Is Edu the best sporting director Arsenal’s ever had?


The question is moot. He’s the only sporting director Arsenal have ever had. I suppose then, that anyone seeking a direct answer to that rhetorical question would have to agree that the answer is yes. Prior to that, in his role as technical director, Edu had already had an impressive influence on the club’s direction. Yes, there was a bumpy start, but the hits keep on coming. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Edu stumbled out of the gate, probably due to a power struggle with former Head of Football Raul Sanllehi, who outranked Edu. It was Sanllehi who saddled the club with Nicolas Pépé. Edu had a role in other flops or duds such as Willian, Sokratis, and Luiz. Then again, for each of those, there’s a Leno or Tierney or Saliba to suggest that Edu had an eye for talent. Since Sanllehi left on 15 August 2020, Edu’s record of signing players has taken off like a runaway freight train.

The list of players he signed since Sanllehi’s departure includes Martinelli, Partey, White, Ramsdale, Ødegaard, Tomiyasu, Magalhães, Vieira, Tavares, Lokonga, Jesus, Trossard, Kiwior, Jorginho, Havertz, and Zinchenko. That’s an outrageous record of success, with only Tavares and Lokonga failing to impress enough to earn a role with the first team.

Of course, one of Edu’s most-visible transfer attempts seemed to prove that he didn’t know what he was doing. We were linked with a move for Mykhailo Mudryk for months, with all signs and sources saying that it was in effect a done deal, only for Chelsea to swoop in at the very end to snatch him from under our noses. Was he out-manoeuvred? Possibly. Was he out-bid? Yes, definitely. When a free-spending club like Chelsea has to resort to dodgy techniques like committing to an eight-year contract to spread out the fee, you have to ask whether they overbid. Mudryk may eventually prove his value, but it isn’t too much to suggest that Edu decided to walk away rather than end up with another white elephant or albatross, depending on your preferred idiom or allusion.

We fast-forward to the signings of Trossard, Kiwior, and Jorginho, each of them astute, valuable signings that added much-needed depth. It can be difficult, expensive, or even impossible to find quality in the January window, but Edu did it. The fact that Saliba got injured should probably have forced Arteta to try Kiwior (or Tierney at CB) rather than persisting with a clearly inferior Rob Holding—but that’s an Arteta issue, not an Edu issue.

Having perhaps learned from the Mudryk experience, Edu seemed to pursue Declan Rice, a Prem-proven homegrown player touted as one of the best at his position, with a more-determined strategy. West Ham originally demanded £120m; they eventually came down to £100m only to insist on bizarre payment structures (full fee spread across 18 months rather than the length contract, 75% up front). Let’s not forget that, along the way, Edu pushed past Man City, they of the 115 alleged financial violations, to get his man. That’s…that’s not supposed to happen. It’s Man City, after all.

At any rate, Edu finally got Rice by agreeing to accept the £100m fee paid in three installments over 24 months. Okay. Not ideal. West Ham probably got more of what they wanted (a lot of money and fast) than we did (our #1 target), at least in the short term. Something tells me Rice will prove his worth in short order. In that short term, we got West Ham to accept a fee that was 83% of their original demand. That’s some solid negotiation.

Showing that Edu can walk and chew gum, the signings of Havertz and Timber happened with such speed that the clickback birdcage-liner sources are probably considering a lawsuit to recoup the loss of potential earnings on splashy headlines followed by “articles” that offer more pop-ups and interstitial ads than actual words or insights.

Still not convinced? How about selling a limited player who’ll turn 31 in September to the only club he wants to play for £25m? We signed Xhaka on a £35m fee way back in 2016. The idea that Edu might be starting to figure out how to sell our unwanted players at solid fees rather than losing them for free first emerged when we sold Joe Willock for £25m in 2021. There’s now talk that we might sell Tavares, whom we got for a measly £8m, for something closer to £25m.

Imagine. A sporting director who not only recruits and signs talented, hungry players but also unloads unwanted or ageing players. This transfer window has been open a grand total of three weeks. Edu’s just getting started.

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18 thoughts on “Is Edu the best sporting director Arsenal’s ever had?

