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Emiliano Martinez | In my own words

Emi Martinez

I made a promise to my dad that I would make it. I intend to keep that promise.

I'm the No 2 for now, but it won't stay that way. My aim is to be No 1 and I'll keep working until I get there, because I'm not comfortable with just being a No 2. When I was playing for Reading, I got this feeling of being the No 1 - and I want that at Arsenal. 

I've been here for so many years and the only reason I've stayed here is because I believe I can be the No 1 here. I've got all the qualities you need.

Arsène Wenger, when he was here, always used to say to me, 'Emi, you're the future of this club'. I believe that I can be a No 1. Don't get me wrong, I accept my role as a No 2 at the moment, but my target is to get that No 1 jersey. 

Emi Martinez

Emi always appreciated Arsène Wenger's support

The reason I went out on loan last year is because I'd been training for six months but had only played two games. I went to Reading and was involved straight away. It was against Bolton on a Tuesday night and I felt as though I performed like I'd been playing week in, week out. I think that showed how professional I was. 

It was a challenge for me because I had the choice of Leeds or Reading. One of the teams was competing for promotion and the other was struggling at the time. I weighed it up and chose the harder option because I wanted to show to everyone what I could do and prove the haters wrong. Some fans were still reminding me about that 7-5 game... they forget that I was only 18 at the time. I wanted to go back there and prove that I could do it. 

In the last game of the season, the Reading fans were shouting my name and begging me to stay permanently. I can't tell you how good that felt, but that's how I want to feel all the time. I know how good I am and how good I can be. 

Fan favourite: Emi excelled on loan at Reading (via emi_martinez26 on IG)

It was huge to get that rhythm of playing every single game. It's so much tougher when you're not in the starting lineup because only one goalkeeper can only play in each game. A winger or a striker can come on and prove themselves from the bench, but as a goalkeeper you can only prove yourself in training and when you get the opportunity, you have to be ready. 

I've been here for nearly 10 years and I've probably had five or six loan spells. Finally, after nine years at the club, I've got my spot that I really wanted. Being No 2 at Arsenal you know there's 60 games a season and you know that you're at least playing 20 or 25 games, so you have to be patient, work harder than you've ever worked before and when you get that chance, do all you can to take it. 

Over the summer, I spoke to Unai and our goalkeeping coach, Javi Garcia, after my spell with Reading. I told them I would stay but said that would only be the case if I had the chance to become the No 1 here, if I had the opportunities to play and get that shirt. 

The only way you can improve yourself is through playing and I worked really hard in training, even when I was No 3 behind Petr and Bernd. I don't think anyone works as hard as I do in training, which is why I've been at this club for 10 years, but I believe you can only get the opportunity to improve from game time on the pitch. 

That's why I said to them, 'If you're going to give me the opportunity to become No 1, I will stay. Otherwise, I have 13 or 14 clubs that want me to sign for them'. It was a big decision for me and my family, and we chose what was best for my career. Arsenal is the best club for me. 

You only get one career, so I have to do what's best, and I'm lucky because my wife and my kid will follow me everywhere I go. There were offers but when I signed for Arsenal, it was to one day become No 1 for this club. It's my dream club and after my season on loan at Reading, I feel like I showed everyone how good I am. 

I said to my family, 'If Arsenal don't trust me, then it's time to move on' but Arsenal have shown lots of faith in me and I trust the club, I trust the manager and I believe we're going to have a great, great season. 

Emi's joined by his family on the pitch at the Madejski (via emi_martinez26 on IG)

I came back here from that spell with Reading with the lowest body fat percentage, more confidence than ever before and more power. That's how it needs to be whether you're the No 1, No 2 or No 3. The other thing you need to look out for is your mentality.

I'm on the bench every single game or playing, so I know I'm going to play soon. When I was No 3 and playing once every two or three months, I was thinking, 'I need to perform otherwise I'm never going to have another chance'. It's really a mental game, a psychological game. 

I don't think people realise that until it's too late. My best friend is a driving instructor and he was playing at under-17 level for Argentina alongside me, then for the under-20s. Mentally, he wasn't strong enough and wasn't doing the gym work that he needed to do. He thought he would make it with talent alone but talent is nowhere near enough. 

