Has there been a more impressive summer signing than Emiliano Martinez at Aston Villa?
The Argentine goalkeeper arrived in the summer from fellow Premier League side Arsenal after helping them to FA Cup and Community Shield success, and had Martinez stayed put at the Emirates and been their number one for this season, nobody would have batted an eyelid.
That’s how good the 6 foot 4 titan has been over the past six to eight months since he first started playing regular first-team football, and on Saturday night against Southampton, he proved why he’s a real difference-maker for Dean Smith’s side.
He made a couple of really crucial saves at important times, not least late on against Ryan Bertrand when the Saints were really pushing for an equaliser.
As per Sofascore, three of the four stops that he made were from inside the box, and his reactions for such a big man are remarkably impressive. His distribution also improved as the game wore on, completing ten of his 25 attempted long balls, which was far higher than his season average of 7.5.
In his post-match player ratings, The Birmingham Mail’s Ashley Preece gave him the Man of the Match award with an 8.5 score, and wrote: “The Argentinian started off a bit shaky with a series of nervy kicks which went low and wayward. Martinez was first made to work by Armstrong and saved well at the near post.
“After the break with Saints much more menacing, the stopper produced a really brave save to deny Che Adams as he rushed out to deny the ex-Blues striker after he was slipped in by Ings. Showed good positioning – a strong skill of his – to kick clear when Ings raced away. Martinez saved well from Bednarek at the front stick late on and fully deserved his 10th clean sheet of the season. Saved well from Bertrand at the end as well. Brilliant. Star man.”
Martinez’s latest shut-out takes him to ten for the season in the Premier League, with only Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson having kept more with 12.
But sometimes, the stats just don’t reflect the whole picture. The Argentine’s coolness under pressure has radiated a sense of calm to Villa’s back-line, and that’s something only the likes of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa et al can speak about.
It’s no wonder that The Athletic’s Gregg Evans simply hailed Martinez as “something else” after the game on Saturday night.