Around 18 months ago, envisioning the scenario I am about to describe would have been quite challenging.
Yet, as we stand on the brink of a fresh season, I can confidently assert that Edu Gaspar currently stands as the premier sporting director in the English Premier League.
Edu’s journey with Arsenal began when they occupied an unimpressive 11th place.
Collaborating closely with then head coach-turned-manager Mikel Arteta, they have meticulously shaped a squad that, in a span of just over two full seasons, transformed into a formidable unit capable of challenging Man City for the title.
Their ambition remains unwavering, seeking to repeat this feat with an even more formidable lineup.
Reflecting back over 18 months, Arsenal concluded the 2022 January transfer window without securing a single signing.
The focus during that period centered on resolving the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang situation.
Edu’s diligence in translating Arteta’s vision into reality, often involving difficult decisions that he might not wholly agree with, has been commendable.
In Episode 5 of the Amazon All or Nothing series, Edu candidly expressed, “It wasn’t easy when Mikel came to me talking about Aubameyang.
But you have to really be sensible and say yes, he’s right, and we have to support him.”
This exemplifies his commitment to the club’s best interests, a testament to his understanding of the broader context beyond the immediate game.
A crucial facet contributing to Edu’s prowess is his personal connection as a former player of the club.
While non-affiliated individuals can excel in similar roles, Edu’s deep-seated, long-term passion for Arsenal elevates their efforts to an exceptional level.
This passion resonates when conversing with him.
A discussion I had with Edu after a game against Newcastle last season revealed his infectious enthusiasm, notably evident when discussing Jakub Kiwior’s performance, a recent signing of his.
Prior to the summer, Edu had two primary objectives: securing Arsenal’s priority transfer targets and bolstering the club’s selling reputation.
Before departing for their United States tour, they had already accomplished the former with the strategic acquisition of Kai Havertz, meeting Arteta’s need for forward diversity while staying below Chelsea’s initial asking price.
The injury to William Saliba had devastating effects on Arsenal’s title aspirations last season, a scenario Edu aimed to avoid repeating.
The procurement of Jurrien Timber, not only providing defensive versatility but embodying Arteta’s preferred player profile, was a brilliant move.
Negotiations lowered Ajax’s initial €60 million to below £40 million, showcasing Edu’s adeptness in a competitive market.
Then emerged the monumental deal for Declan Rice, desired above all by Arteta.
Edu orchestrated a record-breaking transaction, deftly overcoming competition from Manchester City, showcasing his foresight compared to the tumultuous situations of other clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham.
As the new season dawns, Edu’s most recent feat appears as a masterclass: a £3 million loan deal for David Raya, incorporating a £27 million buy option.
This creative maneuver not only aids Financial Fair Play compliance but also affords flexibility for potential late-window prospects.
Outbound transfers posed an equally significant challenge. Balancing multiple arrivals, the squad burgeoned with returning loan players and burgeoning talents. Edu’s acumen shone through in profitable deals like Granit Xhaka’s £21.5 million sale, exceeding initial expectations, and Austin Trusty’s value more than tripling.
Notably, Edu’s management of Folarin Balogun’s situation signifies the club’s resolve.
Rejecting lucrative offers, Arsenal’s valuation reflects a long-term vision, bolstered by successful contract negotiations for key players like Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli, Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka, and William Saliba.
As Arsenal’s resurgence continues, star players remain, testament to Edu’s transformation of the club’s perception.
Collaborating with Arteta, their joint vision seeks to reestablish Arsenal’s position at the summit.
Amidst commendable efforts by other clubs, it’s Edu’s and Arsenal’s evolution that captivates most, with their eyes set on continued elite presence and Champions League triumphs.