Arsenal technical director Edu says his vision is for a recruitment department of “less people with much more responsibility” as he plots a new approach to signings in north London. Amid 55 reductions in the club’s permanent staff Arsenal let go of a string of high profile scouts, including head of international recruitment Francis Cagigao and their experts in nations such as France and Germany. Edu had conducted a similar downsizing of Arsenal’s academy scouts midway through last season. His new vision, which has been put into practice this summer with the signings of Willian, Gabriel Magalhaes and a second loan spell for Dani Ceballos, is for a smaller department with an increased role for the data team that was led by Jaeson Rosenfeld until his departure in March.
Edu said “It is simple for me. With my position here I want to put in place one clear process how we are going to sign, who gets the responsibilities, where we start to understand where we need the player, the position we need, the characteristics we need. That has to be very clear internally right now. The decision we made, to change a little bit our infrastructure, it is clear for me. I want to work with less people. I want to work with StatDNA [Arsenal’s in-house data company] a lot more, which we have internally here at the club and is very important. The people I want to work with, I want them to be very close to me. I want to create a group of people working together. I don’t want individual people working in one area or for one country. I want a group working together. Less people with much more responsibility. That is my vision and for me in this process the most important thing is that everyone is very clear on the responsibilities which everyone has to make the right decision. For me what is important internally is that we have a clear plan on the players we want to keep, the players we want to loan and the players we want to sell. After that we have to be patient, to understand how the markets are reacting, and then to make the right decision. So it is a similar one to when you want to sign a player: with a clear strategy. To sell or loan a player, we have the same one [strategy] as we have to sign one. But for that part sometimes we have to be patient and wait a little bit more to make the right decision.”
Arsenal’s approach to recruitment has come under question in recent windows with the Gunners more open to working with super agents than they were when Arsene Wenger was manager. Though that is not necessarily a problem for a top club some supporters have raised questions over the influence of Kia Joorabchian, who was pictured sitting alongside former head of football Raul Sanllehi and Edu in the Emirates Stadium directors’ box last season. Three Joorabchian clients – Willian, Cedric Soares and David Luiz – have joined Arsenal since the start of last season whilst the 49-year-old has used radio appearances to pontificate on the club’s structure and seemingly indicate an awareness of the restructuring before it was made public. Whilst Willian came from Joorabchian’s stable of clients Arsenal’s most significant investment so far did not. Gabriel arrived from Lille for £25million, the Gunners’ first-choice to add a left-footed central defender in the squad.
Arsenal Managing director Vinai Venkatesham robustly rejected the suggestion that agents such as Joorbachian may hold undue influence at the Emirates Stadium, saying: “We don’t select players based on the identity of their agent.
Vinai Venkatesham said “We select players based on the position we need to strengthen and the characteristics we are looking for in a player and if the player is out there who meets those characteristics. Who the agent is comes out at the end, once we have decided who the player is. We are not signing players based on the identity of the agent. That would be a crazy strategy. How that works is Edu and Mikel are talking to each other all of the time about the relative strengths and weaknesses of our squad and that’s a year-long conversation they are having. And I’m in those conversations periodically, the board and owners are in those conversations so they know what’s going on. Effectively in that situation Edu and Mikel agreed that the number one priority position at the time we wanted to strengthen was a centre-back, in particular a left-footed centre back. They then have a list of clear characteristics that they want that player to possess. It is more than just having a left foot and where they play. So they have got a clear set of characteristics around what they want from that player. Then Edu and his team go out on the marketplace and they research all of the players that are out there, evaluate them on various criteria and then come up with a shortlist of players. Against those players we then make an assessment around how available they might be, how much we think they might cost in transfer fees, how much they might cost in wages. And then we effectively decide – Edu, myself, the board and ultimately the ownership – what our priority list is and what we are going to do. In this example Gabriel was at the top of our list and Gabriel was the player that we got. That is the process by which we go through it.”
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