In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, Arsenal technical director Edu reflects on the signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, takes us inside their pursuit of Raphinha, who opted to join Barcelona, and explains how he works in harmony with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.
With Arsenal the current top Premier League spenders this summer, the club’s technical director Edu speaks exclusively to Sky Sports News about their transfer business, working in harmony with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta and why only trophies will do.
Arsenal have spent £121.5m on five new players this summer with the arrivals of Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, Marquinhos and Matt Turner.
Their business appears to be translating well on the pitch too with Arteta’s side winning all four pre-season games so far, including a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea in Orlando at the weekend.
Sky Sports News reporter Michael Bridge exclusively sat down with Edu, who played for the club between 2001 and 2005 and has been Arsenal technical director since July 2019, to discuss the summer so far and his hopes for the season ahead…
How pleased are you with your latest signing Oleksandr Zinchenko?
“We are so excited to have Zinchenko with us here because he’s a player that we really targeted. It’s a player that we really believe has the characteristics and the qualities that are going to increase our level in the squad for sure.
“[The Zinchenko transfer] was planned like six months ago, to feed that position in the best way possible in the way which Mikel really wants to play.
“Mikel of course knows him more than anyone because they worked together [at Manchester City] but all the information around the player is top. Not only about his qualities as a footballer but as a person as well, which for us is so important to have a player like him in the squad.”
Can we expect any more new signings?
“I think we have to be prepared for every situation. We still feel the transfer window is open and the most important thing is to be prepared for everything, every scenario, because opportunities can happen.
“Clubs can approach us, players probably want to go on loan, so there’s still lots to do, but again, being prepared for me is the most important [thing] and for sure we are very much prepared for almost everything.”
Gabriel Jesus told me you were a big reason for him joining the club – how does that make you feel?
“No, it’s not me, it’s Arsenal. I’m just part of the process of when you go in to sign a player, I’m there in front of the player, in front of the family to explain who you are. I think we as a club have to be proud to have a player like Gabriel Jesus here.”
Asked whether they had tracked Jesus for a long time:
“For sure. This process really, I think, takes like seven months in terms of understanding each other and talking to each other, because also he has a lot of other opportunities and then he chooses because he understands who we are.”
Have you brought in the players you wanted to, despite not qualifying for the Champions League?
“Yes, almost 100 per cent of them. I understand sometimes players want to play Champions League football, but I think we can offer something very special for the players as well.
“It’s not only Champions League, but you can be part of a group of players which can achieve something very special for this football club. And then I always ask them if they want to be part of the project we’ve been building as we’re doing.
“I’m sure we will do something very special for this football club and then when I explain to the players, they really understand [it] and that’s why they’re here.”
Have you met players that are not right for Arsenal?
“Yes, for sure. The reason to meet the players, to meet the families and to talk to the agents is of course they have to understand us, but I also have to understand them.
“If they fit the model in all senses then okay, we carry on. But when I see something which I’m not really comfortable with, I move on.”
How close were you to signing Raphinha?
“People think we went in too deep about Raphinha, because Raphinha was everywhere.
“It’s fair we did have some conversations with Deco because Deco is his agent and I have a good relationship [with him] – we are friends.
“I just said to Deco, ‘Can you explain to me the situation with Raphinha?’ and he was clear, ‘Edu, we have a good relationship but I’m not going to lie to you, his idea is to go to Barcelona because he’s dreaming to go to Barcelona, and we’ve been talking to Barcelona since a long time ago’.
“Okay, thank you very much, if something happens then just let me know because I can explore and understand the situation. If not, no problem and we carry on with our relationship.”
In terms of moving players out, it’s not easy is it?
“No, but it’s a part of our job to try to create some opportunities for the players. I think the most important thing is to make the player understand why he is here or why he needs to go, and then we have to create some possibilities with the player’s agents and try to find the best solution possible for the player.
“As soon as you give to them a clear idea of what you want to do, it helps the situation. It’s a challenge because you have to find clubs, situations and loans. But again, if you can be direct to the player in a very respectful way, that helps a little bit to make the best decision.”
How important is it that you and Arteta agree on a signing?
“One hundred per cent. I’m never ever going to sign a player which Mikel is not comfortable with, never. That’s not my style and for sure it’s not the Arsenal style.
“If we decide to work together then the decision needs to be together. It’s not Mikel’s signings, it’s not Edu’s signings, it’s the Arsenal signings so that for me is the most important thing for people to understand.
“I always say people sometimes give the credit to me or to Mikel, but the credit has to go to Arsenal. We are Arsenal, we are working together and the decision we make is together.
“Around one decision is not only Edu and Mikel, it’s a lot of people around those decisions. The most important message to the fans and for people to understand is that we sign players for Arsenal and [they are] Arsenal’s decisions.”
How impressed were you when Arteta interviewed for the job?
“Wow. When I spoke to him over the phone to introduce myself and talk to him, funnily enough, we stayed on the phone for one hour talking about everything, not just football but families, concepts, ideas and behaviours.
“When I switched off my telephone I thought that’s maybe something really special and what we are probably looking for the club.
“Then when we decided to go there and to meet Mikel to talk about the ideas, he was almost prepared for everything. He was really impressive on his ideas, his style and the way he wanted to play so it was amazing – that’s why he’s here.”
You were with the owners on Wednesday, how supportive have they been with the spending?
“Not only with the spending because it’s unfair to link the owners just with the spending. They are very much important and it is sometimes unfair if people have some doubts about our owners.
“They are really engaged, they’re really supportive and they’re really present in the club which makes us feel really comfortable.”
How forward-thinking are you?
“We have a plan really in place, so we are probably in the middle of our project.
“We need to keep improving the quality in the squad. We have to make important decisions to make our squad better every year, so we have to improve, improve and improve.
“Here we have to always think about winning. I think the club was born to win things because of the size of this club and that we have to always think about winning. Every single year we have to be better, better and better.”
Looking ahead to the new season, do you want more than top four?
“Yeah for sure. I respect and we have to be realistic for these situations, but why not put here that I want to win again. I want to be there again as soon as possible. Why not?”
So what’s your target this season?
“With all my respect, even being realistic, I cannot think less than winning things.”
What’s your promise to the Arsenal fans with the transfer window still open?
“We will keep working really, really hard for them.”
Source: Sky Sports