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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!
Oh dear Jesus, we need you to save us And so we are nearly there. Most likely France vs Argentina and no Arsenal player gets to play this time in the final. Only one of our boys involved in all the four teams left in William Saliba and he doesn’t look likely to play any part in it. I think it is fair to say that it is not a great World Cup for Arsenal. Saka and Xhaka were probably their team’s best players. Turner did great for the States and has come out with his reputation enhanced, surely? Partey was good but Ghana were not so great. Our star star boy Jesus gave us a big setback and here in the Arsenal supporters club there was awful despondency with his exit. Martinelli showed glimpses of his talent but some Brazilians seemed reluctant to give him the ball, seemingly down to rivalry. Once I saw that I got a feeling Brazil would go out. I predicted to several friends that Croatia will give them a hard game and probably win to general scorn from them being convinced it would be a many goal victory for the Samba boys. You need a united team to win a World Cup and, I reckon that Tite felt he no longer had full control and that is why he exited sharply. A manager knows that all players must go through fire for each other despite any personal differences. Brazil, with the most talented squad in the competition, obviously allowed egos to dominate and Tite couldn’t stamp it out. No manager can perform miracles if the players refuse to listen. Brazil deserved to go out. Saka the great, Southgate not so Saka has made excellent strides into cementing his place among the elite players of his generation with most observers putting him at the top of England’s players. I have doubts about Bellingham despite the noise being created about him. He did it against weaker teams. Against France he was anonymous. Southgate is still lauded by England but I have reservations about him. Klopp, I feel is right. He lets the media pick his team. Everyone screamed Foden, he played him. The pundits were saying Bellingham was the greatest midfielder in the world, so he played him. Kalvin Philips played very well whenever picked and I think he was the better option against the French. Bellingham is playing in a Dortmund side that has lost six in fifteen in the Bundesliga, and that league is not as competitive as the Premier league. He may well fulfill his potential but he needs time. Gareth Southgate - does the media pick his beard? The thing is, Southgate, Ben White apart, seems to have the support of his team. He didn’t have to pander to the media. He could have played what he sees as his best team and would have been supported. Bring Bellingham on if he needed to freshen things up. And don’t take off your most effective player when you were still in with a chance of winning the World Cup. Southgate has been very lucky as a manager, mostly getting weaker teams at major championships and that conflates to a heightening of his reputation. I don’t accept him as a good manager. The Ben White situation is an example of why I feel Southgate is overrated. White has not attracted a reputation of being difficult at anywhere he has been, and a player being sent home, or going home voluntarily from a major championship is an extremely rare occurrence. That is down to Southgate, I feel. Jude Bellingham - not the finished product yet Egos are in charge The contrast with Tite, who is dealing with almighty egos in the Brazilian dressing room, is stark. One example is that our own Unai Emery, when coach at PSG, famously said that Neymar is in charge. Players should never be and as Tite picked Martinelli, the players needed to work with him. Tite believed in him as he played him, but other players decided differently. Those players should never be allowed compete for Brazil again unless they accept the manager is in charge. Tite was given an impossible job And what does it all mean for Arsenal? Bring Balogun or Pepe back as backup for Jesus? Can Nketiah step up? Eddie has been training with Jesus and reports suggest that it has improved his game. England’s under 21 all time top scorer, if he reproduces that form, could make it difficult for Jesus to get back in. That is the most optimistic scenario. He does seem a more effective goalscorer than Jesus but Jesus brings an enhanced element of threat with his all round game which has translated into many wins for us. There are rumours of strikers being bought but there always is. Arsenal should be ready Turner and Karl Hein have shown they can truly challenge Ramsdale. That has to be good for our season. Ben White’s difficulty could mean he has a mental challenge to overcome but I feel the Arsenal family will rally around him. Saliba should be fresh unless he gets picked for the last (possible) 2 games but that is unlikely. Centrebacks rarely get subbed. Xhaka and Partey, so essential to our side, look fit and well. Martinelli will be raring to go as always. It could be worse. Olivier just keeps getting better I predicted France at the start in a previous blog and still feel happy. They have a strong defensive structure and that is essential. Their midfielders and forwards are top class and they surely will stop the Morocco dreadnought that has lit up this World Cup. Morocco have done it without kicking and cheating to anywhere near the extent of other teams ( I am looking at you Argentina) but France will probably be too gamewise to let it slip. A sporting World Cup? Argentina have always been thugs without any class and this World cup is no different. Football is a sport and, as such sporting attitudes should prevail. I hope they lose against Croatia. I think that Croatia will more likely lose, though. Argentina will find a way to win. If Croatia does win, even though I have predicted France, I would love to see Morocco go through. I think that only France can stop an unsporting Argentinian team from winning the World Cup, however. Contrast several French players consoling the England ones and the Argentinians sneering at the Dutch. This has been a pretty sporting World Cup, Argentina aside. I still like Emi I will finish with a little tiny bit of praise for myself as a forecaster. So far, since I started predicting what we will do in tournaments, I have done pretty well, generally getting to within 3 points of our eventual tally. And I hope I have got this World Cup right. I will do my next prediction next week and as usual, give you all our scores in advance. That part is a bit of fun, but I do get a lot of results right, if not always the scores. Maybe I should start betting, this Arsenal team still look like a good bet to me.