When Edu was brought in as Arsenal’s very first technical director two years ago, he was heralded as a man who understood the club and what they needed.
An ex-Gunners midfielder himself, his experience of the international football scene – after his work with Corinthians, the Iranian national team and as general co-ordinator of the Brazilian national side – seemed to suggest exactly the level of global knowledge and contacts needed to turn Arsenal around in a turbulent period.
Two years on, as the man responsible for recruitment, questions are being asked of the 41-year-old. It coincides with the pressure on manager Mikel Arteta, with the club out of Europe for the first time in 25 years and a poor start to the current campaign.
Since Edu’s arrival, Arsenal have spent more than £300million on players – but, crucially, recouped only around £80 million.
The expected loss of the former Chelsea player Willian back to his native Brazil with Corinthians on a free this week has highlighted the issue. The 33-year-old only signed last summer on an eye-watering £220,000-a-week, three-year deal.
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Former record signing striker Alexandre Lacazette, who cost £46.5 million when he joined in July 2017, is in the last year of his contract. He too will leave on a free next summer if, as expected, a new deal is not signed.
Highly-paid winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan left on a free last year after arriving in a swap deal as Alexis Sanchez went to Manchester United.
The list of those who have exited the Emirates with no money coming in for them is a long one: Sokratis to Olympiakos after costing £17.7m. Shkodran Mustafi to Schalke after costing £35m in 2016.
Mesut Ozil left Arsenal for Fenerbahce last summer after costing Arsenal £42.5m in 2013. The north Londoners were still believed to be paying part of the German international’s salary until his exit in July of this year.
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It is not just the outgoings under increasing scrutiny, either. Defender William Saliba cost £27m in 2019, never played (he has gone out on loan to Marseille) – and Arsenal then paid £50m this summer for Ben White from Brighton to play in the same position.
Keeper Emiliano Martinez was deemed surplus to requirements last summer and sold to Aston Villa for £17m.
The Argentine was one of the stars of the season for the Midlands club, going on to win the Copa America with Argentina and the Golden Glove award.
Arsenal then brought in Icelandic youngster Runar Runarsson as a replacement no2 keeper – only to spend £24m last week on signing Aaron Ramsdale.
Joe Willock, who joined Newcastle last week in a £25m deal, is one of the few players from the Gunners’ famed academy for whom the club has recouped cash, Alex Iwobi leaving for Everton for £34m two years ago. The club are still desperately trying to sell their fringe players.
It is little wonder that the likes of Marc Overmars, Ralf Rangnick and Michael Emenalo – all of whom are known to be canny operators – are being touted as potential replacements.
It was Chelsea, with their 2-0 win at the Emirates last weekend, who rammed home the gulf between not just the teams, but also the clubs, right now – despite Arteta receiving cash to spend on every position in his squad this summer.
As well as signing Romelu Lukaku, European Champions Chelsea recouped more than £100m in sales this summer.
Tammy Abraham went to Roma for £34m, Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan for £25m and Marc Guehi to Crystal Palace for £18m. In addition, just two games on the opening weekend of the Premier League did not feature a player from Chelsea’s academy.
It has left the spotlight firmly on the transfer policy lashed as “lazy” by ex-Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson last week. It remains to be seen whether Edu can turn things around.