That recent Edu Gaspar interview on Sky Sports still rankles me. I have nothing personal against Edu. To the contrary, he was an Invincible which has earned him tremendous goodwill. Often overlooked is how he overcame tremendous obstacles to become a Gunner and succeed at the club. It was never easy for South Americans to successfully move to England so it is significant that Edu is the first Brazilian player in the history of English football to win the Premier League.
That goodwill for Edu is surely the reason why most Gooners were happy for him to be selected as Arsenal’s first ever technical director in the summer of 2019. Very few of us felt any misgivings then he was the choice of director of football, Raul Sanllehi, the wheeler-dealer who helped in the financial demise of Barcelona and who was summarily let go by our club in August 2020. Sanllehi said at the time:
“We’re very excited that Edu is joining the team. He has great experience and technical football knowledge and most importantly is a true Arsenal man. He understands the club and what we stand for to our millions of fans around the world.”
When Sanllehi left the club Edu became the de facto director of football and since then he has been associated with some of the most dreadful footballing decisions made by the club. In September 2020 it was his decision to get rid of several members of Arsenal’s scouting network. His explanation:
“I don’t want individual people working in one area or for one country. I want a group working together. Less people with much more responsibilities.”
Less than a year later, according to a report in The Guardian, Arsenal hired a headhunting company to recruit several scouts nine months after gutting the department. Nolan Partners were tasked with finding two scouts to cover Germany and personnel to cover the UK, France and Spain. Doesn’t this raise questions as to whether Edu and company know what they are doing.
More profound from a footballing point of view is Edu’s role in the club signing Willian to become the senior midfielder in the summer of 2020. Edu, like Arteta, was practically dizzy about the former Chelsea man, a fellow Brazilian who just happens to share the same agent. In an interview with Arsenal Digital he was very ecstatic:
“He has a lot of fantastic attributes as a person, as a football player of course, his character,”
“I’m 100 per cent sure that everybody in the dressing room, the fans, myself and Mikel will enjoy having Willian in our side.
“We tried to create a better balance in the squad but we know that takes time to balance the squad the way me and Mikel [Arteta] want to. To balance properly, we need to sell players, to buy players and that takes time, not just day and night.
“It will take time but with Willian, we’ve started a big process. We’ve identified the needs in the squad and he’s the one to start to rebalance the squad as we want to.
“I am really excited and really happy to have a player like Willian because I’m convinced he’ll be the one to impact the team straight away. That, for me, is the most important one because I think the squad needed a player like Willian to help them, to be with the guys, helping in all senses. That’s why I’m so excited.”
Just like the decision with the scouts, Willian debacle has been a very expensive mistake for the club. My Uncensored colleague Ehab, ex-scout and ex-agent did a back of the envelope estimate of how much Willian cost the club:
- £10 million a year in wages
- 3 years with an option for 4th totaling £30 million
- Estimated £4 to £5 million to his agent, Kia
- Total cost £34 million
Willian played 37 games, 22 as starter, so he cost us £1 million per game. Output was 1 goal and 5 assists.
After the Willian debacle and his return to Brazil, the club has mounted a PR campaign that he generously foregoed £20 million in wages to get out of his contract. Sounds familiar to similar reports from Highbury House last January that Ozil left the club on loan to Fenerbache only for us to subsequently learn that the club had to pay off his rumored £17 million in contractual wages ending in July.
With such a well-documented 2-year history of Edu as TD at Arsenal don’t blame me for not trusting a single word the man has to say about our football club. From wanting to bring “better balance” to the side in 2020 to talk of building better “foundations” in 2021. Am reminded of that great saying:
Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.
REMINDER: Friday mornings is the Uncensored Arsenal livestream on YouTube at 6:00 AM AST or 11:00 AM BST with Blackburn George and Ehab.