Edu accepts that Arsenal are ‘hurt’ by the position the club finds itself in but maintains that the policy of recruiting young players will help put solid foundations in place for future success.
The Gunners have started the season with winless start, and eyebrows have been raised at the Gunners’ decision to spend nearly £140 million on six players who are 23-years-old or younger.
Now that the transfer window has closed, the technical director has sat down with Sky Sports to talk through a strategy which he began implementing more than a year ago.
While the Brazilian wouldn’t be lured into defining the parameters of success, he made clear that he and manager Mikel Arteta believe in the new-look squad and called on fans to reserve judgment until the players have actually played together.
Reflecting on the summer business, Edu told Geoff Shreeves:
“I am really happy because the plan which we started to execute a year ago, we did. That’s what makes me really happy because all the plans, all the steps, all the processes which we put together we executed. I am really pleased because it is not easy.”
Edu returned to the club in July 2019 and initially worked under head of football Raul Sanllehi before the Spaniard left in August last year. At that point, the Arsenal hierarchy was streamlined with the Edu and Arteta handed more responsibility.
“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,” said Edu.
He went on to cite the contract extensions of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli as the start of his project.
“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.
“Why did we do that? Because we have a reason to try again to create a good foundation and then, one day, maybe we are going to sign one or two players only. But after that, it’s impossible to sign one or two players only because we have a lot to do.
“We have to balance the squad better. We have to recruit the players with the right characteristics and the right profile to make the squad better, more solid and much more consistent because last season we suffered with consistency.”
Edu also drew attention to the large number of players who’ve left the club across the last three transfer windows.
“We had 21 players exit over the year. All of those were terminated or we tried to sell, or we tried to loan with an obligation to buy as well. We tried to clear a bit of the squad and bring in some new faces. We had 21 outgoings and signed 10 players in one year.
“So, 21 changes, it is a lot. It’s more than a squad in one year. But this was the intention again when we are talking about the base and the foundation. We have to create it again to one day just go and sign one or two players.”
Edu wasn’t pressed on the club’s general inability to raise significant funds from the sale of players. In several cases, high profile stars on big wages were effectively paid to leave or arrangements were made to terminate their contracts.
Attention now turns to getting results on the pitch. While there’s a tacit acceptance amongst fans that challenging for Europe is going to be difficult, internally it seems they believe a core of experienced players – Bernd Leno, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – can marshal the youngsters through the season.
“Around those five we have very, very good, talented players around them which we believe in,” he said. “Maybe people don’t, but we believe five guys can lead the team with the youngsters and with the new signings to go to the next step.”
Quite how big that next step is, remains to be seen. As a man under pressure, Edu unsurprisingly side-stepped the opportunity to outline definitive targets.
“I don’t want to go for top four or top six or top eight or top 10,” he said.
“I’m just really looking forward to seeing this squad play together. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone fit. I want to see our squad because I don’t see it yet. But I’m really looking forward to it because I believe and Mikel believes that this team can have a good season.”