It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Far-Fetched Friday: Emiliano Martinez to make PL and FIFPro TOTY
By: Jake Lofgren
Goalkeepers are notorious for being late bloomers. The position is obviously vastly different than any other position in football, so it makes a lot of sense that the career path would be unique. Aston Villa goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, is a pretty extreme example of this. Martinez was a long-time goalkeeper for Arsenal from 2010-2020. He was loaned out six different times during his tenure at Arsenal and did not start to play until last season a 27 years old.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at someone who stands as an example of staying ready so you don't have to get ready.
I mean, for outfield players, how often do we see new hot prospects break out anywhere from 18-21 years old. There are plenty of outfield players who start to make their name before then, like Jude Bellingham, who is closer to 17 than he is 18 years old. Goalkeepers, on the other hand, rarely breakthrough this young. Keepers like Gigi Donnarumma and Illan Meslier are rare as they are already starting goalkeepers at high levels at only 22 and 21 years old. This is because only one goalkeeper can play at a time versus ten field players. So, it takes goalies a longer time to break out and become a starter.
Martinez's chance didn't come until the starting goalkeeper at Arsenal, Bernd Leno, suffered a major knee injury during the post-lockdown era against Brighton. As a long-term backup at Arsenal, this was Martinez's big chance to step up for the club he represented since he was 19 years old. He made 15 appearances for the club in total, but it was enough to be their best player on a great journey towards an FA Cup trophy. With this opportunity, Arsenal had to choose between him and Leno to make their new number one. Inevitably, Arsenal made the wrong decision and sold him to Aston Villa so he could finally become a starting goalkeeper.
Let's not beat around the bush, Emi Martinez is a world-class goalkeeper, and he might even be the best one in the world. I know that sounds like a whole lot of recency bias since he has only been a starter for about a year, but on form, he is the best on the planet.
Just look at what he has helped spark at Aston Villa. They looked down and out last season and could currently be in the second division if not for a referee mistake late in the season. And in the preseason, many predicted Villa to go down again this season (even me).
But 29 games in, Villa has 44 points and could still finish in a European place. Even though the club has Jack Grealish, Martinez has still been their most influential player.
Villa has only conceded 31 goals, which is the 3rd lowest in the entire league. For reference on how ridiculous that is, last season Villa conceded 67 goals, which was 2nd highest in the league. Martinez also has 14 clean sheets in these 29 games, which is joint 2nd in the league. Last season Villa only managed to get 7.
Ederson may win the Premier League's goalkeeper of the year because of City's dominance this season, resulting in having 17 clean sheets and conceding only 21 goals so far. But their defensive improvements are not because of Ederson; the new partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones has been immense this season.
Manchester City rank last in the league in shots on target faced by 21 and consequentially ranks first in the fewest goals conceded.
But what we see with Aston Villa is a team that has faced the 7th most shots on target in the league but ranks third in goals against, entirely down to Martinez's incredible play in goal.
So now, let's compare him to Europe then. Can he still beat out the likes of Jan Oblak, Manuel Neuer, or Marc-Andre Ter-Stegen for the FIFPro TOTY. Well, he certainly has the stats to back it up. It is not enough to be the best in England; Martinez has to be the best in Europe. His numbers hold up admirably in relation to the Big 5 Leagues: England, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany.
His save percentage of 79.2% ranks within the 97th percentile compared to these other keepers putting him in an elite category. He manages to rake up a clean sheet percentage of 45.9% with Aston Villa, ranking in the 96th percentile. Which is a tremendous feat considering he is playing for a team that was a relegation candidate last season. And all while only conceding 1.06 goals per game ranking in the 85th percentile. Lastly, his Post Shots Expected Goals minus Goals allowed is +0.34. A stat that analyzes how likely a goalkeeper is to make a save. Being above 0 roughly means you are saving more shots than expected. In this category, Martinez is at the very top, ranking in the 99th percentile.
All in all, Martinez is an elite goalkeeper when it comes to making saves, and these stats prove this.
His ball-playing ability or defensive actions outside the box certainly are not what you would expect from Alisson or Neuer, but that isn't the type of keeper Villa needs him to be. They ask him to be a traditional shot-stopping goalkeeper, and at that job, he might be the best goalkeeper the world has. He is an inspiration to many showing what hard work, dedication, and passion can lead to if you stay on the right track.
My official Far-Fetched Friday prediction is that Emiliano Martinez will end 2021 on the Premier League and FIFPro team's of the year.
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