Psyching out Bruno Fernandes & World Cup heroics: Who taught Aston Villa & Argentina star Emi Martinez to wind up penalty takers?
- Keeper starred at Qatar 2022
- Has impressed in the Premier League
- Gets under the skin of opponents
WHAT HAPPENED? Neil Cutler, who works with Villa’s goalkeeping options, has lifted the lid on what it is like to work with a World Cup winner. Martinez helped Argentina to glory at Qatar 2022, with his antics in the Middle East causing quite a stir, as he starred in penalty shootouts and lapped up some wild post-tournament celebrations. He had already proven himself to be something of a spot-kick specialist with club and country prior to that event, with his exploits in the Premier League and at the Copa America making him a hero to many in South America and a pantomime villain to those that he rubs up the wrong way.
WHAT THEY SAID: Cutler has told BBC Sport of bringing that mischievous side out of Martinez when he stares down a rival from 12 yards: “Instead of him showing frustration and going into his shell, we wanted him to show his passion by having confidence, bordering on arrogance, which could affect things in a positive way. The statistics are stacked against keepers with penalties - it's very likely that the person taking one will score - so it is a case of thinking how can I put him off slightly. The first time we focused on trying to psych a player out was when Villa played Manchester United in September 2021, and Bruno Fernandes missed from the spot after Emi spoke to him and told him Cristiano Ronaldo should be taking it. It is about knowing the player and, if it is someone like Fernandes who you think you can wind up, then you know it might not take a lot to get inside his head.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Martinez’s ability to get inside the head of opponents, while also keeping out their strikes on goal, has been honed on the training field – with even those efforts taken too far at times. Cutler added: “His will to do whatever it takes to get where he wanted to be was just massive, and his passion was so evident, which is why I tried so hard to get him to Villa in the first place. This is a guy whose biggest problem was that he sometimes did too much, partly because of his lack of experience. He once picked up an injury because he practised saving too many penalties, but that had to happen for him to learn he could over-train.”
IN TWO PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? After helping Argentina to World Cup glory, Martinez is now back in the Villa setup – having expressed a desire to win trophies with them – and has a tough test against Premier League title hopefuls and his former club Arsenal to come on Saturday.