Let me tell you a story.
Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper got injured. In came a replacement who went on to equal the club record of 6 clean sheets in a row. He played 7 league games and was named Premier League Player of the Month.
He also played 5 games in Arsenal’s run to the FA Cup final.
But come the end of the season, it was old Big Hands between the sticks for the final against Newcastle.
The goalkeeper was Alex Manninger. The season was 1997/98.
Austrian Manninger played a key part in Arsenal’s double winning seasons, but his 7 league appearances, 6 clean sheets and Player of the Month award were not enough to get him a Premiership winners medal. Arsenal had to apply for special dispensation for him to get one.
There were no questions the next season as to who would start as number one. David Seaman.
Manninger would deputise for Seaman for the next three seasons, making 64 appearances in total.
In 2001 he would be loaned out to Fiorentina as Arsenal signed Richard Wright in the search of David Seaman’s replacement.
Manninger would go on to sign for 9 different clubs following his loan move to Fiorentina. A career that took him from Juventus to Espanyol, Liverpool to Bologna.
Only once – for 2 seasons for Siena in Serie A – would he be number one goal keeper.
The story of Manninger is one to be told alongside Emi Martinez.
The Argentine had a break through season last year.
Taking advantage of Bernd Leno to perform to a high standard for 9 Premier League games. Leno was unable to return to fitness for the FA Cup final so it was Martinez who remained in goal.
Like with David Seaman, Bernd Leno has been a consistent performer for a long time.
Nearly 300 games in the top flight in England and Germany, he has played over 400 domestic games. Only Manuel Nueur has stopped him being a regular for Germany.
Meanwhile Martinez has been at Arsenal for a decade.
Loaned out to Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves, Getafe and Reading.
He was fairly average at them all until that final half season at Reading where he stepped up. That encouraged Arsenal to keep him as understudy to Leno following the retirement of Petr Cech.
9 Premier League games as football returned from is suspension saw him play 23 games in total for the club in 2019/20. A single season accounting for 23% of his lifetime appearances (101 in total).
That is not 101 appearances for Arsenal, but 101 appearances through his career. Not a huge amount for a 28 year old.
Having got the taste of first team football, Martinez got the hunger for more.
With 2 years left on his contract, he has seemingly made it clear to the Arsenal management that he will only sign a new deal if he is guaranteed 1st team football. A guarantee that Arsenal are unable to provide.
Like deciding to sell David Seaman to keep Alex Manninger off the back of 7 Premier League games, it would be a huge risk for Arsenal to dump Bernd Leno for Martinez off the back of 9 Premier League games. Not only would it be a huge risk, but it would also be a stupid one.
The career of Manninger has shown that you can have a great spell at a club, before disappearing into obscurity.
Over the years Arsenal have had other Manninger’s.
Stuart Taylor got numerous chances, and was highly rated by Bob Wilson , but that did not stop Arsenal signing the experienced Jens Lehmann following the retirement of David Seaman.
Manuel Almunia and Lukas Fabianski also had their spells where they looked very good at times.
In the early part of the 2021/13 season, Vito Mannone came in for the injured Wojech Szczesny and Fabianksi for a spell of 9 Premier League games.
He kept a clean sheet at Anfield and kept Arsenal in the game during a 1-1 draw against Manchester City. When Szczesny was fit, he returned to the first team.
Szczesny went on to join Roma, before becoming Juventus’s number 1. Mannone joined Sunderland, before signing for Reading. He has since played a bit of MLS for Minnesota and was last seen in the Danish Superliga for Esbjerg.
Moving up North to Manchester and Man U.
In 2011/12 Anders Lindegaard came in for the injured David de Gea and performed well for 8 league games, keeping 6 clean sheets. Sir Alex Ferguson stuck with his best keeper and de Gea soon returned.
Lindegaard’s career then took him from Man U to WBA, Preston North End, Burnley and Helsingborg. He was unable to establish himself as number 1 anywhere.
A goalkeeper can have a good spell. A period of 8 or 10 games where he saves everything.
Over the years we have seen the likes of , Kasper Schmeichel, Rob Green and Jussi Jaaskelainen have fantastic spells. But no top team picked them up after their good spells.
A purple patch can happen for goalkeepers. But a run of 9 or 10 good games does not then make them a top keeper.
From Manninger to Lindegaard, we have seen the likes of Emi Martinez before.
Ultimately, clubs should always stick to their senior, consistent number 1 performer. Form is temporary class in permanent.
Leno has performed to a high level for Arsenal for 2 seasons. He has easily been one of the top 5 keepers since he came to England. This comes on the back of an extensive career in Germany.
You do not get rid of someone like Leno just because another keeper has had a decent 2 or 3 months.
Just like you do not get rid of David Seaman just because Alex Manninger kept 6 clean sheets in the row.