Arteta and Edu have fortnight to save Arsenal’s underwhelming summer


photo of Arsenal’s technical director Edu Gaspar and former head of football Raul Sanllehi relaxing on a yacht off Monaco stirred the frustrations of some supporters last month.

Edu, it was said, should have been focussed on making waves in the transfer market, rather than holidaying on a boat with his former boss.

Four weeks later, Arsenal’s situation is broadly similar, leaving supporters increasingly restless, and Edu and Mikel Arteta facing a crucial fortnight.

Manager Arteta is already under renewed pressure — and surely running out of chances — after Arsenal began the season with a 2-0 defeat at Brentford on Friday, characterised by many of the familiar problems that have plagued his tenure.

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Their next two matches are against Chelsea and Manchester City, raising the realistic possibility that Arsenal could go into September’s international break floundering near the bottom of the fledgling league table.

While the loss in west London was deflating, Arteta is not expected to beat Chelsea or City given the sheer gulf in resources and quality between Arsenal and the two Champions League finalists.

Which brings us back to Edu. Towards the end of last season, Arteta outlined plans for an “unprecedented” summer to reshape his squad and return to the club to a position where they could challenge for Champions League football.

With two weeks to go until the end of the transfer window, Arsenal’s business is ramping up – but underwhelming is a more apt description than unprecedented.

The club has already spent £72million on centre-half Ben White, midfielder Albert Lokonga and left-back Nuno Tavares, all promising players, aged 23 or under.

The possibles captures of Martin Odegaard – agreements with Real Madrid and the playmaker are close – and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale would take their spending over £120m but there is doubt over whether such a sizeable outlay will have significantly improved Arteta’s first XI.

Sheffield United’s Ramsdale, for example, would cost around £25m but is not guaranteed to oust Bernd Leno, while Tavares signed as a squad player.

While Arsenal can point to a coherent strategy to buy young players with future sell-on value, the club are yet to really pull a rabbit out of a hat this summer — even considering the remarkably challenging market conditions, as the coronavirus pandemic appears to recede — and Edu’s knack for the job is in question.

Even with Odegaard and Ramsdale, the squad would remain short of quality in a number of areas, as Friday’s defeat demonstrated.

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Just as significantly, Arsenal have struggled to offload unwanted players, leaving Arteta with a bloated squad-list and the club unable to raise funds which could be reinvested in the first team.

Chelsea, by way of contrast, have significant financial advantages but have been efficient at selling squad players, including Tammy Abraham, who was wanted by Arsenal before joining Roma for £34m.

The Gunners have sold Joe Willock to Newcastle for £25m but Granit Xhaka stayed put after Roma failed to meet his asking price, while there has been scant interest in Héctor Bellerín, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny, Sead Kolasinac, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Willian.

Torreira highlighted his absence from Friday’s defeat by tweeting a picture of himself at a Madrid theme park during the match.

At around £75,000-a-week, the Uruguayan is taking Arsenal for a ride, while Willian and Kolasinac both earn north of £100,000-per-week.

Arteta must cop some of the blame for the state of his squad, but buying and selling is Edu’s remit and he is arguably under more pressure to get results before the August 31 deadline than the manager.

Edu is working closely with Arsenal’s new director of football operations Richard Garlick, who was influential in securing the £50m deal for White and has good contacts across the top-flight, having previously been the Premier League’s director of football.

But the buck will stop with Arsenal’s former midfielder if they finish the month without the “ruthless” rebuild Arteta demanded – and clearly expected.

The Brentford game raised more big questions about Arteta, even if the defeat was caveated by the absences of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, both of whom the club would consider offers for this month.

Arteta has said Arsenal should be judged at the end of the transfer window and if the squad does not significant improve in the next two weeks, Edu could be joining the Spaniard in choppy waters.

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