Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has revealed he annoyed a few of his Arsenal-supporting friends when he signed Emi Martinez while Mikel Arteta says he didn’t want to sell the keeper.

Aston Villa's Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez dives but cannot reach a shot from Southampton's English striker Danny Ings (not pictured) as Southampton take a 4-0 lead during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on November 1, 2020. (Photo by Gareth Copley / POOL / AFP)
Aston Villa’s Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez dives but cannot reach a shot from Southampton’s English striker Danny Ings (not pictured) as Southampton take a 4-0 lead during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on November 1, 2020. (Photo by Gareth Copley / POOL / AFP)

Martinez returns to the Emirates this weekend for the first time since leaving in the summer. The Argentine spent a large portion of the transfer window demanding he be assured of number one status at Arsenal, something that wasn’t going to happen.

As a result, he moved to Birmingham to try and be Villa’s number one.

“I have a few Arsenal mates and I did get some not particularly glowing text messages from them after we took him,” Smith told the media before Sunday’s game.

Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, said that it wasn’t in his plans to sell Martinez however he fails to mention it was in the club’s plans as they’d been trying to sell him since at least the summer before.

“He had a career of 10 years here. It wasn’t just the last six or eight months,” Arteta said.

“You have to look at everything he did through his time at the club. Obviously, it wasn’t in my plans to sell him, but we gave him the chance because he deserved it.

“He performed really really well but we have to balance the books. We have to make the right choices in the market and obviously, I couldn’t guarantee him to be the number one.

“He’s a very ambitious person, he has been working really hard and he can see now that the opportunity is there. He’s got the opportunity to play with Argentina and when a player asks you to do that I think you have to be open enough and tell him what you think about him.

“If he makes the decision to leave, you should try to support him because he deserves it for the way he has served the club over the years.”

Emi Martinez: Moving to Aston Villa was a step up in my career

Emi Martinez signed for Aston Villa but by moving so soon after the Cup final, did he show why he never made it at Arsenal?

Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal goalkeeper, sleeps while hugging the FA Cup
Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal goalkeeper, sleeps while hugging the FA Cup

Perhaps Emiliano Martinez, in his heart, knew that he would never top starting in goal at Wembley and then winning the FA Cup with Arsenal.

Perhaps that’s why he’s spent his summer very publicly demanding Arsenal give him something they give few, if any, players – a guaranteed starting spot.

Usually, at a club like Arsenal, that is something you earn. Then you keep. It’s why they are a top club. They make their players fight for places.

It’s also why Arsenal have been on the slide over recent years – too many players knew they didn’t have to fight for a starting spot. It was theirs just for turning up.

Speaking after he signed for Villa, Martinez said, “I’m in the best shape of my career and when I didn’t have the security of that game time, I wasn’t sure about staying. I’m fighting to be Argentina’s number one, that’s my dream.

“Aston Villa is a massive club, I had no doubts over coming here. Everyone thinks it’s a step down going from Arsenal to Villa, but I actually think it’s a step up in my career.”

Emiliano Martinez was at Arsenal so long he was called Damian when the club fist signed him.

10 years is a long time to be anywhere, especially far from home. A lot of things can happen in that sort of time frame. Laser eye surgery, GPS, Social Media. These are all things that were as common in our vocabulary in 2010 when Martinez arrived in London from Buenos Aires as the name ‘Damian Martinez’ was.

That is to say, not very.

Emi Martinez during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Olympique Lyonnais at the Emirates Stadium on July 25, 2015 in London, England.
Emi Martinez during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Olympique Lyonnais at the Emirates Stadium on July 25, 2015 in London, England.

10 years is also a long time to prove yourself as a player and until the last few months, Martinez had not done that. Had he, he would not have been on the verge of being sold until Bernd Leno met Neal Maupay. Arsenal were even trying to sell him last summer.

Few would have cared then.

I feel like we’ve been here before. Different players, slightly different situations, same outcome.

There was Mathieu Debuchy demanding he be immediately reinstated as number-one right-back when fit despite how well Hector Bellerin had done in his lengthy absence. He moaned a lot, too.

There was Alex Song, running off to Barcelona despite Arsene Wenger standing by him from the days when he was spectacularly awful. Song at least played for the first team 205 times before he decided he was too good to for the club.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Martinez wanting to be number one. In fact, there would be something wrong with his mentality if he didn’t. But wanting and demanding are two very different things. And this summer, Martinez did a lot of public demanding.

He may well have performed exceptionally in the German’s absence, but they both train under the same coaches and are watched by the same eyes. Leno is first choice and has deserved that honour thanks to his consistent levels of performance. Martinez still had work to do.

It’s all very well proving you can do it over 12 games in a row, but can you do it over 38? And then do it again the next season?

That’s when you get to make demands. Not after less than a third of a season out of a decade-long spell at the club.

So, it’s off to Villa Martinez went where he will no doubt make an adequate number one.

The fact that he’s leaving at all when he’s never been so close to seizing what he’s wanted for so long might, perhaps, demonstrate why he’s never been able to fully grab it in the first place despite trying for 10 years.

What Emi Martinez said as he left

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Emiliano Martinez of Arsenal is seen with a Always Forward on their back during the Heads Up FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 01, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 01: Emiliano Martinez (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

“Thank you, thank you for all of the years [of support],” Martinez told Arsenal.com. “I thank God for having the opportunity over the past few months to show the Arsenal fanbase what I am made of, and why I went on loan so many times.

“It was always to come back and win them trophies and give them silverware. I did it, I feel prouder than ever.

“They made me as a goalkeeper; not just the club, not just my goalkeeping coaches but the fans as well because they supported me, gave me the confidence to perform as well and I wish them all the best and hope they win many, many trophies. Thank you. That’s all I can say.”

What Aston Villa said after they signed him

via Aston Villa

Dean Smith said: “We are really pleased with the signing of our new goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

“We know how highly Arsenal rated him and we watched his outstanding performances last season in a trophy-winning top side.

“We moved for Emi when we saw the opportunity, as it is rare to be able to buy a top class goalkeeper who hasn’t yet reached their peak age and who can therefore be a key player for our Club for the long term.”