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Edu exclusive interview: Arsenal transfer policy, his technical director role, and Mikel Arteta discussed

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Arsenal technical director Edu defends the club's transfer policy after their poor start to the season and talks about his own role and that of Mikel Arteta

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In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports' Geoff Shreeves, Arsenal technical director Edu gives his thoughts on the business the club did in the transfer window

With Arsenal bottom of the Premier League, technical director Edu gives a rare interview to Sky Sports and talks about the club's maligned transfer policy, Mikel Arteta, and more.

The Gunners have endured their worst start to a league season in 67 years, prop up the table, and have come under fire for the perceived quality of their signings - not just this summer, but across a number of years at the Emirates Stadium.

It was barely two seasons ago the club missed out on a Champions League return by a solitary point, and were runners-up in the Europa League - while this year, they are without European football of any sort for the first time since 1995.

Edu, who played for the club between 2001 and 2005, returned two years ago in his present role and here gives Sky Sports the case for his - and Arsenal's - defence in an exclusive interview.

GEOFF SHREEVES: "What can you tell me about Arsenal's transfer window and the thinking behind it? The club has spent the most money of any Premier League club, but the Arsenal fans are underwhelmed…"

Arsenal topped the spending charts this summer
Image: Arsenal topped the spending charts this summer

EDU: "Yes, I understand the reason because firstly, they have not seen the team playing together yet. That's one of the reasons but I think we have to see the wider context than just to see the money around it.

"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.

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"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.

"Now, I want to give Mikel Arteta and the board a much better squad."

GS: "It's clear there's a shift in Arsenal's policy in terms of buying young players that have value in the future. Is that because previously the transfer dealings have been poor? You have been left with players on high wages with no sell-on value and like in the case of Willian, his contract was terminated. Has that been a factor in your thinking with this new policy?"

EDU: "Yes, if you see, 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."

GS: "The problem with that for many Arsenal fans is, let's say from the six new signings you've made, probably only two of them would go straight into the first team. So, how much has this window improved Arsenal's first team right now?"

The Gunners spent £50m on defender Ben White this summer
Image: The Gunners spent £50m on defender Ben White this summer

EDU: "You see the strategy; for every single name I can explain to you the reasons.

"Aaron Ramsdale, for example, he is a very good football player and has the potential to be a big part of the team in the future."

GS: "For the future…"

EDU: "For the future of the team. What he wants to do is to balance that position and why do you bring him in? We already have one player there to play games with Bernd Leno. But, we have to bring someone in to help for the future.

"Then, at right-back, we just signed Takehiro Tomiyasu. He is someone who can come here and plays straight away because we loaned Hector Bellerin to allow space for him to come and feature straight away.

"That's the plan but of course, it's up to Mikel if he plays or not.

"And then, if you go to Nuno Tavares, he has the same characteristics because we have Kieran Tierney there to play, but we needed someone to cover him."

I'm not sure what Arsenal's transfer strategy is. It seems a bit over the place. Maybe there is one, but it's not clear. Sometimes you can see a left-field signing and think you can see where it comes from, but there's quite a few of them at Arsenal.
Gary Neville on Arsenal's transfer strategy

GS: "So, they are, if you like, at the moment reserves. You can only really say Martin Odegaard and Ben White would be expected to be first-team starters. So, of the six, only two will improve the team…"

EDU: "We suffered last year because we lost a lot of players and we didn't really have good back-ups to play games.

"I believe we need a squad to win games. We need a squad to be in a good position at the end of the season because it is not only about the first XI.

"Again, we need a foundation. We need players to play and then we need players to cover the first XI.

"Now let's put it into context. For example, in the midfield, you have Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey. So, for me and for Mikel it doesn't make sense to sign another player to be on top of them if they are the ones that are going to be playing.

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Gary Neville questions what Arsenal's transfer strategy is and says the club are still suffering from a hangover from their era under Arsene Wenger

"That's why we chose Albert Sambi Lokonga to help them.

"If you go up front we have Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli. I want to see them playing together.

"In the number 10 position, we saw a gap there because we just have Emile Smith Rowe. We needed a number 10 with the same quality to be there, help and play.

"Where we needed to spend big, big money, for me and for Mikel, that was in the centre-back position because we needed someone to fill that position. David Luiz was leaving and this was the one where we needed someone to come here and straight away have an impact on the team with the right profile of what we believe for the short, medium and long term.

"That was Ben White. That is why we went there and signed Ben White to give the squad what the squad needed."

