Emiliano Martinez insisted he made a step up in his career when he left Arsenal for Aston Villa.
Martinez has been a revelation since joining Villa in a £20m switch and his new club are now dreaming of Europe as they are sixth, three points off the top and have a game in hand on leaders Leicester.
But Arsenal find themselves in the bottom half of the table after they were thumped by Villa at the Emirates and Martinez’s decision to force a move in the summer currently looks a wise choice with the clubs seemingly moving in opposite directions.
Martinez said: “They were all saying it was a step down in my career, but I always said it was a step up.
“When I decided to come to Villa it was because I trusted the manager and the club’s ambitions, and I knew how big Villa are.
“Some people do not realise how big Aston Villa are.
“I said on day one my ambition is to be in Europe with Aston Villa.
“I want to take this club as high as possible and we are on the right path. Can it be done this season? Yes. But we have to work for it.”
Martinez, 28, became something of a cult hero with Arsenal fans after getting his chance in the team when first choice Bernd Leno got injured at Brighton in just the second game of Project Restart.
Villa keeper Martinez was faultless in his performances, was a hero in their FA Cup success and many Arsenal fans thought Arsenal should keep him and sell Leno in the summer when it became clear Mikel Arteta would struggle to keep both happy as they each wanted to be No.1.
But Martinez has spoken for the first time about the emotional decision to leave Arsenal and how he ended up sending a text message to Gunners boss Arteta on the eve of the first game of the season to force a move.
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Martinez said: “I told him I wanted to play week in, week out and he couldn’t guarantee who was going to start.
“Even before the Community Shield he didn’t know who was going to play in goal. I just wanted to play first-team football and Arsenal could not guarantee me that.
“After 10 years at the club I didn’t want to wait until Friday night, the day before the game, to know whether I was going to play against Fulham or not.
“So I just text him to say I was going to Aston Villa, so please help me and let me go.
“He was very honest and very open with me. He helped me to leave the club after so many years. I’ve already said how grateful I am for that and how pleased I am about how well he is doing at Arsenal. I’m so happy he is the leader of the club.”
Did Emiliano Martinez make a “step up” by leaving Arsenal for Aston Villa in the summer transfer window? Have your say here.
Martinez became a hot property in the summer when it became clear he could be on the move as the 6ft 5in keeper – who has already been called up by Argentina – with interest from other clubs in the Premier League and also abroad.
But as soon as Villa came in for him, there was never any hesitation in Martinez’s mind and he revealed they started courting him from the day after the FA Cup final. Martinez said Villa boss Dean Smith set out their ambitions and he believes the club is going places.
Martinez said: “I knew the club’s ambitions and the manager’s ambitions. They called me from day one after the win against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.
“What I like about this team is how we reacted after two defeats – it is not easy to react like that away from home against a team like Arsenal. Especially after they had beaten Manchester United away at Old Trafford. So they were in a good spirit, but we were outstanding.
“We always say how good a young team we are, we’ve got so much talent. We want to give them a structure from the back and we need to give them clean sheets and something behind them because they are so good going forward.
“But it’s not just the attacking guys but the defensive ones as well, the way they play and show commitment. So when we see the front four pressing the way they do, it gives the rest of us confidence and we try to give confidence to them, so it’s a really balanced team.”
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