Sao Paulo to London; From Player to Technical Director. What Edu’s return means for Arsenal.
It is fair to say that times are changing at Arsenal Football Club. And not a moment too soon. When the plethora of backroom changes took hold swift and fast, there was a positive air around events, despite warranted skepticism.
Though it never worked out long term with Sven Mislintat, the positioning of Raúl Sanllehí, Vinai Venkatesham, Huss Fahmy, and Unai Emery, signaled a massive paradigm shift from the previous regime headed up by Ivan Gazidis and managerial legend Arsène Wenger.
But the final piece of the puzzle, as labeled by Josh Kroenke himself, was the appointment of former Arsenal midfielder Eduardo César Daude Gaspar as the clubs new Technical Director.
This was not the glistening name the likes of Mislintat, or other potential targets such as Marc Overmars or presumed desired option Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo (Monchi), but it could very well be that Edu is just the man for the job.
The Arsenal way and Edu
April 25, 2004; Arsenal clinched their historic Invincibles season at White Hart Lane, adding another rich chapter to the clubs history at the expense of Spurs. Not only was Edu there, he was on the pitch. Living, breathing, and connecting to the moment the entire fanbase will forever remember.
During his four years in north London, Edu was a part of an Arsenal side overflowing with confidence, elite-level talent, and an iconic headmaster. Highbury was as glamorous as it ever had been. The club was winning major honors while playing a brand of football that is, to this day, salivated over.
It is an appointment that is certainly in line with what appears to be a key remit moving forward under the new regime; what playing for Arsenal actually means.
This is an aspect that many clubs have taken on board for years. The likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, and Juventus, have all made it a valuable piece of the puzzle to include former players as sporting directors. The value behind this is immeasurable.
For base value, the task of player recruitment is made that much easier when a person in Edu’s position understands the value of bringing in players capable of playing expansive and technical football; nothing short of what Arsenal is capable of and should be targeting moving forward. But with Edu it’s more.
With transition came uncertainty. That uncertainly begot questions of Arsenal’s identity. Considering the desire to progress the club while highlighting the history, tradition, and values that the club stands for, having a TD who have lived through it and thrived under it can truly make a difference.
With Edu, it is more than just signings.
Edu as player liaison
“Freddie helps Unai know who we are, tells him our strengths and weaknesses, and comes to us individually and tells us what we need to do from Unai. Unai does not have to speak to us directly…Freddie comes to us and tells us what we need to do. It makes the transition from the academy to the first-team much smoother.” – Bukayo Saka
The notion of other staff members being the direct point of contact with players is not an alien one. Nor does it somehow speak negatively on Unai Emery. While he seemingly may not be the best man-manager in the world, the way things are being structured – even with this topic – is another example of straying away from what came before it.
During Wenger’s reign, players spoke highly of his ability to pull them aside and provide comfort, support, or a shoulder. He was truly a father figure, but when Emery came to Arsenal it was made clear that it was as a first-team coach cog in a bigger wheel, not as manager. His role was always going to be vastly different by comparison.
With Freddie Ljungberg being promoted to the first-team staff, it speaks to that shift in structure that we keep coming back to. This is something we should also expect to be included in Edu’s role at the club, along similar lines.
Beyond conveying the history, tradition, and “what it means to play for the Arsenal” to incoming players – and players that are already at the club as well – part of Edu’s role will undoubtedly be as a constant point of contact with first-team players throughout the season, providing support, offering clarity, and being a constant presence at Colney while Emery goes about his work.
Project youth and Edu’s Brazilian connection
With Arsenal’s first signing of the summer coming by way of Brazilian youth prospect Gabriel Martinelli, and the subsequent highlighting of academy graduates being earmarked for first team contributions, it is clear what the direction of the club is regarding player personnel.
The additional business done for William Saliba (18), the nearly completed signing of Nicolas Pépé (24), and the hopeful acquisition of Kieran Tierney (22), signal further proof that Josh Kroenke and Sanllehí have eyes on the future.
Recent comments made regarding the clubs chances this season further reflect this. What this means for Edu as he actively begins his role in September, is not only a commitment to utilizing Per Mertesacker and the youth set up in a bid to keep our model sustainable, but also to keep your level of business dealings at a level commensurate with the stature of the club.
Naturally, the connections Sanllehí has fostered across Europe during his time at Barcelona is of vital importance, but Edu’s experience in Brazil at both Corinthians and with the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol, a nation with an un-matched ability to produce talented young players, is something that could move the club ahead of it’s rivals on a very important front.
Maneuvering Arsenal to have an influence and a connection to highly-rated players (both young and seasoned) from source, would allow us to supplement Sanllehí’s network well. This would be similar to how a club like Real Madrid have done business for both Rodrygo, and Vinícius Júnior directly, rather than waiting for their profile to grow at a lesser European outfit and having to pay the price for it.
There is no guarantee how well we can compete for the biggest names moving forward, but with Edu in a key position, our influence in Brazil could become key long term and serve us the same way as our connections with France.
A little bit of home
In the end, as we progress as a club, it was always going to be important for the right connections between Arsenal and the fanbase to be at its core.
I may take umbrage with certain aspects of the #WeCareDoYou movement, but there are many other parts that I agree with full; one of them being a stronger connection to supporters with the right amount of engagement.
Indeed, while it is not his primary function, having Edu in place as such a prominent piece of the club hierarchy gives fans that little bit of hope that everything this club has built will not be forgotten under an ownership group with no connection to Arsenal. He was no Overmars in terms of stature or game-changing ability, but he was still a Gunner, and that is more than enough.