GS: "Do you understand, though, why Arsenal fans would prefer say if you spent £150m to buy three 'oven ready' players who could go straight into the first team with maybe Premier League experience or certainly first-team experience elsewhere, that will improve the team now? As you know, right now the team has not scored a goal, has not registered a single point and sits rock bottom of the Premier League…"

EDU: "I really understand that, but I'd also like them to understand the reason and the direction we are going as a club.

"Of course, it has hurt us to be in that situation. We are hurt, I am hurt. I don't want to see the club there, but I want to see the team playing together.

"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.

"I understand the situation we are in now is really tough. It's not an excuse but let's judge the team when they play together. "

Follow Arsenal's crunch clash with Norwich on Sky Sports...

Arsenal face a crucial clash with Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium when the Premier League returns on September 11; kick-off 3pm.

Follow our live blog from 1.30pm on September 11 and watch free match highlights from 5.15pm on Sky Sports website and app.

GS: "How much is Mikel Arteta on board with the direction the club is going because you know, any manager is judged on results. If I'm Arteta, I understand you are planning for the future but if results don't improve, I could be down the road here. For example, go and get me a Romelu Lukaku, somebody like that. How much does he understand?"

EDU: "The case here is we really believe in the players we have in the squad. Maybe other people don't but we do. If we start to see the squad together, we believe in the squad.

"I sit with Mikel and we see the squad. We have a striker there who delivers to us 25 goals every single season. We have another one who delivers 15-20 goals every season.

"We have two very powerful young players from the academy in Saka and Smith Rowe. We believe in them and our squad."

GS: "As you know, Arteta is under immense pressure right now. Also, your own job has come under criticism. The criticism of you is you haven't done this job in Europe before, and you don't know the European market. What do you say to that criticism and also, what and when will it be where you can be judged for what you've done, your policy at the club?"

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Paul Merson questions the recruitment strategy at Arsenal - and volunteers his services to club!

EDU: "I respect all the pressure. I came in from Corinthians and then the Brazilian national team where there is unbelievable pressure, just as here.

"I understand the fans. I understand the reason and I accept that, but we will need a bit of time to do what we plan to do.

"I know this type of work, when we are talking about signings, and needing patience hurts Arsenal fans a lot, but it is the reality.

"That's why when I say to you we have to create a good foundation and to create a good foundation you need time."

I worry about the recruitment. I'd do a better job, I tell you now. I'm not asking a lot, I'd do it for nothing, but I'd want Tony Adams with me! My problem with Arsenal is that they buy players, but they never beat other clubs to a player. No one else is after that player.
Paul Merson on Arsenal's transfer strategy

GS: "But you know, you don't get time in football…"

EDU: "I know, but that's why you make the decisions. We believe in our squad now, but we believe this squad can be even stronger in the future.

"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?'

"The balance is not easy to get but again, we believe in what we are doing.

"Talking about my role, I understand the pressure. I understand the pressure on me, Mikel, the board and the club because the situation we are in now is not acceptable.

"But, now is the moment for everybody to be together and I would like to see people step forward in difficult moments and take the responsibility.

"I am responsible for what we are doing."

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Edu accepts the scrutiny on his role at the club, but insists he is committed to laying the foundations for the future

GS: "Do you feel as accountable for the results as the playing and management staff right now?"

EDU: "We have a different responsibility, of course. We are never going to be there and tell Mikel to play this guy and this guy.

"Of course not because that is his responsibility to choose the team, to choose the system and to help me to make the best decisions in terms of recruitment because we do the recruitment together.

"It's not me, it's not him. To be fair, it is we because when you go to the board and show the board our plan, of course, they have to like the plan and then we go together.

"And then we start to operate it.

"So, of course we have different responsibilities, but we have to see everyone as a group and take the responsibility to try to move forward and leave this situation as soon as possible."

GS: "If all the players are fit, what do you think this squad should be capable of this season? Is it top four? Is it top six? What's realistic?"

EDU: "I don't want to go for top four or top six or top eight or top 10. 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."

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Edu says the Gunners shouldn't be judged until they have a fully-fit squad after problems with injuries and Covid

GS: "How difficult is it for the club to ask for patience, for understanding and also, for the supporters to buy into what you are doing here, particularly whilst the team is sat where it is in the table?"

EDU: "It is hard. I am not asking for patience because it is the word that everybody hates to listen to.

