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Why The Signing Of Emiliano Martinez Makes Sense

The Argentinian may well be the final piece in Jose Gomes' puzzle.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League 2

It's a damning indictment of Reading's current set of goalkeepers that, despite there being three of them in the squad, we went into the January transfer window needing another. Vito Mannone, Sam Walker and Anssi Jaakkola have all had fair cracks of the whip this season, but none have properly convinced.

At the moment it's fair to say the latter of that trio is the number one. Jaakkola has started 15 of Reading's last 16 matches, a run that started with an incredible performance in the 3-1 win over Millwall on October 20. Since then, his form has generally been pretty decent, having only conceded more than two goals in a single game once (I'd rather not revisit that occasion).

His ability to play out the back is the real issue though. As a pure shot-stopper Jaakkola has done a fine job (it helped him to consecutive TTE player of the month awards), but his distribution? Less so. For me, there are three key things to bear in mind when talking about how well a goalkeeper plays out: technique with close control and short passes, technique with long balls, and confidence.

On the first count, I'd argue that the big Finn doesn't get the credit he deserves. Granted, he makes mistakes (doesn't every goalie?), but there'll always be more attention on when he gets it wrong than when he gets it right. At least in contrast to Mannone and Walker, neither of whom look comfortable with the ball at their feet, Jaakkola has the ability to knock the ball around pretty well at close range.

Queens Park Rangers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

So far so good, but it's the other two areas (and Jaakkola's weaknesses in them) that prevent him from properly excelling in Jose Gomes' possession-based style of play. The opening 15 minutes of the 2-1 defeat at Derby County was a perfect examples of this; the Rams had their tails up and pressed Reading high up and aggressively, especially at goal-kicks.

That made Jaakkola's decision to pass short particularly nervy - I, like everyone else in the away end, was on the edge of a few heart-attacks. The solution should have been obvious: boot the ball up the pitch to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and/or Ovie Ejaria; two lanky chaps capable of acting as an aerial outlet.

Reading's failure to do that may very well be due to Gomes' own tactics, but for me it's on Jaakkola too. The goalkeeper has to take responsibility in those situations - so why didn't he? I'd put it down to his weakness with those last two aspects of his game. Had Jaakkola wanted to hoof the ball, his accuracy at long range is erratic, and his confidence low (a few times he waited at least 30 seconds at a goal-kick before eventually deciding to go long).

Because Reading essentially didn't have the option of going long, they were pinned back into their own third far too easily. Plenty of other sides will try to press us before the end of this season, so developing the option of bypassing that press by giving the ball a great big whack up to the big man - now Nelson Oliveira rather than Jon Dadi Bodvarsson - is a must.

That's no betrayal of Gomes' possession style - think of how often Man City's Ederson goes long to put his side on the attack quickly. Effective and accurate distribution from the back, over whatever distance, is the name of the game.

This is where Emiliano Martinez comes in

The Argentinian won't have come to Reading to sit on the bench - he could have done that in North London, and would have more than enough competition for that role in Berkshire. Signing a 'keeper from a side well-known for their desire to use the ball well is a clear statement that Jose Gomes wasn't content to make do with the options already at his disposal.

Anssi Jaakkola can play his style, as can Sam Walker and/or Vito Mannone at a push, but Emiliano Martinez can do it better. We could well see one or both of Walker and Mannone leave before the end of this transfer window.

Martinez should be a defensive upgrade in his own right too. Arsenal blog and SB Nation sister site The Short Fuse told us he's an imposing figure, and is adept both at shot-stopping and dealing with crosses. It's easy to lose track of those important points when you're discussing things like distribution, so it's reassuring to know he's a reliable chap between the sticks.

Naturally, the proof is in the pudding. All of the above is subject to how well he adapts to playing in a Championship relegation dogfight - something that can be hard to judge when we're looking at a goalkeeper that's on the books at a very good club but doesn't have much experience - Transfermarkt's records show just shy of 60 first-team appearances for the 26 year-old.

No pressure then.