Before picking up a knee injury at Brighton, many Arsenal fans were calling for a Bernd Leno statue, such was the German’s contribution last season, but Emi Martinez’s cameo showed just how fickle fans really are.
Emi Martinez was at Arsenal for 10 years but that was more luck than design. The club tried to sell him in the summer of 2019 and, after six loans, was seemingly headed for the door in the summer of 2020, too.
Then Leno’s knee crumpled when he was shoved by Neal Maupay in a game that would ultimately cost two Arsenal players their Arsenal careers.
Martinez stepped in and impressed, there is no doubt. He showed a form and level of concentration he had not managed in the previous decade. If he had, then the club wouldn’t have been trying to get rid of him.
Nine Premier League appearances and a run in the FA Cup to help Arsenal win the trophy was enough to convince Martinez that he could demand the club make him number one on a permanent basis.
Fans joined him.
There was no agreement to be found between player and club and Martinez was sold to Aston Villa where he has performed adequately. Stats show that he is overperforming while Leno is currently underperforming. As such, they are both of a level so far this season. You can see more on that below.
But every mistake Leno makes is greeted with cries from a large section of fans that we sold the wrong keeper.
How short their memories really are.
Make no mistake, there were times last season when we were talking, in all seriousness, that Bernd Leno was the only reason Arsenal weren’t in the relegation zone. Do you remember how bad we were until Unai Emery was sacked?
I mean, do you really remember?
Leno hasn’t made the greatest start to this season, for whatever reason, but given most Arsenal fans aren’t watching Aston Villa on a regular basis, claims Martinez is a better option are baseless. It’s recency bias in play.
At the time of his injury, Leno was number two in the list of goalkeepers with the most saves last season in the Premier League and second for punched clearances, and we all know what we saw with our own eyes. People weren’t calling for a statue for Leno just for a laugh (not that they are serious about him getting a statue). They also weren’t calling for Martinez to replace him.
This is what I wrote when Leno was first injured and we were having to turn to Martinez at a time when every point really did matter; “We now have to turn to a keeper who, at 27, should be hitting the best years of his life but has made just 26 first team appearances for Arsenal in 10 years.
“In fact, it has looked very much like the club were trying to replace him as number two given the number of keepers we’ve already been linked with.”
Nobody disagreed. In fact, people willingly joined me in what, thankfully, turned out to be unnecessary concern.
But the concern was, nonetheless, there.
How soon people forget…
Emi Martinez vs Bernd Leno was always going to be the big talking point as Martinez returned to the Emirates with Aston Villa, so how is he doing compared to Bernd Leno?
Every time Bernd Leno makes a mistake, Twitter is flooded with comments from Arsenal fans about how we should have kept Emi Martinez.
The Argentine, Twitter would have you believe, is better in just about every metric measuring a goalkeeper despite the fact he was an Arsenal player for 10 years before he looked good enough to be our number one.
So, let’s look at this season’s stats. There are some surprises for a few of you.
Emi Martinez vs Bernd Leno (up to 7 November 2020)
|Emi Martinez||Bernd Leno|
|Minutes played (league)|
|Goals against xGA|
|Goals against per 90 mins|
|Shots on target faced|
|Free kick goals conceded|
|Corner kick goals conceded|
|Own goals conceded|
|Post-shot xG per 90|
|Long pass completed|
|Long passes attempted|
|Long pass completion %|
|Average length of kicks|
|Average length goal kicks|
|Crosses stopped by keeper|
|% crosses stopped|
|Defensive actions outside box|
|Defensive actions outside box per 90|
|Average distance outside box|
|Touches inside box|
|Live ball touches|
|Carried distance total|
|Carried distance total forward|
|Received ball %|
|Points per game|
Stats via fbref.com
As you can see from those stats Martinez is slightly overperforming while Leno is underperforming and that keeps them pretty level.
One thing is clear, even given that, Leno is far better with the ball at his feet than Martinez, despite what the prevailing wisdom would have you believe.