We sat down with our new technical director, Edu, in the United States this week for an exclusive interview.
Click the 'Play' button above to watch it in full, and read on for the transcript as he discusses returning to Arsenal, what his role entails, how he will approach it and more.
Edu, welcome back. How does it feel to be back in the Arsenal fold?
Thank you very much first. Of course it's a pleasure to be back home because as you know, I was here for five years and had such nice and beautiful moments, and beautiful memories as well. It's always good to be here again.
And you've come straight from the Copa America. Congratulations on a wonderful success. What was the secret to that success with Brazil?
So, there are a lot of things around it. I think the guys understood the situation that we were in with the Brazilian competition very well. The mentality of the players as well was fantastic because to play in Brazil, to play in our home, next to our fans, is not easy. Even the Copa America is a different competition because I always say that in the Copa America we play against many things, not only against the other players. There are many things around the Copa America, and if the guys and the staff understand it very well, you make it.
So you're in Brazil, you're winning the Copa America... what tempted you to swap Brazil for London?
There are a lot of things, good things around it. As I said at the beginning, it's always good to be back home, but I think it's a big challenge for myself because to be the first technical director at the club will be a big challenge for myself and for the club as well. I think the Premier League as well, I am the first Brazilian to be in that boat, and that's a big challenge and a big responsibility. I'm really looking forward to improving myself, to giving all my energy for the club, to give my experience in the job and to give to the club as well. So it's a lot of things, and to bring my family here was important as well because in Brazil I was living away from them. To be back in London, I will have the opportunity to be together with them again, so that will make me stronger and this was a big point as well.
We'll talk about the technical director role a bit later but let's dwell a bit longer on your playing career because some of our youngest fans may not know much about you. You joined us in 2001… two league titles, three FA Cups and of course you were part of the famous Invincibles squad. The first Brazilian to win the Premier League... you have so many good memories, which ones do you treasure the most?
There are a lot of them. For me, the best moment and memory that I have in that time, to be honest, was the atmosphere that we had in the group. Because I remember we were winning a lot of things, our team was really strong and there were big names around, but the mentality of the group, the guys around, the staff, was so great. We were working hard but at the same time, we were enjoying it. That was important because at the time winning was important, but you have to enjoy it as well and we did that with our group. That's my best memory because in the dressing room we were very, very good, and on the field as well.
You had some incredible players in that dressing room of course. Who are you still in touch with these days?
A lot of them, a lot of them. Patrick, of course, is my close friend. Fred [Ljungberg] of course is around and I still talk to him. Ray Parlour is here, Dennis, Pires, Lauren, Sol Campbell, Martin Keown. When I come to London, I always have an opportunity to be talking to him. He's a really nice guy as well. Lehmann... yes, a lot of them!
And because you had such a great atmosphere in the squad, it's easy to maintain those relationships and have that camaraderie whenever you see these people.
Yes, we always say those things, we always say those things. Because in the dressing room, in the day by day, it's not easy to make it. There are so many personalities, so many good players, everybody sometimes has their one vision, but in that group it was so nice because everybody was pushing in the same direction really hard. I remember times when we were having discussions in the dressing room but, in the end, when you closed the door, you could see that everybody was pushing for the same direction. Everybody said, 'OK, we'll find a solution but in the end we have to work harder together and go deep for the situations because competition is not easy, the Premier League is very hard to play in'. We were in the Champions League and that wasn't easy to play in either, but of course we would argue sometimes in the dressing room. Sometimes people were unsure about situations, but in the end we would close the door, we would fight together and you dealt with things.
Those arguments, those clashes, is that healthy when you're fighting for the same thing?
Of course. We need that, we need that. I think transparency is important. Talking face to face is important. Be clear... the truth always has to be in front of us, because I don't have to look after myself, we have to look after ourselves. That's important and people need to understand that because when you start to think about yourself only, that doesn't work. Clubs have to think about us [as a whole], not just ourselves.
You talked about Freddie being back at Arsenal. Steve Bould is still here, another big Arsenal legend. Raul has described you as ‘a true Arsenal man’. How important is it to have that link with the club's past when you talk about the club's present?
Yes, for me in the beginning, to start that role, it's important to understand the club first. Because if you don't understand the club and you don't understand the people around who help you start to do your real job... for me I am one step in front of it because I really understand he club, I really understand what's happening, I really understand the fans, I really understand what the club wants to be as well. So that for me makes things much easier.
Josh Kroenke spoke to us recently, he said that ‘Edu is a man who has Arsenal DNA. We have an Invincible. He understands exactly what it takes to win. It requires a certain amount of work and mentality to get there.’ What kind of work and what kind of mentality does it take?
To work with a strong mentality, you don't do it like that [instantly]. You build a good mentality. When you talk about mentality, it's not only the players. The club has to have the same mentality of the players. We have to have the same mentality, and the mentality of Arsenal, we always had to have winning in front of us. That's football. That's the real world. When you're talking about good jobs, doing other things, without results I'm not sure [it works]. It's unfair maybe, but the reality is like that. We have to fight very hard for results and we have to understand the real world, where you live and where you are right now. So we are at Arsenal, we are a big club, and we have to understand the situation. Winning... fight for winning, and how do you do that? We have to prepare ourselves. How? By working hard, by giving everything, giving us [a chance] to be better and better, and working really hard to be where the club wants to be.
