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Emiliano Martinez: Could Arsenal's rookie goalkeeper become their No. 1?

Emiliano Martinez began the season as Arsenal's third-choice goalkeeper but recent injuries to David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny have provided him with a chance to stake his claim for a regular role as No. 1.

He has conceded just twice in four appearances and will be hoping to keep his third consecutive clean sheet in Wednesday's match at home to Southampton.

Martinez's path to the Premier League began in the Argentinian seaside resort of Mar del Plata, where he was born and raised. He turned out for various youth clubs in the city before one of his coaches arranged a trial with Independiente -- one of Argentina's big five. They liked what they saw and Martinez moved to Avellaneda to train under the tutelage of the club's legendary former goalkeeper, Miguel Ángel Santoro.

He first attracted Arsenal's attention during the South American U17 Championship of 2009. He performed well in Argentina's run to the final and soon had an offer on the table to travel to London for a weeklong trial. Their interest came as a surprise to the young goalkeeper, who had assumed his agent was talking about the Argentinian club, Arsenal de Sarandí, when he mentioned that Arsenal were interested in having a look at him.

The Gunners were sufficiently impressed to offer Martinez a contract when he turned 18 a year later. He spent his first two years in the reserves but began to be involved in the first-team squad in 2012.

The 22-year-old has been impressive since returning to Arsenal following a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday. He performed well in preseason and has carried that form into the season proper. He has looked far more self-assured and has pulled off some very good saves. In October, the club renewed his contract for a further four years.

Style

His sheer size is one of Martinez's greatest assets. Big and strong, he claims well under pressure and is a formidable obstacle when faced up one-on-one. The Argentinian is not a flamboyant goalkeeper but content to do the simple things well and allow his better-qualified teammates to get on with the fancy stuff. He transmits confidence through a strong, safe and calm approach to his work.

Major strengths

- Large frame
- Positioning
- Simple yet effective distribution

Major weaknesses

- Footwork
- Low shots to his sides
- Not proactive enough

Assessment breakdown

Handling: Assured in the majority of his handling, particularly when a standing save is possible. However, he doesn't always divert the ball sufficiently far from the danger zone when making diving saves and is therefore reliant on defenders to clear in front of him.

Agility: Capable of making good close-range reaction saves but struggles a little in getting down to low efforts to his sides. Can be slow to adjust his feet and begin his dive, as illustrated by Andy Najar's goal in Arsenal's Champions League win away to Anderlecht and others he conceded during his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday.

Positioning: Generally sticks close to his line and covers his goal well. Only beaten at his near post by extremely powerful shots (see Ishmael Miller's goal against him for Yeovil last season). Does a good job of keeping himself big and cutting out the angles in one-on-one situations.

Command of area: Doesn't always make full use of his large frame. Claims well under pressure close to his line but rarely ventures forward to take charge of the situation. Likewise, he is not the most proactive in intercepting passes in behind his defence.

Distribution: Simple and effective. Doesn't take unnecessary risks with the ball at his feet and generally looks to kick long. Clipped some nice diagonals out to the left flank during the win over West Brom last Saturday.

What the experts say

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger: "He has shown that he has the quality to play for us. Not only because of his technical quality, but his presence as well. He's calm, has presence and has the confidence, which is very reassuring."

Conclusion

Like Yaya Sanogo at the other end of the pitch, Martinez proved his doubters wrong with an excellent performance in last week's win over Borussia Dortmund. He made two very good close-range saves and hardly put a foot wrong all night. He was similarly assured, albeit with less to do, against West Brom and is starting to make a compelling case for continued inclusion in the side.

He has seized his opportunity, just as he did when Arsenal first showed interest in him. At the time, they had been tracking a Brazilian goalkeeper of the same age named Luis Guilherme. They offered him a deal, but Guilherme felt he would not get enough first-team opportunities and rejected their proposal. Martinez had no such qualms. Now Martinez is starting for Arsenal while Guilherme is only sporadically involved for a part-time club in Rio.

He is not yet the finished article but at a relatively young age, Martinez is already showing signs of maturing into a competent Premier League goalkeeper. Both of his rivals for the Arsenal goalkeeper's jersey are only in their mid-20s and it is therefore questionable whether he will be given sufficient game time to continue his current development path once all three are fit. But at Arsenal or elsewhere, he looks a solid bet for the future.