Mikel Arteta insists he has no regrets letting Arsenal’s FA Cup hero Emiliano Martinez join Aston Villa in the summer.
The Gunners come face-to-face with their former Argentine keeper this afternoon as they host Dean Smith’s Villains at the Emirates.
Martinez, 28, became a cult figure with Gunners fans towards the end last season when he replaced crocked number one Bernd Leno – and helped the club to a treble dose of Wembley glory.
Firstly, he starred in Arsenal ’s FA Cup shock semi-final and final wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively.
Then he performed heroics in the club’s penalty shoot-out victory over Liverpool in the new campaign’s Community Shield curtain-raiser.
A few days later Martinez was surprisingly sold to Aston Villa for £17million – and has continued his brilliant form with the Midlands club.
Meanwhile, the Gunners’ German stopper Leno has received mixed reviews for some of his displays this term.
But Arteta denies it was a mistake allowing the South American to go – or that he would have preferred him to move abroad rather than to a direct Premier League rival.
The Arsenal boss said: “No, when we sat down, we believed it was the right thing to do.
“Emiliano was still very willing to get the number one shirt and play regularly and we had to give him the choice to decide where he wanted to play.
“He’s been here for 10 years and with his performances for us in the last few months, he’s earned a lot of respect in this country.
“He believed Villa was the right club for him – so I was happy to let him go and make the right decision for his career.”
Martinez may have conceded seven goals in Villa’s last two games but three clean sheets in his opening four starts certainly had the Gunners faithful worried they had kept the wrong keeper.
Arteta never doubted he would be hit for Smith’s side, adding: “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s become really hungry and competitive.
“He’s very clear about what he wants to do in the next chapter of his career – and I’m sure he’ll be a success.”
Arsenal have picked up their own form of late after a blip last month when they lost to Manchester City and Liverpool on the road and to Leicester at home.
A rare 1-0 victory at Man United seven days ago – their first triumph at Old Trafford since 2006 – has definitely restored belief and confidence in the Arteta revolution.
But the Spaniard warns those three points will mean nothing if they end up taking a step backwards this afternoon by failing to condemn one-time high-fliers Villa to a third straight reverse.
Arteta said: “The right word is consistency and it’s what we’ve been lacking over the years to fight with the top teams.
“It’s not about doing it once, it’s about doing it every three days. We know the level in this league, everyone can beat you. I’m expecting a big game on Sunday.”