It's been many years since we've seen you, Edu. How much have you changed and how much has the club changed since you left Arsenal?
To be honest I didn't change a lot because in my life I have a personality and I put the same personality that I have in my personal life, into my job. As I said before, with very high transparency, try to talk to people face to face because it is important. And share ideas, be open-minded, listen to people, share with people, that is important. In the club and outside the club, so that's why I keep the same and I think it's doing well for me in my personal life and my job. Since I've been a technical director for nine years, things are going well because I kept this [approach]. I kept this and I really believe with that you can do good things.
Those are your values and your qualities. When you think about players, older players, younger players, are you looking for the same qualities there?
Yes, that's a good point. People have to understand that talent is not enough anymore. Everybody fights for talent, everybody talks about talent, and of course talent is important for footballers, but in that real world it is not enough anymore. We have to look after them. They have to express themselves, they have to feel comfortable with the club, the players have to understand what the club thinks about them and what they think about us as well. So in the end we have to work together, at the same time in the same direction, and that message is important for everybody to understand, even for the players, talented players, they have to understand that talent is not enough anymore. They have to work hard, they have to look after themselves, they have to prepare before the training, they have to prepare well at the training, they have to look after themselves after the training, outside the pitch. That makes them even better. Talent with that means they are going to be at the top, top level.
You've spoken about your values, your personality. You're our first ever technical director - what will your job involve on a day-to-day basis and a season-to-season basis?
There are a lot of things to do, but I will try to explain to you a little bit about almost everything. People always say that the technical director has to look after and be involved in the process of signing players, selling players, keeping players, loaning players. That's an important part of the job of course and I understand that. But for me there are more important things in front of that - we have to look after what we have today. We have to work hard today. We have to look after our squad today. The future is the future, and signing players means sometimes the future, and of course I have to be involved in that process, but I also have to take care of today. I explained to the players when I arrived that I'm not the guy who stays inside the office and waits for someone to knock on my door and send a message to me. I want to be involved in the process, I want to be on the inside, I want to be with them, I want to be with Unai, I want to be with the staff as well, to try and advise them if they need it, and give some advice for them. Being involved is important and that's what I really believe from today. The link with the academy is very important because people always forget about it, because they talk about signing big names, but we have to take care of the academy as well. That's one point I have to be linked with.
So there are short-term things to address, and also medium-term things to address?
Yes, that's part of my role as well, because in football there are short-term, medium-term and long-term [challenges] of course, but how do you share that? I have to look after short-, medium- and long-term, but Unai has to look after the very short-term [challenges], and that means Wednesday, Saturday, training sessions, looking after the opponents and the strategy of the games. I have to give him time to look after that situation, and he has to give all his energy to that very short-term, he has to look after that and I have to help him with it. And medium-term and long-term, when we look after the academy, maybe you're talking about medium-term and long-term, so that's important to me, to be linked very well with the academy as well. So as I said, Unai has to be focused with his energy on the very short-term, and I have to help him with that.
Unai says you are ‘the perfect man’ for this technical director role, and of course you've worked with Unai before, when you were a player and he was a coach at Valencia. What was he like to work with?
For me, it's a big pleasure to be back working with him again because it doesn't matter if he is my coach, if I am the technical director right now - in the end we are talking about respect. It doesn't matter which position you are. We had a lot of respect when I was a footballer and we still have a big respect in the position that I am in right now. But he is still the same. Working really hard, with a lot of energy. So that's important for the club and for the players as well.
Now we know that you flew back from Brazil to London to get the flight to the United States. You didn't get very much sleep but we've seen you here with the players, with the staff, with the coaches on the training pitches. You've been all over the place. How beneficial has it been for you to be here in the States?
Yes, of course it's important to be involved, as I said, in the process as soon as possible to understand, because my job in the club is new. I am new as well behind the club, not 'new' [because of my playing career] but in that role. It is important to everybody to adapt myself in the role here and in the process here and what is important to me as well, is to understand the club as soon as possible because there are many more people around. The club's grown a lot since I left here and to be part of it in the tour makes me feel much more comfortable. It will take time [before I can] rest!
What do you say, Edu, to the fans who are concerned about the club's future? Some fans are positive, some fans are less positive. What do you say to those who are less positive?
We have to understand the fans, we have to understand that. That's important. But they have to understand us as well. Because we have a philosophy. The club is changing a lot, so I saw that before I signed up for technical director, I saw the many changes now Arsene has left. The structure of the club changes a lot. So that's a process, and sometimes we need time. I understand that time is going against us but we have to be aware of that. But in the end, we're going to give to [the fans] some good things I am sure. I am sure. Because since I started to talk with Vinai and Raul about that job, I felt the energy of the club. I felt the very positive things around it. That's why I really believe and that's why I am here as well, because I feel we will do good things in the future. Not the future-future, but nearly there!
Let's jump one year into the future. If we spoke to you again then, where would you hope the club would be at that point?
I'm not saying [it’s a] dream, but [we need to be] focused to be fighting for the Champions League again. Of course that's our target. To make the squad even stronger. I want to see the fans enjoying, as before, the club even more. I know how they live the club, how they love the club and we have to give them something back so they can enjoy again the club.
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