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Dean Smith admits Aston Villa must match Emi Martinez’s ambitions

Leicester City v Aston Villa – Premier League – King Power Stadium
(Image credit: Rui Vieira)

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith admits the club will need to match Emi Martinez’s ambitions ahead of the goalkeeper’s first return to Arsenal.

The 28-year-old joined Villa from the Gunners for £20million in September and goes back to the Emirates on Sunday.

He won the FA Cup last season and the Community Shield in August before deciding to leave after Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta failed to guarantee him the number one spot ahead of Bernd Leno.

“We, as a club, have to match his ambitions – just as I said about Jack Grealish,” said Smith, with Villa eighth in the Premier League.

“There’s a real enthusiasm about him and about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. He’s a proud South American who wants to get to the top of the game.

“He did that by winning the FA Cup and Community Shield.

“We’re thankful we have him at the football club. He had a lot of loans when he was there, which has helped him improve.

“I love his hunger and drive to get better. He’s ambitious and feels playing regularly at Aston Villa is what will make him move onto the level he wants to get to.

“It’s always a wrench when you leave a club you’ve been at so long. He played at the end of last season, won the FA Cup and then the Community Shield and probably saw himself being the number one at Arsenal.

“Maybe that wasn’t guaranteed to him and he chose to move and we’re the happy recipients of that.”

Tom Heaton has returned to full training after being out since January with a knee injury to give Martinez, who saved a penalty on his debut against Sheffield United, more competition.

Smith added: “We’ve given him that platform and the beauty of it is he’s getting pushed all the time.

“There’s Jed Steer and Tom Heaton in the background coming through as well.”