Ivan Gazidis says Arsene Wenger retains the full backing of Arsenal’s hierarchy as he gears up for his 20th anniversary in charge of the club.
With only one year remaining on his current contract, it’s possible that Wenger, 66, could call time on his time at Arsenal next May; a departure that many, outside the boardroom, feel should have been forced a long time ago.
Batting off the criticism directed at Wenger, the Gunners CEO cited the Frenchman’s long-term vision for the club, pioneering attitude to analytics and fitness, as well as his influence in luring big name stars to the Emirates.
“I don’t have a nostalgia for [Wenger], and the board doesn’t have a nostalgia for Arsene,” Gazidis told ESPN.
“That’s not why we believe in him. This isn’t a football club that looks backwards. This is a club that looks forwards and is always, always pushing the boundaries of how we can progress.
“That’s why we built the new stadium. That’s why originally we hired Arsene Wenger and that’s why we’re keeping him engaged and involved in the project that we’ve embarked on.”
He continued: “Arsene is highly intelligent; very, very devoted to the club. He lives and breathes football. He’s massively respected by his players. He’s a big reason why players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez want to come to Arsenal Football Club.
“And he’s a manager who remains at the forefront of thinking in all kinds of areas around the game; his involvement with analytics, with psychology, with what we’re doing on fitness.
“I think one of the challenges we have as a club, is that because we have constant [presence] and have somebody who is resilient, consistent, disciplined, and clear in his thinking, perhaps sometimes people outside can get the impression that there is nothing changing.
“And nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve made dramatic changes in how we operate as a football club, in all of the areas I mentioned.
“We have to be world-leading in those areas, and Arsene has been not just deeply engaged in those areas, but driving many of those areas forward.”
Addressing the fact that Arsenal have consistently fallen short of winning the title since the ‘Invincibles’ era, Gazidis made clear that the frustration at a lack of silverware is shared up and down the club.
“Our fan base is frustrated that we didn’t win last season. We’re frustrated that we didn’t win last season,” said Gazidis. “I am. Stan Kroenke as our owner is. Arsene is. Nobody is more frustrated than he is; disappointed that we didn’t finish on top because that’s our goal.
“I am. Stan Kroenke as our owner is. Arsene is. Nobody is more frustrated than he is; disappointed that we didn’t finish on top because that’s our goal.
“What I see is a manager who is deeply committed to this football club, devoted to it, continues to think about the long term.”
Gazidis’ wide-ranging interview also touched on Arsenal’s summer transfer activity – we’ve detailed them in a separate article, here. Maybe grab a stiff whiskey first though.