Has Edu Gaspar been successful at Arsenal amid £130m summer spree?
Kieran Tierney has been a revelation, but £72m Pepe has flattered to deceive and Willian is an expensive flop… Arsenal transfer chief Edu is forking out £130m this summer with the club going big in the market, but how have his previous buys fared?
- Arsenal have spent £130m on transfers so far this summer for the new season
- Ben White, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga have all completed moves
- Aaron Ramsdale and £30m Martin Odegaard are set to be announced soon
- Arsenal transfer chief Edu Gaspar is at the centre of the club’s spending spree
- Sportsmail looks at how successful Edu’s buys have been since he joined in 2019
After five years away from the Champions League, Arsenal are going big in the transfer window. They have to show their mettle in the market, fully aware that their slide down the Premier League table has to stop.
The Gunners are set to take their transfer spending over £130million this summer with the imminent arrivals of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United.
The pair will join the likes of Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, Benfica defender Nuno Tavares and £50m purchase Ben White from Brighton as the players to rejuvenate Mikel Arteta’s squad ahead of a critical season.
Arsenal will take their summer spending over £130m by signing Martin Odegaard (left) and Aaron Ramsdale (right)
Edu (above) is at the centre of Arsenal’s spree – but how many signings has he got right?
The figure in the Arsenal responsible for the summer spending spree is Brazilian sporting director Edu Gaspar, the Invincible title winner who was brought back to the club in 2019 to help improve the direction of the club.
ARSENAL AND EDU’S 21/22 SPENDING SPREE
Nuno Tavares (Benfica) – £8.6m
Ben White (Brighton) – £50m
Albert Sambi Lokonga (Anderlecht) -£18m
Martin Odegaard (Real Madrid) – £30m
Aaron Ramsdale (Sheff United) – £24m
While he has shared some of the transfer duties in recent years with former head of football relations Raul Sanllehi, the Brazilian transfer chief has been criticised recently for his lack of success in the transfer window.
Fellow former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson even accused Edu earlier this week of personally being at fault for transfers, whilst branding the Gunners’ recent market activity as ‘lazy’.
‘It’s worrying at Arsenal,’ Merson told Sky Sports. ‘You’re still thinking: “Where are they going?” Edu has come in, and the recruitment has been lazy, if I’m being honest. It’s been: “Oh, we’ll take Willian on a free… we’ll take David Luiz for cheap.”
‘I remember years ago in football, managers were judged on signings. Sometimes I think Arteta is left behind, and I’m not sure how much of a say he has got in all of this.’
So with Edu under fire but still bringing players into the club, Sportsmail rates every single signing made by the Brazilian since he arrived in 2019 as Arsenal’s latest recruits look to bed themselves into the club…
Gabriel Martinelli (£6m from Ituano – summer 2019)
Edu returned to the Emirates Stadium after holding a similar role with the Brazilian national team, and his first Arsenal signing came immediately – a young, unknown Brazilian forward named Gabriel Martinelli.
A few weeks into his Arsenal career, everybody knew the teenage striker’s name. By mid-October, the Brazilian had scored five goals in his first three starts for the club, although all of them had come in either the Europa League or Carabao Cup.
Scoring a wonderful solo goal against Chelsea in the Premier League elevated his status even further and while a serious knee injury damaged the end of his first season and the beginning of his second in north London, Martinelli ended his debut campaign in England with ten goals in all competitions.
Gabriel Martinelli has been a solid buy for Arsenal, scoring plenty of goals after his £6m move
Martinelli returned from the long-term injury in December of last year and took a little longer to get back on the goalscoring charts.
However, goals late in the season against Sheffield United and Crystal Palace show he is ready to take on the new campaign.
Considering the small fee Arsenal paid for him, Martinelli is one of the better signings the Gunners have made in recent years.
This third season is vital for Martinelli in his bid to maintain his popularity with the Gunners faithful, but the 20-year-old Olympic gold winner has already demonstrated the results he can obtain buzzing around on the pitch and harrying defenders.
The young Brazilian has struggled with injuries but faces a big season ahead for the Gunners
Nicolas Pepe (£72m from Lille – summer 2019)
Edu’s first transfer window with the club saw the Gunners smash their transfer record by some distance with the signing of Nicolas Pepe, who joined from Lille for £72m.
The Ivorian has since come in and continues to divide the Arsenal fanbase. Some supporters remain convinced the winger has shown enough glimpses to stick by him, while others believe the club’s most expensive signing shows too many inconsistencies.
