Arsenal’s injury plight was highlighted with the confirmation that Emiliano Martinez will start in goal at Anderlecht, nearly two years after his last appearance for the club – when he let in five goals.
But Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said he was “extremely confident” the 22-year-old Argentine can cope with the pressure of being second-choice goalkeeper behind Wojciech Szczesny – suspended for tonight’s match.
He is likely to serve in the role of Szczesny’s deputy for a lengthy period, as it was revealed on Tuesday that David Ospina will now be out for “two to three months” with a thigh injury.
Martinez has played twice for Arsenal before, in League Cup games in 2012-13, the second of which was the famous 7-5 win at Reading. Since then, Martinez has gained experience on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, and Wenger and midfielder Jack Wilshere both spoke positively about him at last night’s press conference at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium.
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Wenger said: “He has experience from Sheffield Wednesday last year and when he played for us he did very well. I have no special worry about that. I am extremely confident.”
The fact that Martinez’s last Arsenal appearance was almost a disaster – Arsenal were 4-1 down at half-time – did not bother Wenger. “Martinez is two years older,” Wenger said. “He has grown in stature.”
Wilshere was just as effusive. “We know him well,” he said. “He has grown up in the last two years and we are confident in him.”
More may well be demanded of Martinez over the next few months after Wenger confirmed that Ospina, the summer signing from Nice, will likely be out for the rest of the year with a recurrence of a thigh injury sustained at the World Cup.
“He came to us injured from the World Cup,” Wenger said. “I had to bring him on against Galatasaray without a warm-up, without being prepared and he had a recurrence of that injury. That means he is out for two to three months. We have to be really careful because he has a recurrence of a thigh injury that’s very difficult. It’s a long-term injury.”
Wenger said his team must “make sure it is as comfortable a night as possible” for Martinez by defending well. Wilshere pointed to defensive concentration as the way for Arsenal to start winning more. Arsenal have only won twice in the Premier League this season, but Wenger is confident his team has “huge potential”.
“Sometimes it [top level performance] depends on just a fraction more, that’s what we want to do, give a fraction more,” Wenger said.
Calum Chambers will return from suspension and will likely play at right-back, with Nacho Monreal set to partner Per Mertesacker in central defence. Aaron Ramsey could make his first start since injuring his hamstring against Tottenham three-and-a-half weeks ago.
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