Arsenal

Edu embarks on transfer war for Arsenal leaving Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery on the front line

Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta might have already locked horns this season but the Aston Villa and Arsenal managers’ directors Monchi and Edu respectively could have the bigger say

Edu Gaspar remains a figure at Arsenal that, despite a successive title challenge much thanks to the business he has done in the market, is still someone who many supporters are yet to be convinced by. I have come to realise that whilst both Mikel Arteta and Edu remain at the club some will never be happy thanks to their unwavering position on an opinion that neither are good enough for the club.

They often point to the work done by those at Aston Villa in such a short space of time. The Aston Villa that beat Arsenal in fortuitous circumstances and then failed to take the initiative to go top of the table by choking a home clash with bottom club Sheffield United – had the Gunners been in their shoes it bear not trying to imagine the headspace the aforementioned critics would have occupied.

But Villa are a very good example of a club with greater ambitions than the wider footballing community expects of them. They work to bring Unai Emery to the club and unite him with the shrewd footballing transfer guru of Spain known only as Monchi.

Monchi was once linked with a switch to Arsenal but an opening at Sevilla prompted the then 50-year-old to favour a return to the club that had elevated his profile to what it is in the modern age of the sport. Edu therefore came into Arsenal and the rest is history.

Monchi would leave Sevilla earlier this year to become Aston Villa’s president of football operations. He delivered one of the most exciting summer windows in the club’s history landing players coveted by many of Europe’s elite.

Moussa Diaby, Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans and Nicolo Zaniolo have all arrived and played a part in the club’s rise up the table. That rise includes the aforementioned win over Arsenal and also one of the most impressive victories over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in living memory.

So how has Monchi and Emery been able to somewhat steal Arsenal’s thunder and compete in such a fashion so quickly? Well, it is worth pointing out that the season is still young and whilst it might be dismissive not to credit Villa as title challengers it remains quite the claim.

It is also worth noting that the insipid performances under Steven Gerrard occurred with a side with plenty of talent that Emery inherited and has incorporated into his current side. Emi Martinez, Matty Cash, Lucas Digne, Leon Bailly, John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins all started the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.

All of these players were at the club prior to the arrival of Unai Emery. Compare that to what Mikel Arteta did early during his reign at the club and he was already looking to move on the established stars of Mesut Ozil.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would follow along with the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira to name but a few. Arteta and Edu have undertaken a massive investment project which has come at a serious cost, coming to an agreement with players over contract terminations.

At the same time, whilst Edu has been delivering the players Arteta wants, the Spaniard has been working hard to address the key characteristics that needed to be eradicated. Arsenal are now one of the best away sides in the league with a strong defensive reputation and their horrific record away to Premier League ‘Big Six’ sides is something of the past.

They’ve won in the league at Old Trafford, beaten Manchester City, remained unbeaten at Stamford Bridge for several seasons in a row, won at Tottenham and even overcome some bogey sides like Everton, Brighton and Crystal Palace. The progression under Arteta and Edu’s tenure has delivered blow after blow after blow to their critics.

Emery was often sympathised with for not getting the players he wanted at Arsenal like Wilfried Zaha and Steven Nzonzi – instead getting Pepe and Torreira. Yet, sometimes Edu too has not been able to get the priority players that Arteta has always wanted.

Fans will be all too familiar with the stories of Raphinha, Mykhailo Mudryk, Lisandro Martinez and Dusan Vlahovic. Yet what the Brazilian has done is work on players as an alternative and hence why Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been key players in the club’s successive title challenges.

Edu was awarded for his work after being named Best Director at the 2023 Golden Boy Awards. It is well-earned and marks the development of not only the players at the club but Edu within his own profession alongside Arteta.

Where Arsenal and Aston Villa finish come May will provide a clearer picture of where the two teams are after a full season with their respective managers and transfer bosses. What this perhaps provides however is the context to the critique of the Gunners when spoken in line with the Villans.

Related Articles