  1. A Simple Truth

    you might want to slow your roll Jon as even his own mother might not be quite so flattering…I think it might be more prudent to take a wait-and-see approach until the end of the upcoming season, as this was his first “big boy” window…up to this point I would still suggest that he’s been more miss than hit

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      too funny – I just replied to your comment on the “Whom will Arsenal sign first…” post with the same “slow your roll” remark.

      I am once again perhaps guilty of being overly optimistic, but I do have to disagree that he’s been more miss than hit. Of the signings he himself is responsible for, only Tavares and Lokonga stand out as possible busts. Vieira is still in the hit-or-miss category. We don’t know what role he played in the signings he “shared” with Sanllehi so we should be careful how harshly we judge him on those.

      The two windows in which he’s been at the wheel (January and now) have been productive. We’ve gotten our #1 and added two other players, and there are rumours to the effect that we’re not quite done.

      One caveat I’ll add is that we can’t really judge this window until it’s closed and we can see how our business compares to that of our rivals. We’ve done well for ourselves, but Chelsea have been busy with incoming and outgoing, and it’s only a matter of time before other clubs get busy.

      1. A Simple Truth

        let me preface my Edu critique by stating unequivocally that Marts wasn’t an Edu discovered gem, as some have wrongly suggested over the years…it was Johnathon Vidalle, a member of our scouting team…Edu had absolutely nothing to do with him arriving at the Emirates, which is worth noting as this myth has been frequently thrown around by those within the Kool-Aid crew…as for the rest of the post-Raul arrivals, which doesn’t include many of whom you listed in your article, like Tierney, Leno, Saliba, Luiz and Sokratis, as they all arrived while the aforementioned clown was still in our employ, it’s been a really mixed bag

        so here’s my list:

        (1) since MA’s hiring this not-so-dynamic duo has generated about 70M in outgoing sales while spending approxinately 600M…that speaks volumes about both his highly questionable business acumen and the chequebook tendencies of our present manager

        (2) of those they’ve brought in we’ve spent above the number on the vast majority, yet only a small portion of those players have actually seen their market valuation increase substantially

        (3) they’ve likewise paid some now former players substantial sums to ply their trades elsewhere

        (4) they’ve ghosted players who needed to be put in the shop window, then put our dirty laundry on blast, which negatively affected their respective transfer values

        (5) they’ve been gazumped on several occasions due to dithering and amateur hour tactics,

        (6) they’ve dealt poorly with numerous re-ups, which led to a few problematic deals with unnecessarily high wage packages and lengthy terms to boot,

        (7) they haven’t targeted our most pressing needs early in any window, until this summer

        (8) finally, when it comes to the last two winter windows, two years ago we shed contracts and didn’t have the required depth to get a CL invite…then this year, after targeting two potential blue chippers, we resorted to paying above the number for a player on the outs, who isn’t a like-for-like Marts cover piece, and an older, diminutive and slower DM, who was about to become a periphery piece on Chelsea with Kante’s pending return…hardly the kind of moves that were going to inspire us to outlast City

        just saying…

        1. A Simple Truth

          just for clarification purposes, the 70M was prior to the Xhaka move today and this is more of a “duo” critique than just an Edu one, thus the “theys”

        2. Eoin ó Conchobhair

          of course a scout identified Martinelli. A technical director isn’t the one scouring the world for new players. Credit Vidalle but don’t exclude Edu. For this part, Martinelli said ““Edu, in particular, I had contact with him at Corinthians as I had a spell there and I know they had a lot of success here but also for the national team.” We don’t know details but it makes sense that Edu, a Brazlian who was Corinthians’ DoF when Martinelli played there, would of had some influence on the transfer. That’s not Kool-aid (they drank Flavor Aid btw). That’s just logic. Saying Edu had “absolutely nothing” to do with signing Martinelli is bollocks.

          1. you can only sell who you own. When Edu came in we had garbage players to sell. Getting rid of Sokratis, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Ozil, Mustafi, and others at ANY price will take effort. We have to get better at selling players for sure, but it’s a lot easier to sell well when you’re selling players other clubs want.

          2. we’ve spent above the number on maybe a handful of players it’s true, but when you get someone like Odegaard for 35m or Magalhaes for 25m, you’re doing something right.

