Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez admits their poor start to the Premier League season has given him sleepless nights and says the players not Steven Gerrard should take responsibility for their current predicament.
Martinez and Villa were beaten 2-1 by league leaders Arsenal on Wednesday night, their fourth loss in five top-flight matches, to leave them second bottom in the early table.
Villa now face the daunting task of Premier League champions Manchester City next up, a team they have not beaten in their last 13 meetings and the Argentine admits morale has been low since that defeat at the Emirates.
“Even when we win and I concede I can’t sleep – but I couldn’t sleep on Wednesday [after Arsenal], I went to bed at 6.30(am) and I woke up at 7.15(am). I struggle with defeats, I struggle when I concede goals but that’s me – I move on and after I’ll be out training,” Martinez told Sky Sports.
“I love this club, I’ve said it from day one I love this club. I love being here, I didn’t want to go anywhere and I owe the fans for always having my back so I want to repay them. When I see kids with my shirt in the ground and they chant my name it makes me want to stay and I fell in love with this club, and that’s why I can’t sleep.
“Obviously if you don’t care I would just sleep straight after the game but I really care about this club and I want to take this club to Europe – obviously it’s a bad start but I think I can still do it.
“Everyone will be low. It’s normal, it’s part of football, you should be angry, you should be disappointed for not getting anything from the games, but that’s what I like about my team. They all care about this club. It’s not like they don’t care, no one will be laughing, no one will be smiling. They will go out and train, and that’s something I love about these players – it only takes one big win, one big performance to turn things around.”
Wednesday’s result heaped more pressure on Villa boss Gerrard, who also saw his team booed off in their 1-0 home defeat to West Ham three days earlier.
Villa have now won just three of their last 16 league matches and Gerrard has publicly acknowledged the pressure is on to turn things round.
“The gaffer gives us a game plan every single week and we as players need to deliver. When we make mistakes or individual errors, the manager doesn’t play. He gives us the game plan tactically but us as players we need to deliver, we know what to do from now is nothing to do with the manager,” Martinez said.
“Sometimes we concede within 15 minutes, sometimes we concede straight after we score like against Palace or the other day [at Arsenal] and it’s like jumping into an ice bath. It takes a while to recover from that, and for us as a team it really affects us. That’s something that we need to change, but the game plan is there.
“The manager said after the game that we’re not defending the red zone properly like our life depends on it and he’s right – probably last season we were probably putting more bodies on the line, and 11 players were actually defending.”
With regards to his own form, Martinez kept 26 clean sheets in his first two seasons with Villa, but is still waiting for his first of this campaign.
He was criticised for his part in the opener against his former club as Gabriel Jesus put Arsenal ahead. Although Villa briefly levelled through Douglas Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli then made sure of a fifth straight win for the hosts.
Martinez will head into this winter’s World Cup in Qatar as Argentina’s No 1 but admits he did not meet his own high standards in the opening month of the season.
“Me not keeping clean sheets is probably the worst feeling as a goalie, I’m ambitious and we’re working with [goalkeeping coach] Neil Cutler to see what my problem is or what I can do better, but it’s certainly not the start I was hoping for,” said Martinez.
“[Against Arsenal] it was another deflection that goes into the goal. I was expecting a cross, and it’s a reaction save rather than a comfortable catch – then unfortunately Jesus was there at the right time and it was a good finish.
“The second one, again, I can’t see the ball clearly and instead of tipping it over the bar it went in. I thought I was having a good game, we were holding on, I was making some good saves but I’ll always put the fault on me and never make excuses. Certainly, I have to deliver more.”