Martinez's chance to shed his 'backup' tag

LONDON • Arsenal's Emiliano Martinez has a point to prove in today's FA Cup final against Chelsea as he looks to shake off the tag of backup goalkeeper, a title he has held since joining the club's academy in 2010.

Until first-choice stopper Bernd Leno suffered a season-ending knee injury against Brighton in June, the Argentinian had not made a single Premier League appearance for the Gunners since the 2016-17 season.

But Martinez has impressed in the German's absence, keeping four clean sheets in 10 starts, and he is determined to show at Wembley that he can challenge Leno in the long term.

The game against Chelsea will provide a stern test of his credentials, but the 27-year-old is looking forward to the challenge.

The final will not only be the culmination of a long journey to reach the top, but he is also aware that winning the trophy and sealing a Europa League spot will be crucial in attracting new faces to the Emirates during the transfer window.

Chelsea have already qualified for the Champions League via finishing fourth in the Premier League, while Arsenal can play in the Europa League next season if they lift the Cup.

"People say, '10 years you never played.' It's not (true). It's never played for Arsenal," he said. "But I played and I dealt with a lot of frustration on loan (spells at six different clubs), and it made me the man and the player that I am today.

"In football, everything changes and now I am finishing the season playing every game. But it's not over - I need to win that trophy.

"You know that if you play in the Europa League next season, it is another way to qualify for the Champions League. We want to play in Europe. We want it more than them. That's the reality. That might be a big part in the final."

He will not be the only backup goalkeeper taking centre stage today as compatriot Willy Caballero looks set to start in between the sticks for the Blues.

While Chelsea boss Frank Lampard refused to confirm his No. 1 pick, he all but hinted Kepa Arrizabalaga - the world's most expensive goalkeeper - would be dropped after a string of unconvincing displays since the Premier League's restart in June.

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, he said: "Difficult because we have competition in the squad.

"I have changed it at times, we consider the games as we go. I know how much players want to be in these games. People off the bench have made a huge difference in recent games."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'Martinez's chance to shed his 'backup' tag'. Print Edition | Subscribe