Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez was on the losing side of Sunday's North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur. But, in another impressive performance in place of the injured Bernd Leno, Martinez could be giving himself a chance of having an international future.
Goalkeeper has become such a problem position for Argentina that a sequence of a few good displays in the Premier League is enough to make a player worthy of consideration.
Argentina prides itself on its goalkeeping tradition but it is hard to recall a performer of true world class in the position since 1978 World Cup winner Ubaldo Fillol. Nery Pumpido from the 1986 side was competent. His replacement Sergio Goycochea was flashy but inconsistent. It speaks volumes that by some distance Argentina's most capped keeper is Manchester United's Sergio Romero, who was spent so much of his European club career as a reserve.
Romero suffered an injury and was controversially dropped from the squad Argentina sent to the World Cup two years ago. Willy Caballero proved an unsuccessful deputy, and lost his place during the competition to Franco Armani of River Plate, another who seems short of top class.
Since 2018, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has astonishingly given game time to seven different goalkeepers. Romero played a couple of matches, Armani was first choice in the Copa America, Agustin Marchesin of Porto has been around for a while -- and debuts were given to four others; Geronimo Rulli, currently on loan at Montpellier, Tottenham reserve Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Musso of Udinese and perhaps the leading contender to be first choice, Esteban Andrade of Boca Juniors.
The lack of one outstanding candidate -- in truth, the lack of a genuinely outstanding candidate for many years -- points to the conclusion that something has gone wrong with the way that Argentina develops its goalkeepers. Many seem to be big on personality but weak on technique. And it probably does not help that the local media seem strangely tolerant, often handing out man of the match awards to keepers who have made nothing but routine saves.
It may well be to the advantage of Martinez, then, that he has developed abroad. He was still at home with Independiente when he represented Argentina in the 2009 Under-17 World Cup. Martinez was a physically imposing keeper, but he may have been carrying too much weight. At any rate, he showed an alarming inability to jump -- and his deficiency in getting off the ground cost his side goals and was a factor in their second round elimination.
Arsenal came knocking straight afterwards. It may seem as if he has been there long enough to qualify for a pension. But he has not been idle. There have been loan spells at Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolves, Getafe in Spain, and Reading. And as he waited for his Emirates opportunity, he has clearly been working hard. Martinez is now a slimmed down version of the teenager from 2009. He is much more agile and athletic, without losing that physical imposing quality that makes him so impressive in one-against-one situations.
Martinez has another chance to grab the spotlight when Premier League champions Liverpool come to London on Wednesday night. Scaloni will surely be watching -- thinking that if he has already had a look at seven goalkeepers, it might be worth giving some game time to number eight.