Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes the club should not have sold number two goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa during the summer. The Gunners initially replaced the 28-year-old with Icelandic stopper Runar Alex Runarsson, who has failed to live up to expectations between the sticks so far this season.
Runarsson has been criticised for his shot-stopping ability after a number of high-profile mistakes since joining Arsenal, with his most notable error coming during the second half of December’s Carabao Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester City.
He fumbled Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick to give Pep Guardiola’s side the lead as City sealed a 4-1 demolition at the Emirates Stadium.
Boss Mikel Arteta then decided that Runarsson was not up to the job of second-choice goalkeeper and moved to bring in another, with the likes of on-loan Swansea City star Freddie Woodman and Barcelona’s Neto linked with the Gunners before the temporary signing of Mat Ryan was announced on Friday.
The Australian has arrived on a deal until the end of the season after being frozen out of first-team affairs at Brighton and Hove Albion, with manager Graham Potter opting to deploy youngster Robert Sanchez as his last line of defence in recent outings.
Keown, who was a member of the Arsenal side during the club’s ‘invincible’ season, has claimed that although the decision to bring in Ryan was a good move, Martinez should not have been sold after an impressive campaign last season.
He became a fan favourite after stepping in to deputise for the injured Bernd Leno, ending his spell at the club by helping his side to victory in the FA Cup final with an admirable performance.
“Runarsson didn’t really catch the eye or the performance that we would have expected,” Keown told talkSPORT. “If you remember in the League Cup [against City] there were a few mistakes [but he’s a] very young man, of course, who has got a big career ahead of him.
“I was disappointed to see Martinez leave in the first place, when you consider he climbed a mountain last year to get into the team. But I imagine they couldn’t afford to keep two, what I would call, first-string goalkeepers.
“Financially, maybe, they didn’t see that was the right way forward and he was allowed to leave.
“This is a good adjustment, Mat Ryan coming in. 59 caps for Australia and he’s their number one goalkeeper. He’s been out of the team at Brighton.
“He’s coming with good experience and that’s what Arsenal need in the event that Leno gets injured at any point.”
Martinez has established himself as Villa’s first-choice goalkeeper this season and is currently averaging a clean sheet every other game.
However, his Arsenal days are now a thing of the past and it is up to new arrival Ryan to try and fill the void left by the Argentinian’s departure.
The former Valencia stopper outlined his ambitions to bring the fight to Leno for the club’s number one spot after finalising his move from Brighton.
“I’ve never been a goalkeeper where I’ve liked to sit on the bench,” Ryan told Arsenal’s YouTube channel. “I’m sure every goalkeeper says that, but I’ve come here under the circumstance.
“Bernd has obviously done a great job for the club in his time since he’s arrived and he’s a top quality goalkeeper. But I believe also I’ve shown that in my career, and I’m looking to come here and push him and he push me and try to get the best out of one another and to improve as individuals.
“If we can do that, then who’s going to be getting the nod on matchday, with the number of games that we have in all the competitions that we’re still alive in, is going to be who’s in the best form and that’s only going to help the team perform better and get results.”