As Mikel Arteta prepares for his first full season in management with a trophy already sitting in his cabinet, he now has a decision to make that he wouldn’t have anticipated.
When he joined, Bernd Leno was the undisputed No.1 goalkeeper at Arsenal and deservedly so. He was making numerous saves a game to keep them in matches, while his distribution was good enough for Arteta to want to play out from the back.
Then he got injured against Brighton. A serious looking knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the season and Emiliano Martinez stepped in for his first real chance in the first team since joining the club a decade earlier.
Martinez went on to keep three clean sheets in his next four games, played a blinder against Liverpool in their 2-1 win, was reliable against Manchester City where he kept a clean sheet and did well against Chelsea as they won the FA Cup final.
There’s now a question mark over who should be the long-term No.1 goalkeeper for the Gunners, with fans split.
So who should be the No.1 choice? Obviously their sample sizes are vastly different. Martinez made 23 appearances in all competitions this season while Leno made 32 but the level of opposition was different. Martinez only made 9 appearances in the league, with one of them being when he came on as a substitute against Brighton. The rest of his games were split across the cup competitions, meaning it was likely against weaker sides or with a rotated Arsenal side ahead of him.
One thing was clear during the games at the end of the season though, Martinez is a competent No.1. He claims crosses at a much better and more comfortable rate than Leno, while his reflexes are equally impressive in one on one situations. He organises the defence well and is vocal at set pieces, as Arsenal conceded just 4 of their 15 set piece goals with him between the sticks.
Leno though, is a deserving No.1 option himself. He’s a German international with a wealth of experience who only lost his place through injury. His performances were very good prior to the incident at Brighton and he was in the running alongside captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for player of the season. His distribution is very good, his reaction times are excellent and he’s a filling present in the goal for one on one situations. A problem Leno has is he doesn’t like to claim crosses off his line, something Martinez excels at.
Both players have strengths where the other has weakness but ultimately I think Leno should stay as the No.1 goalkeeper at the Emirates. His experience will be vital to what will be a younger defence next year. Emiliano Martinez has stated that if he isn’t first choice next year that he could look to leave for more regular football, which would be a shame for Arsenal. But at this rate, there is only a year difference between the two and for me Leno is the better keeper. If there is interest in Martinez, which I’m sure there will be, Arsenal should look to get the fee of a first-choice keeper for him and put their face in the German.