Aston Villa announced the signing of former Arsenal goalkeeper, Emi Martínez, last Wednesday. In a move costing the Villans a fee rising to around £20 million pounds, the Argentine shot stopper penned a four-year deal.
On the face of it, the capture of such a player is a major coup for one of last season’s strugglers as a player of such pedigree, (winning two pieces of silverware, in as many months) will no doubt improve the team.
As much as this arrival may be a significant implement to the first team, what does the new onset of Martínez mean for a cult hero of not so long ago – Jed Steer.
Despite whatever he may go on to do at B6, Jed Steer will forever be remembered by the Villa faithful for his penalty heroics at the Hawthorns during the successful playoff campaign of 2019.
Saving the home side’s first two penalties in the shootout put the baggies under immediate pressure – which they succumb to, allowing Villa to return to the promised land at the third time of asking.
However, for the first half of the season, Steer had been loaned out to Charlton Athletic, where he was helping to secure a playoff position for the Addicks.
In January though, when Orjan Nyland suffered an Achilles injury, the Norfolk born goalkeeper was rushed back to the Midlands initially as cover, before the disastrous form of Lovre Kalinić thrust Steer into the limelight.
Record winning streaks and derby day victories later followed as Villa finally escaped captivity in the Championship.
Martínez arrival damages first choice future?
With the arrival of the former Wolves and Reading man, it can only be assumed that Steer is now either the second, or third choice keeper for Dean Smith – behind Martínez and possibly Nyland.
Still though, Tom Heaton, last seasons first choice (and still current #1) remains sidelined for at least another month. Once his recovery is complete, where does he fit into the goalkeeper pecking order?
At the time of writing, Neil Cutler‘s goalkeeping department is occupied by five shot stoppers. Who all (bar Martínez) have been the managers first choice at some point in their Villa career.
In an ideal world, the manager would probably want three players in that position, with the option of a fourth from the academy. However, with Kalinić expectedly up for sale, and Nyland’s contract set to expire next summer, a triage of goalkeepers may become a reality in the not too distant future.
This hypothetical scenario would then leave a probable first choice in Martínez (currently 28 years old), viable deputy in Steer (27), and third choice Tom Heaton (34).
This would create a great deal of competition for ranking in the goalkeeping sector, and in particular for the number one spot.
Both keepers are roughly the same age and whilst contesting for the shirt, both would also be improving their game as they head into the well-known ‘prime years’ for players of their position.
Jed steer has had to rally for a position in the squad ever since his arrival in 2013 and, nowadays is no different. A player that will never shy away from a challenge, his experiences so far in a Villa shirt have all come about due to him out casting his predecessor owing to impressive performances of his own.
A battle between the sticks will only prove healthy for an ambitious Villa squad, as they aim to mount on a nervy finish last campaign.