          3. this is also the legacy Edu & Arteta inherited. No one seems to want these holdovers from the previous brain trust. Moving them out on loan where we at least split their wages somehow until their contracts run down might be the only option.

          4. they can’t and shouldn’t give playing time to players who are not up to snuff just to shop them around, that would risk us dropping points. yes it would of been nice to see someone like Tierney play more so we could boost his transfer value, but there aren’t too many others in that situation.

          5. when has this gazumping happened aside from Mudryk which John addressed above?

          6. This like the transfer fees business isn’t really a concern to us as fans. If the Kroenkes are content to give 200k/wk salaries to 4-5 players, it’s their money. I don’t really see any real risk to it, it’s not like we’re Leeds at risk of going into administration. After years of Arsene’s penny-pinching, let’s enjoy some spending as long as it doesn’t go overrboard.

          7. Ben White: 30 July 2021
          Gabriel Jesus: 4 July 2022
          Zinchenko 22 July 2022
          Trossard: 20 Jan 2023
          Kiwior 23 Jan 2023

          All of these signings we completed well ahead of the close of the transfer window.

          It’s not like FIFA where we can just buy players whenever. Selling clubs need convincing and have their own schedules to mind as well.

          8. buying players on the outs is part of what happens in January, indeed, it’s probably a majority of the business that happens. Jorginho and Trossard were useful stopgaps and Kiwior could become an important player in his won right. we don’t have the bottomless funds that City have which means we do have to be more careful about overpaying for players but also we can’t expect to compete with them financially.

          1. A Simple Truth

            Eoin-quite a cake and eat it too narrative, in that you had caveats within many of your points, which weren’t actually too far off from my observations…btw thanks for your 101 lesson in asset management but, much like when the Kool-aid crew used covid as an early days Arteta excuse, even though everyone was dealing with the same unique set of variables, you’ve done likewise with the whole “inherited dross” scenario…just for a second imagine if you knew nothing about this particular sport or the organization in question but were asked to evaluate the administrative/business practices of Edu’s Arsenal for a master’s in sports management course, I’m fairly certain that “you” would have drawn very similar conclusions as myself…I don’t have a hidden agenda, as I only want the best for our club, so I’m not going to be swayed by nonsense being spewed, visa vie various “media” outlets, by those within the club with a vested interest…finally, I get the country of origin connection, but the Marts get wasn’t an Edu gig no matter how many times you suggest otherwise…have a good one

            1. Eoin ó Conchobhair


              You can’t really wave off Martinelli himself talking about Edu having an impact on the transfer. I’m not saying Edu was some kind of Gandalf or Splinter type character, i’m just saying it makes sense to think that Edu played a role in the signing. Caveats are context, mate – they put our comments in context so that we don’t sound overly confident in our claims. I doubt that either of us knows the inner workings of the club, why else would we be banging on on John’s blog instead of raking it in as ITKs?

              1. A Simple Truth

                what you refer to as context is actually nuance, but that’s neither here nor there in the grand scheme…what’s infinitely more pertinent is that you have no idea whatsoever what I do and don’t know, but I will say that my personal experiences within the sporting world does afford me a little more insight than the average bear…btw you shouldn’t be so quick to belittle what can be gleaned from these less trampled blogs, as I’ve been an active participant on more than my fair share and this one has more merit than many which appear, at first blush, to have substantially more street cred…agree to disagree on the whole Marts affair…Cheers

    2. greenjanner

      Ah, the man who thinks that we should have been more ambitious in appointing a manager rather than Arteta. It is certainly an argument but you either will not or cannot suggest one of those more ambitious possibilities.

      However, your continued reluctance to give credit where it is due suggests that you have an agenda that actually includes a preference for replacing Arteta and Edu by more worthy candidates.

      Again, that is fair enough. Why not tell us who those might be? Why ever not?

