Disappointing recent results lie at the feet of Edu
By Allan Riley
A technical director has one of the toughest jobs in the modern game.
Tasked with building an identity, coherent vision and overarching strategy around a football club, they are heavily involved with player recruitment, manager hiring and firing and any football department appointments that need to be made. It’s largely a thankless job, as these key men prefer to operate behind the scenes.
Get it right, and you’re a club hero. Get it wrong, however, and a club’s fanbase will turn on you in an instant.
The club’s technical director, Edu Gaspar, has the unenviable task of overseeing player recruitment at Arsenal – essentially trying to appease the club’s … rather unique fans. While Mikel Arteta and Edu have to an extent been rightfully praised for the club’s summer transfer record – it can be argued that all six signings have been hits – questions about the Invincible’s role at the club have been raised by fans recently.
After the exceptional transfer business in the summer, a central midfielder and a striker were needed for the team take the next step forward. With Granit Xhaka’s erratic nature and the uncertain future regarding most of Arsenal’s frontmen are serious concerns within the side.
These concerns have been exacerbated by Arsenal’s actions – or rather lack of action – in the January transfer window. Having known that these holes within the squad pose serious problems to Arsenal’s quest for the Champions League, it was crucial that players were signed.
Fast forward 23 days (at the time of writing), however, and the players that needed to join… haven’t. Arsenal were keen on bringing in Juventus’ Arthur Melo on a short-term deal – a deal that makes sense on paper and in reality – but haven’t agreed a deal with the Old Lady, who are hoping to offload the Brazilian permanently.
The window hasn’t belonged to Arthur, though. In a transfer saga rivalling the Houssem Aouar fiasco in terms of ridiculousness, the club have been linked heavily with Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbian has been the subject of all kinds of speculation regarding salary, potential agreements with the Italian side, and agent fees. Lots of agent fees.
Given what’s occurred across January, Vlahovic seemed destined for a move to Arsenal. However, as each day passes, it looks increasingly likely that he will instead end up at Juventus. As for Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimarães, who has long been touted as the Granit Xhaka replacement everyone needs, this may be something we turn our attentions to in the summer, with no concrete links having circulated this month for the Brazilian.
That’s where the problems lie, however. The reason Arsenal have been linked heavily with these players, and Vlahovic in particular, is because they are needed now. Honestly, they were needed a week ago.
With the African Cup of Nations taking place mid-season, Arsenal lost star midfielder Thomas Partey, as well as Mohamed Elneny, to the Ghanaian and Egyptian national teams respectively. This, coupled with the perhaps bizarre decision to send Ainsley Maitland-Niles out on loan to Roma, left Mikel Arteta with two first-team midfielders with any Premier League experience.
Xhaka then did what he does best, and got sent off in the League Cup against Liverpool, leaving Albert Sambi Lokonga as the only available first-team midfielder. Arsenal’s squad depth was ruthlessly exposed at a pivotal point of the campaign. All of a sudden, a midfielder like Arthur or Guimarães coming in would be handy.
Likewise, Arsenal are just one injury away from having to start want away striker Eddie Nketiah for an extended period in what is one of the most important stretches of league games the team has had in years.
While some blame can be laid at Arteta’s proverbial doorstep for his decision to allow Maitland-Niles to leave on loan knowing how threadbare his midfield was, Edu needs to start taking more responsibility as technical director.
Yes, it is notoriously difficult to do deals in the January window, but given the time he’s had and the resources available to him, Edu should have had at least one of those positions sorted out, even if it was just a six-month loan for a midfielder like Arthur.
This transfer window was the perfect opportunity to not only safeguard our charge for the top four this season, but the next three or four years as a competitive club in England.
Having seen glimpses of his ability as a technical director in the summer of 2021, during the previous summer, during the club's quite silly pursuit of Partey and Aouar, Edu has shown that he is inconsistent in his ability to successfully negotiate with top clubs and bring in the players required for Arsenal to progress.
Whatever your opinion, his performance will determine the path Arsenal take as a football club in the next few years.