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Eintracht Frankfurt

'I'm more than ready' - Martinez aims to use Europa League to oust Leno as Arsenal No.1

12:00 BST 19/09/2019
Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal
The Argentine 'keeper decided to stay at the Emirates this season and is expected to start for the Gunners against Frankfurt on Thursday night

It took Emiliano Martinez a few days to decide, but in his heart of hearts he always knew he would be staying at Arsenal in the summer.

After a superb loan spell with Reading during the second half of last season, the giant Argentine 'keeper knew he was going to have a decision to make.

Was it time to leave Arsenal after nearly a decade in north London to become a regular elsewhere?

It was either that or return to the Gunners to battle Bernd Leno and try to wrestle the number one jersey away from the German international.

Martinez flew back to Argentina to ponder his future and it was there where he took a phone call from Javi Garcia, the goalkeeping coach at the Emirates.

Garcia told the 27-year-old that he was a big part of Unai Emery’s plans and that even though Leno had established himself as first choice, there would be plenty of opportunities for Martinez to stake his claim.

From that point on, the thought of leaving Arsenal was never really an option.

“I spoke with Javi for an hour,” Martinez exclusively told Goal. “I said to give me a few days to decide, but Arsenal has always been my dream.

“It’s the club I love. So when I had the opportunity to play more games, I didn’t have any doubts that I wanted to stay here and help.”

Although he has yet to be told whether he will be handed his first start of the season in the Europa League this week, the expectation is that Martinez will be in goal when Arsenal travel to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night.

Emery gave an opportunity to his second-choice 'keeper throughout last season’s competition, with Petr Cech even starting ahead of Leno in the final against Chelsea in Baku.

If he is given the nod, it’s a chance Martinez has been waiting for - and he insists he is ready to make his mark.

“We don’t know who is going to play yet,” he said. “If it is me, then I’m more than ready.

“I haven’t missed a training session in more than five years, I’ve played loads of games since the beginning of January and I played well in pre-season so I’m confident enough to go into the game away from home and perform, 100 per cent.

“I stayed because I believe I can perform at the highest level so I have no pressure.

“Pressure is fighting relegation last season with Reading when we needed the points. With Arsenal, with the quality we’ve got and what I can give to this club, I feel no pressure.”

And Martinez is adamant that he does not just see the Europa League as an opportunity to get off the bench and enjoy some game time.

He will be using it to show Unai Emery he is a better keeper than Leno and that he should be first choice in the Premier League, rather than last year’s £20 million ($25m) addition from Bayer Leverkusen.

“I just feel I am experienced enough now to become number one for this club and to help Arsenal reach their goals,” said Martinez.

“No-one likes sitting on the bench when you feel like you are ready to play.

“But you have to wait for your chances like everyone does in this club. The competition is always high. I knew that when I made my decision, but I believe that I can become number one.

“The reason I stayed was because I want to be number one. That’s my goal and obviously I need to perform in the Europa League if I get that chance.”

Martinez added: “He [Leno] is a lovely guy.

“Me, Bernd and Matt Macey with Javi and Sal [Bibbo] get on with each other. It makes the training sessions really easy.

“We had dinner together once, so when we are off the field we are friendly and work well together, but when we are on the pitch - we all just want to play.”

Arsenal travel to Germany this week on the back of a painful afternoon at Watford on Sunday when they blew the chance of moving up to third in the Premier League.

Having led 2-0 at half-time, a disastrous defensive performance saw them pegged back to 2-2 and in the end they were fortunate to leave Vicarage Road with a point.

Emery’s side haven’t won in their last three games and in Frankfurt they face a side who pushed Chelsea last season at Stamford Bridge.

“They only lost in the semi-finals last season to Chelsea on penalties so we know they are strong and have nothing to lose,” said Martinez.

“They will be at home so it’s going to be a really tough game for us, but we have to go away and start with three points.

“I was involved in every single game of the group stage last season and played once before I went on loan to Reading so I know what is coming.”