What we can take from Edu's Sky interview
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Quiff slicked back. Navy suit. White shirt. Top two buttons down. No barbecue in sight. Edu Gaspar was not messing around when he stepped in front of the Sky Sports cameras to face the inevitable onslaught of questions from Geoff Shreeves.
Some have dubbed the Invincible cowardly for his lack of communication since assuming the role of Technical Director at Arsenal, but in this direct and honest interview, the under fire man came out with a vengeance. Arsenal were clearly intent on conducting the interview with an external source, rather than being accused of releasing sanitised propaganda via the club's official website. Fair play I guess.
No doubt most humans over the age of 5 who have any semblance of logic could've identified Arsenal's transfer strategy this summer with a simple look at the age profile's of their additions, but Edu was forced to clarify this in said interview. After Gary Neville's lazy piece of punditry created a false narrative of a lack of direction in our recruitment process, Edu cleared it up for Sky's box office 'expert':
"We signed six players who are under 23, which means a lot in terms of our planning. Normally, people like to see just one window, so I have to say it is the bigger picture because we started planning this squad a year ago in terms of consolidating the team and to try to get a better foundation".
"If you remember, in that period we renewed Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli a year ago with the intention to get that kind of base in the team. In a one-year period, we signed 10 players and seven of the 10 are under 23. We renewed seven players in this period as well, just in the first team. Five of the seven are under 23 as well".
Pretty clear Arsenal are attempting to build a squad full of young players with high ceilings, with a view to competing properly in the mid to long-term. Very straightforward, and something we could all see prior to Edu elucidating this matter, barring somehow Neville. So that was for you Gary. Hope you get it now.
For those of us who aren't propelled by the constant urge to poke the club in order to garner clicks, there were some things that weren't extremely obvious already that can be taken from this interview. One of them being the hierarchy between Mikel Arteta and Edu.
Question marks have arisen of late as to who answers to who. Who has the ultimate authority, the technical director or the manager? Promoting Arteta from head coach to manager created a blurred line as to who was who's boss, but this interview appeared to reaffirm that Edu is firmly in charge.
When interrogated by Shreeves about the lack of time you get in football, Edu responded by detailing his job description...
"My job is to think about the short term but also the long term as well. How we are going to plan that kind of journey because if we now sign one or two players and we have three, four or five gaps to fill, people are then going to look to us and say to us: 'Guys, what are you doing? You've spent a lot of money on certain positions, but what about here, here and here?"
Edu accepting responsibility over the mid to long term plan, declaring he has to look beyond Arteta's reign, essentially affirms he sits ahead of the Spaniard in the food chain. He emphasised throughout his role of constructing the squad for Arteta, the plan for the next 5 years and then letting Arteta do the on the field work.
The most likely chain of command this summer that ultimately led to this strategy being in place is as follows:
- The Kroenke's tell Edu they don't want to fork out on big money signings on high wages for players in their prime or on the decline anymore. They do, however, say they can spend on players who will carry resale value and will, most importantly, lower the wage bill.
- Edu thus sets up the plan to sign younger players and get rid of big earners, in order to rebuild the squad for the future.
- Arteta is forced to settle on this plan, even though he most likely would've preferred ready made stars, and then identifies players who fit the model.
It's pretty clear who is in charge of who, which essentially makes things a whole lot easier when it comes to restructuring- whether that's changing coach or technical director.
Another element of the interview I found positive was the sense of potential immediate jeopardy Edu placed on Arteta's job. Despite not labelling the season's objectives with a tangible goal, he did obviously condemn the early season form but provided the caveats for it that ultimately justify Arteta still being in a job.
However, in providing the caveats, he basically laid down the expected markers for the upcoming fixtures.
"To be fair, we have had three games and I haven't seen the team playing together yet. So, I want to see the signings and I want to see the squad prepare. All three games we have played against Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City, unfortunately we have had some difficult moments in terms of Covid and injuries".
"I want to see the team play together and then let's judge the team when they play together. Then, after that, no problem. Judge us then".
The key quote being, "let's judge the team when they play together". Edu has given Arteta more or less the squad he wants within the parameters of the strategy put in place, now Arteta has to deliver when he actually gets to use this squad. Once the manager gets a run of games with his squad, with White and Gabriel at the heart of his defence, with Tomiyasu, with Partey in midfield, with a settled front four, there will be no escaping criticism for Arteta. Up until this point, the mitigating factors have been there, but they won't be forever.
From these quotes, it feels as though the board will act if they aren't satisfied with what Arteta produces with the full emblems of his playing staff, and that Edu certainly won't be reluctant to pull the trigger to save his own bacon.