Emiliano Martinez has praised Mikel Arteta for coming clean on his Arsenal prospects – but is adamant he has joined the bigger club in Aston Villa.
The 28-year-old spent a decade at the Emirates Stadium. However, he had to wait until the back end of last season for a first-team run.
A season-ending injury to Bernd Leno handed the Argentine his chance. It was one he grabbed with both hands. Martinez excelled, helping Arsenal to win a record 14th FA Cup.
But, with Leno returning from his knee injury, Arteta had a decision to make.
Martinez was named in the side for the Community Shield penalty shootout win over Liverpool. However, it was Leno who got the nod in the Premier League opener.
And with Arteta wanting an established first-choice, Martinez would likely warm the bench for most of the campaign.
But, having also made it into the Argentina squad of late, Martinez decided that was not an option. As such, he opted for a £20m switch to Aston Villa.
The decision quickly came in for criticism, with Martin Keown explaining why it would come back to haunt him.
His first return to Arsenal on Sunday ended in a 3-0 win for his new side.
Speaking afterwards, he explained why he decided to push for a summer transfer.
“They called me from day one after the win against Chelsea in the FA Cup final,” he said of the interest from Villa.
“I just wanted to play first-team football and Arsenal could not guarantee me that.
“They would not say I was going to play in the first game of the season against Fulham. So when I had that doubt I had to leave and Villa were the first option and the only one for me.”
Martinez insisted Arteta was honest with him when he explained why Leno had been picked ahead of him.
“We sat down, I think he said it in a meeting.
“I was talking to him in front of a teammate as well. I told him I wanted to play week in, week out and he couldn’t guarantee who was going to start.
“Even before the Community Shield he didn’t know who was going to play in goal. After 10 years at the club I didn’t want to wait until Friday night, the day before the game, to know whether I was going to play against Fulham or not.
“So I just text him to say I was going to Aston Villa, so please help me and let me go.”
Martinez praises Arteta
Speaking ahead of the weekend defeat, Arteta had praised Martinez and said the goalkeeper had earned the right to decide where he wanted to play upon leaving Arsenal.
In response, Martinez was quick to praise Arteta’s handling of the situation.
He added: “He was very honest and very open with me.
“He helped me to leave the club after so many years. I’ve already said how grateful I am for that and how pleased I am about how well he is doing at Arsenal. I’m so happy he is the leader of the club.
“Obviously I have ambitions and he couldn’t help the ambitions that I wanted, so we had a clear conversation. He’s a very honest man and a great leader for this football club.”
Martinez kept his fourth clean sheet in seven Premier League games for Villa as they stunned Arsenal on Sunday.
He insists European qualification is the target for a side who only survived relegation on the final day of last season.
“When I decided to come to Villa it was because I trusted the manager and the club’s ambitions. I knew how big Villa are,” he said.
“Some people do not realise how big Aston Villa are. They were all saying it was a step down in my career, but I always said it was a step up.
“I said on day one my ambition is to be in Europe with Aston Villa. I want to take this club as high as possible and we are on the right path. Can it be done this season? Yes. But we have to work for it.”