Emi Martinez has been moaning about his time at Arsenal again and his comments show just how keen the human brain is to rewrite our own history to make our decisions seem better after the fact.
Martinez also likes to tell the story of why he left, saying in October it was because he’d been told he was only ‘95%’ to start against Fulham in the first game of the season. By March, it had changed to 75% and he was talking about how Arsenal didn’t deserve him.
He also advised young players not to listen to Arsene Wenger.
In the end, however, Martinez’s latest comments, repetitive as they are, might be the most revealing of all. I said at the time Martinez decided to leave, when he was closer to the number one shirt than at any other time in his Arsenal career, he was showing a mentality that was probably why he had never managed to seize the number one shirt for longer than his final few months at the club.
Martinez says in his latest interview that he wanted to ‘ change your scene after ten years at the club,’ before adding the telling bit, ‘from so much fighting.’
He didn’t want to fight for the shirt any more.
That’s perfectly reasonable. We all have our limits and we all have to up-or-downgrade our dreams depending on how life pans out. Being Aston Villa’s number one still makes you better at your job than practically everybody else on the planet but there’s no need to be a knob about it.
Thing is, the human brain likes to think well of itself so it has a habit of rewriting memories to show us in a better light.
The sad thing is, Martinez didn’t need to do that. Arsenal fans already remained very fond of him and see him as a very good keeper. Many would even have him over Bernd Leno. He has no need to say any of what he’s saying and in his bid to rewrite his past, he’s pushing Arsenal fans even further away.
“I wanted to change. I think I succeeded, because I left with two titles under my arm and playing every game in one of the best clubs in the world,” Martinez said in his latest interview.
“I did not leave as a failure, I left super happy, but in the end, you want to change your scene after ten years at the club, from so much fighting. I showed what I had to do and that they could have given me the opportunity a little earlier. But I left very happy.
“At no time did they tell me that I was not going to play or that I was. It was not a losing battle, because I showed my level, but it was my decision to go through the front door,” Martínez added.
“Nobody told me to stay or go. Nobody told me I was going to be number one or two. It was purely my decision. I thank Mikel for letting me go and supporting me in my decision.”
Now, this doesn’t exactly fit with what he said when he left. He said then that he left because Arsenal would not guarantee him the number one shirt for the upcoming season. That sounds to me very much like being told what number you’re going to be.
He’s even rewriting why he cried at the end of the cup final.
“Yes, [I was crying but] not for having won a final, but for having overcome my frustrations at a professional level at Arsenal. They were many years of suffering and having a bad time for not having my chance,” Martinez said.
“Not because I didn’t deserve it, but because they didn’t give it to me. At that moment all the bad Sundays that I have spent when I was not summoned at the club came to me, or I went on loan to places I did not want to go because I needed games.
“They never sent me on loan to get me out, but to improve me. That’s why they kept me at the club for so long, because they saw something in me. When I won the cup, I took out the anger that I had inside.
“I am an emotional boy and everything I do I do for my family and that is why those tears came to my eyes.”
There is no denying Emi Martinez enjoyed a great final few months at Arsenal but it also cannot be ignored that he had 10 years to prove himself under three managers and numerous goalkeeping coaches.
When he finally got the chance to really fight to take the number one shirt on a permanent basis, he left to join Aston Villa.
Speaking before the 19/20 season, after a summer when Arsenal had reportedly tried to sell him, Martinez told Arsenal.com he’d informed Unai Emery, “‘If you’re going to give me the opportunity to become No 1, I will stay. Otherwise, I have 13 or 14 clubs that want me to sign for them’. It was a big decision for me and my family, and we chose what was best for my career. Arsenal is the best club for me.
“You only get one career, so I have to do what’s best, and I’m lucky because my wife and my kid will follow me everywhere I go. There were offers but when I signed for Arsenal, it was to one day become No 1 for this club. It’s my dream club and after my season on loan at Reading, I feel like I showed everyone how good I am.
“I said to my family, ‘If Arsenal don’t trust me, then it’s time to move on’ but Arsenal have shown lots of faith in me and I trust the club, I trust the manager and I believe we’re going to have a great, great season.”
How strange, then, that after 10 years, with his heart’s desire finally within reach, he’d walk out the front door for a club that hasn’t won a trophy in 40 years.