Arsenal made a mistake in allowing Emi Martinez to leave, says Ian Wright, with a proven goalkeeper now worth “a lot more” than the £20 million ($27m) the Gunners brought in from his sale.
The Argentine goalkeeper worked his way into contention for regular game time towards the end of the 2019-20 campaign, with an unfortunate injury suffered by Bernd Leno leaving a door open.
Martinez made the most of his opportunity, catching the eye in Premier League outings and a triumphant FA Cup run.
Leno was, however, restored to the number one role at Emirates Stadium when back to full fitness, forcing his competition to look elsewhere.
Wright admires Martinez for putting his career first and pushing for a switch to Aston Villa, but admits he would have preferred to see the South American remain in north London.
Arsenal have lacked reliable cover in his absence, with Runar Alex Runarsson making a costly mistake during a rare outing against Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
Martinez, meanwhile, has been thriving at Villa, keeping seven clean sheets to lead the Golden Glove race and see his transfer value soar.
On the Wrighty’s House Podcast, an Arsenal icon said of the Gunners’ inability to keep a useful option on their books in what is shaping up to be a testing campaign: “The thing with Emi is, I always look at players like that, he’s 26, 27, and he’s just said ‘I’m leaving’, it’s about me, and I admire that.
“I think that, even though towards the end I went to Burnley and I went to Scotland because it was a great experience to go to Scotland at that stage of my career, but during the meat and bones of my career, I don’t think I would have had that in me to say I’m leaving.
“You have to admire that, now look at him, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.
“In the end, the money we got for him, you had to take, but he’s worth a lot more than that now.”
Martinez has claimed that Arsenal went back on their word before he headed for the exits, with assurances offered to him that he would be a favoured option between the sticks even with Leno fit.
His decision to walk away has been justified, with those he left behind at the Emirates hitting a serious slump this season to see uncomfortable questions asked of leading figures on and off the field.