Arsenal should not have sold Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa because Bernd Leno is “not a top-four goalkeeper”, believes club legend Tony Adams. Leno was partly culpable for the goal that allowed Liverpool to equalise against the Gunners on Monday night.
The German has been excellent over the past 12 months but made a rare mistake as he failed to push Mohamed Salah’s shot away from danger, only parrying it out to Sadio Mane inside the six-yard box who gratefully tapped into an empty goal.
Liverpool went on to win 3-1 despite a spirited performance from Arsenal as they looked to make things hard for the Premier League champions.
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But in Leno, Adams feels Mikel Arteta has placed his faith in the wrong shot-stopper – having allowed Martinez to join Villa for £20million earlier this month.
The Argentine ended a 10-year stint at the Emirates to move to Villa Park to be a guaranteed first choice between the sticks under Dean Smith.
Despite deputising brilliantly for Leno when he was injured last season and winning the FA Cup, also starting in goal for the Community Shield penalty shootout win over Liverpool, Arteta picked the Germany international over Martinez as his No 1.
Yet former centre-back and club captain Adams doubts whether Leno is good enough for a side with top-four aspirations – doubting whether he takes enough command in his box when it comes to aerial balls.
“Martinez was incredible in their cup run, he was absolutely sensational,” he told Stadium Astro.
“I do like big keepers and what Leno does struggle with for me, is crosses and stuff.
“But it isn’t about me – Arteta’s gone, ‘Leno is my No 1, I like him.’ He’s put all the faith in him. I don’t believe that he’s a top-four goalkeeper, for me.
“Everything fell into place for Arsenal in the cup competition, it was like it was written in the stars.
“A keeper who has been at the club for 10 years and not played 10 games and he comes in and stops everything.
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“He was a man possessed and absolutely incredible. For me Martinez was the No 1. But Arteta’s the man and he’s chosen a different goalkeeper.”
Arsenal have signed Runar Alex Runarsson as their replacement for Martinez and the Icelandic keeper could make his debut against Liverpool this week after making the bench for the last two matches.
The Gunners and the Reds go head-to-head at Anfield again in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Thursday night.
And Arteta said ahead of their return to Merseyside: “We’ll see how the boys are, how they recover.
“Obviously today was a really physically demanding match, we will see the players we have available and try to come here to win again.”
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On the improved mentality of his side, he added: “What I can tell you is the belief I sensed from the players and the disappointment they have today in the dressing room but as well that they have to face the reality that any team when they come here this is the hardest ground to come to.
“You could see big teams how they were knocked out here. I’m pleased we competed throughout the game. There’s a lot of things in our hands that we can do better and will do better.
“That’s going to help us so much in the process. I want to see my players upset and angry when they lose the game.
“We’re on a different journey to them [Liverpool]. They’ve been together for five years. They weren’t able to do what they’ve done tonight two or three years ago that’s for sure.
“They have a lot of good work, a lot of belief, great recruitment and they have improved the players they have. This is what we have to do.
“They’ve set the bar probably at the best standard the Premier League has seen in many years. This is where we have to get and obviously we’ve still a long way to go.”
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