Pepe’s record from 41 goal involvements in 90 matches is not the worst, but the 26-year-old has only scored once against a so-called ‘Big Six’ club since arriving in north London two years ago.
Nicolas Pepe has divided the Arsenal fanbase after his £72million move from Lille in 2019
Pepe has showed some quality in the cup competitions for Arsenal, claiming assists in the FA Cup semi-final and final in 2020 whilst also scoring six times in the Gunners Europa League campaign last term – but is that enough for a player who once upon a time was deemed to be the next big superstar to have emerged from Ligue 1?
Pepe always threatens to start hitting a bit of form, such as scoring five goals in his final three matches of the Premier League campaign to end last season.
But it appears the winger has just one season left to convince Arteta – and many Arsenal fans – that he can still make it at the Emirates Stadium.
Verdict: Jury’s out
William Saliba (£27m from Saint-Etienne – summer of 2019)
Edu and Sanllehi opted to make a £27m investment on highly-rated French defender William Saliba in the summer of 2019.
The teenage defender was tipped as one for the future after impressing in Ligue 1 but a condition made by his former club Saint-Etienne meant he had to be loaned back to France for a year.
Saliba suffered an injury-hit campaign in Ligue 1 but appeared to be in Arteta’s plans in the summer of 2020 when he started some pre-season games and was handed the number 4 shirt for the season.
But Arteta deemed the Frenchman not ready enough for a career at Arsenal but the Gunners struggled to find a loan club for him before the summer deadline day, with a last-minute loan back to Saint-Etienne falling through due to paperwork not being completed in time.
William Saliba is yet to play competitively for Arsenal since his £27million transfer in 2019
Cue Saliba being left out of the Gunners’ matchday squads for domestic football and Europe, meaning he was completely useless for one half of the season and spent time playing U23s football which was not beneficial for the club or the player.
The Gunners eventually found him a six-month spell at Nice for the second half of last season and again impressed, but Arteta was still reluctant to include the centre-back in his first-team squad for this campaign.
A loan spell at Marseille therefore beckons this season, while £50m signing Ben White has nicked Saliba’s number four shirt.
Saliba’s Arsenal career, has quite simply, not even taken off and unless Arteta has a moment of euphoria surrounding the 20-year-old, he will be one of the biggest flops of the Edu era.
The French defender has spent several loan spells away from Arsenal and is now at Marseille
Kieran Tierney (£25m from Celtic – summer 2019)
Arsenal fans were thrilled to see Kieran Tierney move from Celtic in Edu’s first transfer window and his performances for the Gunners over the past two years prove why.
The Scottish left-back is one of the Gunners’ most reliable players in this dwindling squad, with the 24-year-old consistent in both going forward and doing his defensive duties.
Tierney possesses a wicked delivery from the left that has proved to be a useful asset – and at times Arsenal’s only one – while he can produce big moments when the team is under the cosh as well.
Kieran Tierney has been a rare positive signing by Edu and is a future Arsenal captain
His passion and determination makes him an ideal candidate as future Arsenal captain when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moves on from the club in the coming years.
The captain’s armband may not yet be in his possession but his importance to the club was underlined by the new five-year deal he signed with Arteta’s men in June.
If the Gunners can return to Europe’s elite, then Tierney will be a driving force behind it and will therefore be remembered in north London for years to come.
David Luiz (£8m from Chelsea – summer 2019)
David Luiz’s switch from Chelsea to Arsenal received a mixed reception from the Gunners faithful.
Yes, the Brazilian brought a great deal of experience and had won everything in the game when he arrived, but an abundance of previous mistakes raised questions as to whetherhe was the man to fix a leaky defence.
It was no surprise, therefore, to discover that the centre-back endured a topsy-turvy spell in north London.
David Luiz (right) was meant to bring experience at Arsenal but lacked concentration at times
Luiz was popular with the Gunners players and showed some signs of leadership and control – in particular towards the youngsters – but will always be remembered for the high-profile gaffes that let his Gunners spell down.
The Brazilian was sent off away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in his Arsenal career while his red card away at Wolves last season – with Arsenal 1-0 up and in cruise control – was a big reason why the Gunners ended up losing that tie and their team confidence after a promising winter.
Luiz was also accused of giving away goals to teams whilst trying to play out of the back, even though one of his skills was good distribution under pressure.
The 34-year-old was released by Arsenal earlier this summer and there’s not exactly a long list of teams queuing up for his signature.
Dani Ceballos (TWO loans from Real Madrid in 2019-20 and 2020-21)
Dani Ceballos was another exciting venture Arsenal went towards in Edu’s first season.
