"Exceeded what I thought" - Smith drools over Villa's "great addition"

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Aston Villa’s decision to bring Emiliano Martinez into the club from Arsenal still stands up as one of the season’s best transfers.

The 28-year-old spent six years at the Emirates but failed to ever emerge as the club’s No.1.

Indeed, he went on a number of loan spells, playing for Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves, Getafe, and Reading.

In total, he played 38 times for the Gunners; that works out as 6.3 appearances per year.

Now at Villa, he has been in genuinely terrific form and has played 19 times in the Premier League, helping the club rise to ninth in the table.

He has kept 10 clean sheets and has conceded just 21 goals in total.

And manager Dean Smith has now hailed the Argentine, who has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season.

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Quoted by the Express and Star, he said: “I think Emi has probably exceeded what I thought he would bring to the team, certainly in terms of his calmness and personality.

“I think the latter has been really pleasing and a great addition to the dressing room.

“But he hasn’t exceeded what I expected him to be like as a keeper. I expected him to make the saves he did at Southampton and he would probably be the first to say he would expect to make them too.

“He was the first in the dressing room thanking his team-mates for the blocks they made when needed.”

GIVEMESPORT’S Harry Sherlock says…

Martinez has been a genuinely terrific buy.

Villa paid £17m to bring the player in from the Gunners and he has more than repaid that fee already.

Smith’s side have grown from relegation battlers into genuine contenders to qualify for Europe.

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Which Premier League club signed Lionel Scaloni on deadline day in 2006?

That success has been built on a solid backbone.

They have the joint third-best defence in the top-flight, only behind Manchester City and Arsenal, and level with Tottenham Hotspur.

Martinez has been central to that.

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