Over the summer criticism of Edu creeped in as the transfer window rolled on.
The criticism was not unfounded, as Arsenal publicly struggled in their pursuit of Houssem Aouar and only completed the signing of Thomas Partey on the last day of the season.
But praise actually needs to be given for the transfer business we did over the summer. Especially with the recruitment of Thomas Partey and Gabriel.
Arsenal signed Brazilian centre back Gabriel on September 1st for a fee in the region of £24million.
He came with a good reputation in France, having impressed for Lille last season.
But there were questions marks.
Prior to 2019/20, he had a couple of uninspiring loan deals at Troyes before joining Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, where he made just one league appearance for each club’s senior team.
His statistics, however, held up well.
Whether it was aerial duels, ground duels or passing, he was producing better statistics than anyone at Arsenal. Although this came with the caveat that he was playing in France.
He has taken to English football like a duck to water and should already be considered one of the best central defenders in the league.
When you consider Manchester City and Manchester United have spent so much on central defenders in recent years, and Chelsea had to settle on vetran Thiago Silva, Gabriel feels like a real coup.
Virgil van Dijk aside, it is a struggle to name a better central defender in the league than Gabriel. And at 22 (and with van Dijk out for a year), Gabriel will quickly establish himself as the best in the league.
Thomas Partey was signed on the last day of the transfer window.
We have only seen him for 90 minutes in the Europa League, but he confirmed what we already know about him – that he is a beat of a central midfielder.
A few people expected Partey to replace Granit Xhaka as the midfield anchor. But this would result in Partey losing 50% of his influence.
Just because you are a defensive midfielder, does not mean that your job is to sit in front of the defence.
Take Patrick Vieira for example.
One of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game, he always played with someone behind him – Emmanuel Petit or Gilberto for Arsenal and Didier Deschamps for France.
That allowed Vieira to press forward, to bully players across the park. If he was the anchor, he would have to be more statics. Cleaning up rather than dominating.
Partey is in a similar mould.
You want the Ghanaian to have the freedom to press opponents regardless of where they are on the pitch.
Against Rapid Wein we saw this.
He would push forward, bullying players, with Mo Elneny playing behind him providing that cover.
Partey’s game is ready made for the Premier League.
In Partey and Gabriel Arsenal have made two big signings. Two players that we have missed for a decade.
A dominant central defender and an equally dominant central midfielder.
They are the men Edu now needs to build the team around for the next 5 years.
We might have finished the transfer window not adding the creativity we craved, but through Edu’s recruitment and Mikel Arteta’s coaching, we now look more defensively solid.
Once a manager has built that solid foundation, he will transition into a more attacking style of play.
Partey and Gabriel are Arsenal’s best signings in years.
We are looking good.