Fresh off a superb display at the Under-21s European Championships for Spain, a loan spell from Real Madrid promised big things for the midfielder in north London.
A brilliant debut against Burnley backed that good feeling up, and there were even hopes he was the natural successor to compatriot and former Gunner Santi Cazorla.
Dani Ceballos has two loan spells at Arsenal but did very little in the time he spent in England
But Ceballos’ influence diminished as the club plunged into more and more jeopardy. The former Real Betis star showed passion and an eye for getting stuck in, but lacked any product in the final third.
The Spaniard, despite enjoying plenty of game time under Unai Emery, was liked by Arteta and a good display in the FA Cup final earned him a second loan spell for the 2020-21 season.
But the Spaniard tended to be at the centre of any fall-outs within the Arsenal squad. Eddie Nketiah and David Luiz had public and private spats with the midfielder and Ceballos’ on-pitch performances did not make up for those troubles.
He made a number of errors in crucial Europa League ties against Benfica and Olympiacos last season, and zero Premier League goals in two seasons just about sums Ceballos’ spells in north London up.
Pablo Mari – (loan then £5m transfer from Flamego – winter 2020)
At the time, Pablo Mari’s transfer from Flamengo made sense. Arsenal needed a quick fix at centre-back, Mikel Arteta had worked with the defender before at Manchester City and the Spaniard arrived relatively cheaply.
Yet the defender’s time in north London hasn’t exactly worked out as planned. Mari started a few games then the coronavirus pandemic stalled his progress.
A long-term injury then halted that development, while he hasn’t exactly shone at the heart of the Gunners backline.
Time is running out to see whether Pablo Mari has been a worthwhile signing for Arsenal
Mari is accused of being too slow at times and often fails to make up for it with his positioning. The centre-back has stood by and watched as 2020 signing Gabriel Magalhaes overtook him at the back and Mari is deemed a back-up at best in north London.
With Gabriel injured at the start of this season, Mari had the chance to show he could start regularly for Arsenal in the opening match against Brentford last week, but was bullied by Ivan Toney on the Bees forward’s debut top-flight appearance.
Mari has time to turn his Arsenal career around, but that time is running out.
Verdict: Jury’s out
Cedric Soares (loan then free from Southampton – winter 2020)
Like Mari, Cedric Soares joined on an initial loan deal before being offered a four-year contract by Arsenal when his deal at Southampton ran out.
The Portuguese right-back has been handed some chances by Arteta to stake a regular right-back spot but has struggled to generate a run in the team even though Hector Bellerin and Callum Chambers are also inconsistent.
In fact, the only time Cedric has been given back-to-back matches is when Arsenal had a left-back crisis with Kieran Tierney injured and Sead Kolasinac deemed not good enough.
Cedric Soares has struggled to muster a regular run of games at right-back for Arsenal
Arteta is said to be a fan of Cedric and has the Gunners boss has praised his quality in the final third as the best of all the right-backs in the squad, and a brief run in the side saw him recalled to the Portugal squad in March.
But since then the Spaniard’s team selection does not show his supposed faith in the Portuguese, who missed out on Euro 2020 and now has an increasingly uncertain role in the squad.
Thomas Partey (£45m from Atletico Madrid – summer 2020)
Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey was Arsenal’s marquee signing last summer, tasked with bringing stability to an inconsistent midfield with the hope that Granit Xhaka could perform well alongside him.
Partey had performed well in Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side that pride themselves on their ‘win at all costs’ attitude, something Arsenal have lacked in recent years.
Unfortunately, the 28-year-old has suffered too many injuries to properly judge whether he is the real deal or not.
Thomas Partey has endured an injury-hit first 12 months at Arsenal following his £45 move
Arsenal’s midfield does not look any different when he has turned out, while Gunners fans are often frustrated at his persistent attempts at long-range shooting which fly miles over the bar.
Now he is settled in London, Partey can now kick on in the middle of the park for the Gunners, but needs to come back from his latest injury first.
Verdict: Jury’s out
Gabriel (£27m from Lille – summer 2020)
Arsenal have struggled for a reliable centre-back since the Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny days but Gabriel has proved to be the most exciting option the Gunners have signed in recent years.
The young defender is tall but pacey and is useful in both penalty areas.
At 23, he has the ability to develop into a more reliable defender and has a big future in the game if he plays his cards right.
Gabriel Maghalhaes appears to be an astute signing after his debut season in north London
Gabriel remains one of the top defensive signings Edu has made since starting as sporting director, alongside Tierney who was snapped up a year before.
