Edu has claimed that around 80% of Arsenal’s squad were far too comfortable and that the big earners who were coasting were killing the club.

Gabriel Jesus with Mikel Arteta and Edu, signing for Arsenal (Photo via Arsenal.com)
Gabriel Jesus with Mikel Arteta and Edu, signing for Arsenal (Photo via Arsenal.com)

Just before the end of 2021, Arsenal’s Academy chief, Per Mertesacker said that Arsenal had tried to spend their way to the top but fell on their faces.

Now, Edu has added more detail to that story in a lengthy, honest interview.

He also discuses how much it hurt him to see Arsenal happy with just finishing fourth, the squad they have built now and how to handle players leaving properly.

“If a guy is performing and has a big salary, that’s not a problem,” Edu said. “When the player is 26-plus, big salary and he’s not performing, he’s killing you.

“You don’t have a valuation to sell the player, the player is comfortable — Arsenal, London, beautiful, everything is fantastic — and a good salary. How many players with that kind of characteristics did we have in the past? Eighty per cent of the squad.

Edu, as we all imagine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the central character being discussed here, then admitted that it was better to remove that type of player from the dressing room, even if it costs the club money.

“Try to avoid one more year with the problem in the dressing room,” Edu added. “Take it out. Even if you have to pay because that guy is sometimes blocking someone.”

Arsenal, of course, let Aubameyang leave for free, while they have also cancelled other contracts in recent seasons just to get players out of the club.
“How many players in the squad have those characteristics today?” Edu continued.

“Now, as part of the plan, we create value in our players because I don’t want to face that situation many times more. Now, if someone wants, say, Gabriel — OK, come here. No problem.

“If we sell Bukayo Saka — that’s not going to happen but it’s just an example — we as a club have to prepare his replacement straight away. Someone has to be in the squad or we have to manage the market well.

“A club like Arsenal is not building to fight for fourth place, I’m sorry.

“We cannot accept it. That’s why I was really, really hurt when I arrived.

“I said, ‘That’s not the mentality of this football club. What is happening? Everybody is comfortable, everybody is OK, OK, OK…’ F*** you. ‘OK’? No. I don’t want to lose games.

“I want to see the physios, the masseurs, the scouts, everyone with that kind of feeling: “F****** hell, now we are going to really go for things’. And I think we are changing, we are putting good mentality in the squad.

“I felt in some important moments we needed players like those we are signing.

“We need a bigger squad with personalities, with some behaviours that say, ‘I will kill someone but I don’t lose the game’.

“I said, “Gabriel [Jesus], I’m here to try to sign you. But not the Gabriel from this season. You’ve lost your shine”. Jesus apparently replied “You’re right.”

“We had a great relationship straight away.

“It is difficult [to compete for the title], which is why we have to be realistic. But also, why not? They may be good teams but they are not unbeaten like 2003-04,” Edu laughed.

“I learned from Arsene Wenger. He tried to look after you and your family. He was focused on taking care of people.”

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.