Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has explained why he left Emi Martinez on the bench against Tottenham, and offered insight on his selection plan moving forward.
Martinez returned to Bodymoor Heath on Friday morning after being given an extended break following his World Cup heroics, meaning he only had one day of training before we travelled to north London.
Emery took the decision to stick with Robin Olsen between the posts on that basis, a move that ultimately paid off as we kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Antonio Conte’s side on Sunday, with Martinez only making the bench.
Given the superior quality and leadership that he brings to the side, the expectation is that Martinez will come straight back into the Villa starting XI when he’s considered fully recovered and ready, and Emery said as much when speaking after the win over Spurs.
“Our plan was always to give Emi a rest after the World Cup,” he said, as per The Express and Star. “With Robin we were working as well and trying to give him confidence. He will get confidence from playing in matches. He really deserved his clean sheet and his performance was excellent as well.
“Emi is going to train with us tomorrow and on Tuesday and will be closer to playing with us. But after today, we can have belief in Robin Olsen. Emi is very important. He is the No.1. Robin knows his role and is very positive as a person. His role is very important as well. In matches like today when we needed his performance, he was fantastic.”
While it remains to be seen if Olsen keeps his place for another game on merit, it’s clear from Emery’s comments above that Martinez is undoubtedly our first-choice goalkeeper when available.
Further, with two more days of training before we face Wolves on Wednesday night, Emery sounds hopeful that the Argentine international be ready to play this time, as that simply wasn’t the case for the Tottenham game after such a short turnaround following his arrival back in England.
There was also a fairly clear suggestion in those comments that Olsen is ultimately happy with his role as a back-up option, but it was important for him to produce a positive display and prove that he can deputise when needed and be a reliable presence at the back for us.
After some shaky performances and having conceded 11 goals in three games this season prior to Sunday, confidence would have been low and the pressure building on the Swedish stalwart. Now though, it’s good that he’s put in a solid shift to give himself a mental boost as he will potentially be important again this season if either Martinez is forced to miss time or if Emery opts to rotate in the FA Cup.