  2. Jax

    What would normally be the job description of both a sporting director, and a technical director? I’ve always been confused as to what they’re supposed to do.😜

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Sporting director is a fairly new role, only a few clubs have them. Compared to technical director, it’s a more all-encompassing role that includes the recruitment and signing of new players but also includes a longer-term vision for the culture & philopsophy of a club from the academy on up. It might even include discussions with the coach/manager around tactics, formations, matchday preparations, etc. A technical director usually has a much narrower focus on transfers (ingoing and outgoing) and negotiating player contracts & renewals. The person in this role may or may not lead the way when it comes to identifying players to sign or may defer to the coach/manager’s vision.

      Neither role has a clearly defined role, and there’s a range of descriptions, but I think my explanation captures the essence of the two roles.

  3. Eoin ó Conchobhair

    interesting to see some new regulars popping up, John. It’s starting to feel more like a community here (and even some range of opinion whereas it used to be more of an echo chamber with most of us seemingly in agreement most of the time. Palladio is an interesting voice of reason, A Silent Truth is more contrary, to name just two.

  4. jw1

    Every right to be optimistic Jon. Let pessimists travel at their own speed in their own lane. No obligation to get into their mode of transport. Myself, I’m enjoying every bit of this ride.

    Couple of points. Not sure you can put David Luiz in the flop column. For most of his time here he was serviceable, and– the only defender who could break lines with a pass, make a cross-field pass or over the top. Questionable too, were 2 of the three calls for red cards. I’d call it a wash on Luiz– at a time the team was at its lowest ebb. As for Sokratis? Believe he was a Sven Mislintat guy imported from Dortmund.

    The other point– the 24 month fee term for DRice. If I’m not mistaken– the three payments can be spaced or ‘timed’ to be paid in three different fiscal years. A bit onerous, but less so than it might occur initially.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Fair points. I’m not sure how to rate Luiz. The pessimist in me looks at him through the lens of his having played for Chelsea, the various red cards, and numerous other gaffes and thinks “dud”. On the other hand, he did deliver important leadership and something resembling reliability when his partners were Chambers, Mustafi, Holding, and Sokratis. No mean feat, that.

      As for Rice’s fee, I think/hope you’re right – spreading the fee out across three fiscal years makes it more manageable. I do hope that the Kroenkes know what they’re getting into.

  5. Howard

    You talk as if Edu is Arteta’s boss Arteta picks the players as manager and starts the process Actual negotiations and contracts are done by Tim Lewis and Richard Garlick.

    Arteta wilds more powers than Edu as far running of the team is concerned . Without Arteta players like Partey, Rice and Odegaard won’t. In fact Edu works for Arteta not the other way around

    Edu has misrepresented himself to fans that he runs Arsenal by his constant self promotion publicity

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Well-said, Howard, and I should be more-careful not to impose my own view of the organisational flow-chart, nor should I overlook the roles that Lewis and Garlick play.

      I would quibble with the idea that Edu has misrepresented himself, though. Most of that misrepresentation might result from a misunderstandings regarding his role, and those of Arteta, Lewis, and Garlick. He doesn’t seem to be self-aggrandizing, at least not to an inappropriate degree.

  6. Johnno

    Edu`s done a great job. His signings on the whole have been hugely successful and he`s managed to get rid of the deadwood and high earning underachievers.
    I do disagree with a few points in the article. I also don`t think Luiz was a flop, we probably shouldn`t have signed him but I thought he did alright for the club and always gave 100%. I also think he was a good influence on the young kids who were breaking through at the time. His performance against City in the FA Cup Semi Final will always be my abiding memory of him, he was magnificent that day.
    I really disagree with your belief that Xhaka is limited, I think we`ll miss him and it might take a while before we find the right balance in the middle of the park. Every time he was unavailable last season we struggled and lost our shape. I do agree though that 20+ million is good dough for a geezer his age with 1 year left on his contract.
    Up The Arse.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Fair points. I’ll admit that I’m harsh on Sideshow Bob (Luiz) in part because of his time at Chelsea. His influence as a leader and mentor is hard to quantify but is significant given the number of young players and especially young Brazilian players we’ve brought in.

      My remark regarding Xhaka is limited deserves more context. He was an important leader like Luiz but was very slow and excessively one-footed. He was able to compensate for those limitations, but I do think Havertz and Rice will represent upgrades in the long run. I’m glad he left on a personal high note, bagging a brace against Wolves, and wish him nothing but the best.


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