"I am just trying to explain the strategy behind it because when people see just one window, of course they see it like this. I respect that. But you have to see what we started to do since we've been together. We've tried to clean the squad.

"As I said, it is 21 exits. It's a lot, almost a revolution. But how are you going to fill those 21 holes? You need time. You cannot come in and do it straight away.

"I don't want to be repetitive, but it is true. How are you going to create a solid foundation? And then you say okay, but they are young. They are young but we have five senior players in the squad and in the first XI in Bernd Leno, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

"Around those five we have very, very good, talented players around them which we believe in. 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. And probably, next summer, we are going to sit here again and then you are going to say to me you are just signing one or two or two or three players.

"Yes, and why? Because we made these kinds of decisions to create something to go to the future with.

"I'll give you another example. Why are a few clubs around the Premier League just signing one or two players? It's because they already have the foundation. They already have the team prepared. I'm sorry, but the reality is we don't. Now you have to create. That is the reality.

"I don't want to be here and try to lie. What's Arsenal's reality at the moment? We need to create a solid foundation. I don't want to see the squad in one season. I'd like to see Arsenal strong in one, two, three, four and five seasons. That needs strategy."

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Edu discusses the signing of Willian and why it didn't work out for the Brazilian at the Emirates Stadium

GS: "No one has a 100 per cent record on transfers. You get some right, but you get some wrong. On your watch, Willian - was that just a mistake that didn't work out?"

EDU: "The decision on Willian was to sign someone with experience of a lot of Premier League games and someone who could impact the team straight away.

"If you saw the first game of last season, away at Fulham, he started very well and everyone thought 'wow'. But a lot of different circumstances during the season, for the squad and for Willian as well, meant they were inconsistent. To be fair, every single player was inconsistent and now we want to be more consistent.

"And then at the end of the season I came to Willian and myself and Mikel said: "How are you? Because I want you to be much more consistent. What is happening?" And then he mentioned to us that he wasn't 100 per cent comfortable and when we heard that, we made the decision that we did not want a player at the club who is not 100 per cent comfortable or 10 per cent with the team.

"If not now, it's my business to find the best solution.

"If it's a mistake or not, it's harder to say. You wouldn't if our season had been better with everyone being more consistent. But the most important thing is we tried what we tried, we planned what we planned and if it works or not, we have to find a solution."

Arsenal non-executive director Josh Kroenke and Edu
Image: Arsenal non-executive director Josh Kroenke and Edu

GS: "It's really clear listening to you what the plan is, the average age etc - but do you accept that ultimately you will be judged, everyone here will be judged on results?"

EDU: "It's football. We are talking about football, so we have to accept that.

"That's when people started to criticise us and were talking about us, everybody - it's easy to talk about Arsenal today. Everyone went there and was talking against Arsenal.

"But we have to accept that. We have to be strong enough to understand and again, try to change it.

"How are we going to change it? I want to see the players step forward and say now is a good moment to go and play. I want to improve myself and try to help the club. Mikel has to improve, and the coaching staff has to improve.

"That's the moment to be together."

GS: "It's Arteta's job and his responsibility for the coaching and the way the team plays, but would you say to the owners, for your part, look, we are going down a different path here so you need to back Mikel in terms of patience and support because most managers in this instance would say: "We need a quick fix now." If Mikel is going down this route which is the club's new philosophy, do you think it's right the owners accept that and are more patient and more supportive of him than perhaps bad results bring ordinarily?"

EDU: "They already know 100 per cent what we are doing because we report to them what the plan is and how we are going to operate the plan and how we are going to be this season.

"They already know and want to see the squad playing together. We want to see them playing together. Mikel wants to see them playing together. Mikel was happy the other day when he had two or three players starting to train again.

"He wants to see everyone fit and I hope everyone without Covid. Then it is fair to judge us."

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Pep Guardiola says he has no doubts his former colleague Mikel Arteta will get back on track following Arsenal's thumping 5-0 defeat at Manchester City

GS: "Lastly, where we are right now, it is difficult times for the club. But would you say you are very happy with the window you just had?"

EDU: "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. "

GS: "So, if the players get fit and results pick up, then we'll start being able to see whether this works?"

EDU: "Exactly."

How to follow Arsenal vs Norwich on Sky Sports...

Arsenal face a crucial clash with Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium when the Premier League returns on September 11; kick-off 3pm.

Follow our live blog from 1.30pm on September 11 and watch free match highlights from 5.15pm on Sky Sports website and app.

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