he finally scored for us. Thank you very much, Emi!
He keeps coming back - makes him a winner? Winners are people who hate losing Have you ever thought about losing and top class sport? The effects it has? Granit Xhaka recently said that he cannot sleep after he loses and Aaron Ramsdale is the same. Arsene Wenger famously said that I cannot remember all my wins but I cannot forget my defeats, they stay with him forever. Defeat is a consistent part of football. You lose many times a season, even at the best clubs. The invincibles? Lost six times in the Charity Shield, FA cup, League cup and Europe. Losing ten times, even in a very successful season, is common enough. Add to that international matches and it could be even more. And what about draws? They are not wins so they have to be added to the totals. Wenger had a win record with Arsenal of 57%, a huge number of times he had to cope with not winning. So you have to find a way to cope with losing. Not so big a winner now, Mike? I think it is fair to say that it always has an effect. The end of the Invincibles run was also the end of Arsenal as league winners up to now. Look at Mike Tyson, when he was dumped on the floor by Buster Douglas, no-one was ever afraid of him again. His career spiralled out of control, getting big fights mostly on his attraction as a prize draw. In boxing, losing is something that few fighters come back from, but in soccer, you have to come back as you lose regularly, even in big matches. Look at Liverpool and Man City last season and the heartbreak they endured in major matches towards the end. Has it had an effect on Liverpool’s stuttering start to the season? City have come out of the blocks as if it had no effect but Klopp’s team? Losing has a big effect on such players Let’s look at Ramsdale, he got relegated at most clubs he was with, and had a live link up with losing regularly. That must have been unbearable and hey, if he can’t sleep after losing, he must scarcely have slept at all. How did that affect his keeping and his well being? He must have found a way to cope. Those of us who have watched All or Nothing – Arsenal will know that he is cranky as hell in the dressing room after a defeat so it is not obvious that he has found a way. 15 losses last season and 15 sleepless nights mean that life as a professional sportsperson is a tough life. Try and get some sleep, Aaron I suspect that an eternal optimism is a requisite for coping. Another match comes around and you say I will win this. If you do, then the confidence comes back. But then if you lose the next and the next? You can find yourself like Everton, struggling to avoid relegation. We had our famous three in a row last season and all of us were in despair, but new players came in, the next 2 matches were the doomed Norwich and Burnley which we scraped home with one nil to the Arsenal and then a big turnaround against the hapless Spuds, going through a managerial crisis of their own, 3-1 to pump us up and believe in ourselves again. So we can say that winning helps you cope with losing, I think with certainty. Even winning may not be good for losing However long unbeaten spells may not be so good. Celtic and Rangers in Scotland have had spells when they were clearly on top, winning almost every match to capture all domestic trophies. However, if you watched them in Europe they were often poor, as they could only play one way, attack, and they hadn’t the nous to see games out, and play cagey, ensure a win. So losing helps you become a team that can hang on to win, going back into defence and the corner flag if necessary to play ugly football for a win. I want to go on a diversion for a moment into other sports, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are two of the biggest names in golf. Woods played 371 events and lost almost 300. McIlroy played 429 and won only 33. Roger Federer in tennis played 367 and won 103. Lewis Hamilton in F1 had 301 starts and 103 wins. Losing is the norm in those sports. Lots of top players scarcely ever taste a win. How do they cope with being losers? They continue being losers? Maybe. The Ballon D’or is the answer And that maybe is the question? Do players become great because they are in a winning team? And the reverse is true, players don’t become great because they are in a losing team? Is Harry Kane a great? He has never won a trophy. I would argue that it is a black mark against him and is why he seemingly wanted to leave for Man City or Real Madrid. Spurs, quite rightly, have done everything they could to keep him. Unless he gets a move to a top side soon or Spurs start winning trophies I doubt if he will ever be regarded among the true greats. I don’t see him doing a Van Dijk or an Aubameyang and forcing a move by going on strike. But it does mean a Ballon D’or is a distant dream. Only goes to the lucky winners? But does that mean there is an element of luck in how we regard the best players in a team sport? Are many players regarded as great because they managed to get in a top side and gelled? And others never quite made it because they were in modest sides? Jamie Vardy was ignored and unknown for most of his career well outside the top rank. He got in a Leicester side who gathered together a superb squad and became a superstar, playing for England and with that magic title that made him a winner. It is so rare that a non league player makes the grade at his age that it virtually doesn’t happen. Did bad luck stop Jamie Vardy for most of his career? Does it all come down to luck? But he does give evidence to the suspicion that luck plays a big part in whether you make it or not. Suppose Vardy had made it at a big club early in his career, winning lots of trophies, scoring lots of goals and playing regularly for England. Nobody doubts he had the ability to do so, but for whatever reason he was overlooked. As Harry Kane came up via Spurs, he would have found his way blocked by Vardy, being older. He may have struggled to get in, and not have had the respect he has now. Vardy, with the ability he undoubtably has, could have become a huge superstar to be ranked with Lineker and Shearer - and Kane? Not so well respected. Our own Ian Wright had his way blocked by Lineker and Shearer and does not have the respect accorded to those two. Kane - destined never to be a true great? Now to answer this question truly, I probably need to ask top sportspeople how do they cope with losing. Personally I would love to do that as it is a subject that fascinates me. My only conclusion at this moment is that losing only matters if you cannot lift yourself off the floor over and over again like Woods, Federer and Hamilton and indeed top soccer players, but also be in a top team that starts winning again, or you may find yourself being regarded as a lesser player than people without your talent. And that, I feel is the answer, coping with losing is about being in a top team that collectively lifts itself up time and time again. Let’s hope this new Arsenal will prove such a team.