While Unai Emery rightly continues to earn plaudits for the job he has done at Aston Villa thus far, Emiliano Martinez has been one of several fundamental players who have been crucial in our improved form.
Villa have now secured five wins in the seven Premier League games that Emery has been in charge of so far, and although there was disappointment in the cup competitions, the progression made under the Spanish tactician is clear.
His coaching and the influence he has had on our performances in both phases of the game has been huge, but with that comes the need for important players and leaders to step up and deliver within that game-plan and system for us to get positive results.
Villa are unbeaten in the three league games that Martinez has started post-World Cup, with the 30-year-old keeping his first clean sheet of the year in the win over Southampton on Saturday, which took him up to 30 clean sheets for Villa in total.
What was all the more impressive about his performance this weekend was that it wasn’t just the shot-stopping that showcased his class, but there were positive signs in other areas of his game that are going to be pivotal to our style of play under Emery moving forward.
With Villa adopting a high line to catch the opposition offside, there is going to be a risk of strikers beating the trap and exposing the space in behind.
However, that is where Martinez comes in, and he was excellent at racing out and sweeping up danger when needed against Southampton, giving us a sense of calmness and control in defence to deal with the different threats that the Saints posed.
Further, his distribution and composure in passing out from the back is crucial too. Emery has made a point of wanting his side to build play out from the back, and while it has led to costly mistakes since he arrived, it’s clearly a principle of his philosophy that he feels strongly about and it’s up to the players to adapt and improve.
Martinez is doing exactly that, and although he can be off with his passing at times, he is generally reliable and steady, and that is going to be vital moving forward as we aren’t going to change our approach.
Then of course, there’s his ability to make game-defining saves that prove to be absolutely decisive to the outcome of matches. We saw it against Leeds Utd with his incredible stop to deny Jack Harrison to protect our lead at that time, and we saw another example against Southampton with his stoppage-time save on Moussa Djenepo’s strike.
These are major moments in games. It’s an old adage that a good goalkeeper is worth 10 to 15 points a season, and Martinez is proving it to be correct with his fundamental interventions and overall play. Combined with his commanding presence inside the box and the leadership that he shows with the captain’s armband to boot on Saturday, Villa are fortunate to have a world-class goalkeeper performing at an elite level to lead us.
It’s hoped that he now maintains that moving forward, as having reached the summit of international football last year, he can hopefully now play a starring role in our success in the coming years. Based on how he has performed since he arrived at the club, and since Emery took charge, the signs are very much positive that he’ll continue to be highly influential in our progression.
Emiliano Dibu Martinez vs Southampton pic.twitter.com/o2eICiFHdH
— EB10 (@buendiazboyz) January 21, 2023