Edu on a mission | The Herald

The Herald

LONDON. — Edu is clearly a man on a mission to restore Arsenal to greatness.

And if that means taking a chainsaw to the culture which had pervaded every corner of the Emirates, that is a price he has been more than willing to pay.

The former Brazilian midfielder first endeared himself to Gunners fans as a member of Arsene Wenger’s 2003-04 Invincibles.

But he has been playing an even more important role since being appointed technical director in 2019 to help salvage a club in serious danger of losing their place at football’s top table.

In an extraordinarily frank SunSport interview, Edu insisted: “Arsenal should not be building to just fight for fourth. A club of our size cannot accept that.

“That’s what really hurt when I returned three years ago. I was asking, “What’s happening here? Everybody is comfortable and they’re all OK with that?”

“Well, f*** you, because that’s not the mentality of this club. I want everyone to feel, “F***ing hell, now we are really going to go for things.”

“So we needed a squad with personalities that say, “I am not losing this game — I will kill someone first but I don’t lose.”

“And this summer I think we’ve added more players with that kind of character.”

One of Edu’s first tasks was to replace Unai Emery with Mikel Arteta as manager.

He revealed: “With all due respect, the project really started when we decided to change Unai.

“That was my first planning, to go to the board and explain the reason to go in a different direction. We needed to have a coach with a very clear plan and structure of how he wanted the team to play.

“It makes our life super complicated if it’s difficult to read how a coach wants to play.

“That’s when you can make mistakes with recruitment. It’s not easy to find the right players if we don’t really understand the system and characteristics.

“We had to be really brave to change the coach in the middle of the season because a lot of internal people were telling me, “We’ve never done that before.” “But if you’ve diagnosed that change is necessary, the decision has to be made quickly. It hurts but don’t postpone something that must be done.

“Then I started to interview coaches and as soon as I went to meet Mikel at his house, I could see this guy had a plan.

“And now he’s going to make the club’s life easier because with him as coach I could give Arsenal a five-year plan.”

Yet replacing the manager was only the start for Edu, who had to organise a complete clear-out of a complacent dressing room.

In the past three years alone, 40 players have left the club — with more scheduled to go in the next few weeks.

And even though Arsenal have barely had transfer fees for most of those departures, Edu argues it has still been good business.

Yet the straight-talking Brazilian (44) is not the sole architect of Arsenal’s drive to focus on signing hungry young players.

He said: “It’s not my plan — it’s the club’s. I lead the ideas and open the discussions but we are all building together.

“Mikel is also a big part of that plan and that was why the timing of his new contract at the end of last season was such an important part of the process.

“We were going into a transfer window and we wanted people to see Arsenal as very organised and well-planned.

“For that to happen our manager’s contract had to be renewed, so we could say to players and agents, “Mikel is our manager and he’s going to be with us for a minimum of three more years”.

“That’s how to avoid any doubts when you’re going to sign a player.

“The way I sell this club is to tell the player, ‘OK, we’re not in the Champions League yet but you can be the guy that gets us there. How long since we won the title? You can put your name in Arsenal history.”

“When I negotiate with a player, I meet them face-to-face to sell them our project. Then I can smell if something is wrong.

“For example, I talked to a player in Dortmund but it was always, ‘Yeah, but what about my contract — let’s talk money.”

“So I just told his agent, ‘Guys, thanks very much but it’s not what I want’. And I got up and left. Boom.”

Edu admitted that just missing out on the top four last season was a setback.

And he added: “I felt in important moments we needed players like those we’re signing now.”

Yet he maintains that 2022-23 has always been earmarked as Arsenal’s breakthrough season.

He explained: “The top four is going to be difficult to break into and we have to be realistic about that.

“But why not? These teams may be good — but they’re not unbeatable like we were in 2003-04!” — The Sun

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