It's all about experience, too. Arsène used to say that goalkeepers peak when they're 30 but I believe that I already feel commanding in every aspect at the age of 27. With the ball at my feet, left foot, right foot, I feel more connected with the back four and I'm more vocal too. I was 26 when I joined Reading and I told myself, 'This is my last loan spell, I'm not doing another loan. It's Arsenal or a permanent move somewhere else'. 

Emi makes a crucial stop against Norwich for Reading

I knew I needed to step up and show how good I was, so now I just need to continue what I started at Reading, but at Arsenal. That's the type of person I am. My performance shouldn't depend on whether I face a lot of shots or not, it should be about how I handle the other aspects. My experience at other clubs shows you that I'm capable of playing at any level. 

The best thing that Reading loan taught me was to be arrogant on the pitch. It's not that arrogance where you know you're the best, it's the arrogance that gives you the confidence to show it. You should never be that arrogant off the pitch around your team-mates, just when you're on the pitch looking to prove yourself. 

That needs to be the case on the training pitches too. I actually turned up for pre-season two weeks before the rest of the team because I wanted to start sharper than anyone else. It was me and Matt Macey training together before everyone else, so when the games started it felt like I'd been training for months. 

I made a save against Fiorentina in pre-season and two minutes later, Eddie Nketiah scored. That's what it's like to play for a club like Arsenal - your contribution can help the team at the other end of the pitch too. When I finished the first half in that game, I wasn't thinking, 'I've only made two saves'. No, I believed that I helped the team win 1-0 or 2-0. That's my job now, to make the saves to help my team to get back on the attack. 

I also faced two penalty shoot-outs in pre-season, and I absolutely love them. I've only ever lost one penalty shoot-out in my life, against Real Madrid, so I think I'm quite good at them! It's a modern thing for strikers to wait for the goalkeeper to dive first, so it's tougher for us to predict where they're going but in Auba and Laca, I train with two of the best penalty takers every day. Because of that, I know I'm good enough to save at least one or two in a shoot-out. 

Everyone always says, 'The goalkeeper has no pressure in a shoot-out' and it's true because if they score, that's it. But then when you're in a penalty shoot-out and you're playing in the semi-final or final, all your team-mates expect you to save one or two. I never want to let me team-mates down, I want to help them win the shoot-out even if it's a friendly. I celebrated the win over Angers like it was the Champions League final and I do the same in training because I'm a very competitive guy. I just want to win every time.

Bernd's just the same. He's a great guy, so is Matt. Along with Sal Bibbo and Javi, it's a very friendly training group. Recently, we had a competition in training and the person who lost had to help Javi and Sal pick up all the mannequins and cones, and then we make them get us doughnuts from Tesco too! It's just stuff like that which makes the competition fun. We're three young, talented goalkeepers and we all want the same thing: the No 1 shirt. 

It's very hard to go to training every day and not like the person you're training with - and that's happened to me in the past, where the other goalkeeper is too arrogant and disrespects the goalkeeping coaches. Coming into work thinking you're going to face that every day is not nice, so we make sure that we have a great group. We go out for dinner together too because it's nice to have a good relationship with them. They're my friends but on the pitch, they're my rivals. 

Emi Martinez

Goalkeepers' Union: Emi and Bernd have been working well together in training

When I play, I want to be the best and I want to play every game. I promised my dad I was going to make it and I will make it. It's what drives me through and has kept me at the top for so many years. I came from a poor background, my dad couldn't afford to buy me gloves when I was younger and sometimes we wouldn't have any meat because he didn't have enough money to buy dinner. 

I said to him when I joined Independiente that I was going to make it and then Arsenal bought me. When I signed here, I said to him, 'I just want you to be happy and proud of me' and told myself that I would not leave this country until I was No 1. He's always there in my thoughts, at training or on matchdays. He calls me every day, he watches every game.

Even when I don't play, he'll watch every single game until the final minute just to see if I come on or not. I want to show him that it's all been worth it, that he can be proud of my journey. I don't know if I'm going to be the No 1 in two months or 10 years, but I will be. 

Emi Martinez

Emi Martinez

 

 

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