Emiliano Martínez not in Arsenal squad and Brighton join race to sign him


Brighton have have joined Aston Villa in the race to sign the Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, who is understood not to be in the travelling party to face Fulham on Saturday.

Villa have been favourites to land Martínez if he was made available by Arsenal, who are seeking £20m for the Argentinian. They bid £15m this week but Brighton have exceeded their offer and Martínez will not feature at Craven Cottage in the season opener, with transfer talks ongoing.

It means Bernd Leno will start the campaign in goal for Arsenal, who have been unwilling to guarantee Martínez the playing time he seeks. Martínez was a revelation when he deputised for the injured Leno at the back end of last season, helping Arsenal to victory in the FA Cup final, and wants No 1 status after a decade as a deputy or on loan. But Mikel Arteta has been unwilling to guarantee that to either of his keepers and Martínez, 28 and desperate for regular football, now looks certain to leave.

Martínez has been in talks with Arsenal over a new contract but the parties are some way apart, with Villa and Brighton both ready to dwarf the salary on offer. Should Arsenal accept an offer, Martínez would be likely to depart next week.

Arteta said on Friday any player unwilling to make the most of backup status would be free to depart, and admitted that keeping two 28-year-olds happy would be tough.

“Since I gave [Martínez] the opportunity here he was superb,” he said. “His performance increased dramatically and he was key in our success and his value as well. For me it is really a good problem to have to deal with that in a position that only one can play. Long term it is a little more difficult.

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“They want to know their role and at the end of the day it is one position to fill in, and the other one has to support the No 1 and the one who is playing 100%,” he said. “If you are not able to do that, you cannot be part of our top squad and you should not be here.”

The headaches do not end there, with five centre-backs missing through injury. David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are the latest to be ruled out and at least one of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes will almost certainly make their debut. The 19-year-old Saliba is more likely to start, with Gabriel having joined training only this week after his move from Lille, and Arteta fears communication problems will be an issue as the pair settle.

Arteta had been asked whether a consistent voice in goal would help his defence, but explained his doubts lie elsewhere. “I am more concerned sometimes about central defenders [who are] not from our country and they can’t talk the language properly, because communication is a big thing at the back to guide the players in front of them. But we are on it. Obviously that takes some time and we will get it as quick as possible.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new deal should be confirmed in the next week and Arteta said anyone worried about the drawn-out process could be “pretty relaxed”. He also scotched suggestions Alexandre Lacazette could leave but Arsenal need to raise more funds if he is to see further transfer plans fulfilled. One player unlikely to be departing is Héctor Bellerín, for whom Arsenal have rejected approaches from Paris Saint-Germain. The French club made a £25m bid but the right-back is understood to be far down the list of players Arsenal would entertain selling.

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