Emiliano Martinez is finding life in the Championship a real challenge but does not regret dropping down to Reading FC for valuable game time.
Many expect the Gunners loanee to return to North London in the summer and he believes he has learned a lot in the second-tier, where goalkeepers get less time on the ball.
“The English leagues are very tough – especially the Championship. I’ve played in Spain, Argentina as well, but the Championship is the hardest league I’ve played in,” he told the club website.
“I’ve played in the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Premier League games as well but the Championship is one of the hardest. I’ve had the chance to come here, hopefully play 18 games for Reading and you can see that, when you play well in this league, everyone talks about you.
“Any team can beat anyone, it’s more physical, there are long balls, you fight for the whole 90 minutes. In the Premier League you get more time and space, you can play out from the back more and in the Championship, you just can’t.”
Reading fans have taken to Martinez thanks to some major heroics between the posts and he hopes all supporters can recognise his efforts in keeping the team out of League One.
“Maybe the fans can see that I’m giving everything,” he continued.
“When you’re a fan and you can see a player who really cares about the club, who shares the same values, that’s probably where the connection comes. I’m giving the best performances that I can, I’m a Reading player today.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be a Reading player in the future but I’m a Reading player now, and I’ll give my best to help give the club the best possible chance to be in the Championship next season, then have a chance next season to promote to the Premier League – that’s what the aim is.
“I’m really grateful to the fans that, in six or seven games, they’re cheering my name. It shows that I’m doing a good job here, I just want to work and keep building my performances.”
Coming to the Royals was a straightforward decision for Martinez. When the offer came up in January, it suited his personal and professional circumstances - with help from a former Reading coach in hopping down the M4.
“I had some offers from abroad but Reading came along,” said the keeper. “I had a new-born baby, I know the league, I know the club, obviously Sal Bibbo was my coach at Arsenal and said this was a great club for me – that likes to play from the back, which suits my style.
“Now, my decision is paying off. Sometimes in football you can make wrong decisions, I feel like Reading suits me but it’s not over yet, we’ve still got 10 games left and we need to get more wins – but we’re on the right path.”