The Brazilian is currently injured ahead of the new season but Arsenal need him back desperately, especially after what his replacement Mari served up against Brentford.
With Ben White another exciting option at the back, Arteta will want to pair them together and create a partnership at the heart of his defence from which he can hope to build and inspire the club’s revival.
Alex Runarsson (£2m from Lorient – summer 2020)
Arsenal had a slight goalkeeping dilemma around 12 months ago. They had two reliable options in Emiliano Martinez and Bernd Leno, but were not able to keep both without upsetting one.
Alex Runarsson appears to have lost all trust from the Arsenal camp after just one season
Eventually, Martinez was sold for £20m to Aston Villa and the Gunners went on the search for a new back-up that was capable of playing out form the back.
The club’s goalkeeper coach recommended two shot stoppers he had previously worked with – David Raya and Alex Runarsson. Brentford remained firm on Raya, leaving Arsenal to pluck the latter for around £2m.
The Icelandic goalkeeper can indeed play out from the back, but the only issue is that he has shown significant deficiencies in his ability to save shots.
The Icelandic goalkeeper palmed a simple free-kick into his net against Man City last season
Runarsson’s suffered a horror moment in the Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat by Manchester City when he palmed Riyad Mahrez’s routine free-kick into his own net and his Arsenal fate was sealed.
The 26-year-old has barely featured for the Gunners since then, with the club preferring on-loan Brighton man Mat Ryan, academy goalkeepers Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein.
With Aaron Ramsdale set to join for £24m and a loan move to Turkish side Altay SK falling through for Runarsson earlier this summer, his options appear bleak.
Willian (free transfer from Chelsea – summer 2020)
Brazilian winger Willian was popular and was an influential member of the squad at Chelsea, especially in his final season.
When Arsenal managed to convince him to join on a free transfer last summer, this looked like a real coup.
The deal however has been anything but. The Brazilian, who earns more than £200,000-a-week at the Emirates, has failed to live up to the heights he set at Stamford Bridge- scoring just once in 37 appearances for the Gunners last season.
£200,000-a-week Willian has scored just once for Arsenal since his move from Chelsea
In fact, Willian looked a completely different player from the one who dazzled at Stamford Bridge. He has contributed a little bit at Arsenal, registering seven assists last season, though three of them did come in his debut against Fulham.
Arteta barely used the Brazilian in the pre-season campaign just gone, with Willian missing from the club’s matchday squad for the Brentford defeat.
Is that it for Willian at Arsenal?
Mat Ryan (loan from Brighton – winter 2020)
With Runarsson struggling to make the grade at Arsenal, the Gunners moved to bring in Brighton’s fourth-choice goalkeeper Mat Ryan on a loan deal.
The Australian is a boyhood Gunners fan but only managed to make three appearances in north London during his brief spell, keeping just one clean sheet in a 2-0 victory away at Newcastle.
Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan had an uninspiring loan spell at the Gunners last season
Ryan was a well-liked member around London Colney but the Gunners opted not to make a move for him in the summer transfer window, with Ramsdale now coming in as a long-term option in his place.
Ryan, meanwhile, is now at Real Sociedad but is currently behind Alex Remiro in the Spanish side’s pecking order.
Martin Odegaard (loan then £30m move from Real Madrid, 2021)
The Norwegian attacking midfielder arrived on an initial loan deal from Real Madrid in January in a bid to solve Arsenal’s creativity issues last term – and it worked.
Odegaard, once billed a future wonderkid when he joined Madrid as a very young teenager, showed strong glimpses of quality in his six-month loan in north London.
No other player had better ‘Added Expected Threat’ numbers, which measures how much a player helps his team-mates become more dangerous, than the Norwegian in the second half of last season.
Martin Odegaard had a much more promising loan and is set to return for five more years
Odegaard was ultimately impressed by the set-up Edu and Arteta have made at Arsenal, with the midfielder now set to rejoin the Gunners on a £30m deal after it was made clear he would not make the grade in Madrid.
The Norway captain will want to produce better numbers than he did in his brief stint last season, scoring just twice and assisting as many in the Premier League and Europa League.
But Arteta is reportedly a fan of his leadership qualities, which were best on display with his brilliant performance in the 3-3 draw against West Ham where he played a part in two of the Gunners’ goal and tried to raise his side when they were 3-0 down.
Should the 22-year-old have a similar effect on the pitch as during his brief stint last season across a whole campaign, then Arsenal have a good player on their hands.
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