Arsenal chief Edu Gaspar earned himself a promotion back in November as he was appointed as the Gunners’ first-ever sporting director, moving up from his role as technical director.
It’s a move that means he is not only overseeing key decision-making processes for both the men’s senior team and the women’s side but also now the famed Hale End academy.
Since making his return to the north London giants, where he once turned out as a player, the Brazilian supremo has enjoyed mixed success in the transfer market, depending on how you assess moves for players such as Willian and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe.
What he cannot be criticised for, however, is his clear progression and improvement since those days because the likes of Benjamin White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard have been glowing successes.
The latter has particularly been an absolute masterclass in the transfer market, with the former Real Madrid wonderkid now the captain of the Gunners following a permanent £30m switch in the summer of 2021.
Since the downturn in form and subsequent departure of Mesut Ozil, Arsenal had lacked a creative playmaker capable of pulling the strings every week and Odegaard has brought that and more.
Still only 24, the Norway international is looking every bit like a massive bargain, just 18 months on from making the long-term switch to Islington.
The £115k-per-week maestro is capable of pulling defences apart with his vision and movement, such is certainly the case as he averaged 2.2 key passes and 1.2 dribbles per outing for the league leaders this campaign.
FBref have likened him to Manchester City superstar Kevin De Bruyne, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see him excel under Arteta, whilst he also ranks very favourably compared to fellow midfielders across Europe’s top five divisions over the last year.
Indeed, Odegaard sits amongst the top 1% for non-penalty expected goals plus expected assists and shot-creating actions, as well as the top 3% for total shots and touches in the opposition box, all per 90 via FBref.
In the Gunners squad, only White (139) has managed more progressive passes than the Norwegian (127) and what he does off the ball often goes unnoticed, ranking fourth for recoveries and joint-second for tackles in the mid-third of the pitch.
Edu has found a player that Arteta can build around for many, many years to come and it’s already paying dividends to the point that the north Londoners are genuine title contenders for the first time in what seems like a generation.
It’s been nearly a decade since the Invincibles-winning triumph, in which the Brazil midfielder was a valuable depth option, and at the forefront of it all this time is his phenomenal transfer steal – Odegaard.
As per FootballTransfers, the Stromgodset graduate – who was hailed as a “unique talent” by Arteta – is now thought to be worth a whopping €54.9m (£50m), some £20m more than they paid only a year-and-a-half ago.
Just imagine what he could then be worth with a Premier League trophy above his head and a winners’ medal swinging from his neck come the two-year anniversary of the masterstroke capture.
AND in other news, Better than Jorginho: Edu must surely rue not bringing “magic” 6 ft 3 “monster” to Arsenal…