Ivan Gazidis engaged fans in a Q&A session last night, where he discussed transfers, Arsene Wenger and unity.
- Gazidis wants fans and club to be united
- He said Arsenal will only sign first team players
- Gazidis was heckled by unhappy supporters
Last night, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis took part in a Q&A session with Arsenal members.
As is the way with these sessions, Gazidis had to deal with a lot of questions about the club’s decisions and why they didn’t win the league last season. And as always, Gazidis said a lot without really saying anything.
Nonetheless, here are some of the highlights from last night.
Gazidis began by saying that while the FA Cup triumph was great, there’s still a lingering sense of disappointment.
“It’s difficult to process a season like that, because we won a trophy but feel disappointed. Last season we finished second and spent about £110m on transfers. The objective of that spending was to push on and challenge for the title. At the beginning of the season, we started well, lots of people felt we had the most complete squad that we’d had in a long time.
“We went on a long unbeaten run, though we weren’t playing the most fluent football, but we were finding ways to win games. We were in contention, I think a lot of the fanbase and we were feeling that there were possibilities in the season. We hit a patch which we’re still analysing, where things were really, really bad.
“It was a bit disappointing, we were in the mid-70s for points and our ambition is to win the Premier League and to do that you have to be at least mid-80s, probably upper 80s. So there is a gap. We have to close that gap and that’s not just about spending, although that’s obviously a big part of it.”
He went on to say that Arsenal have already brought in one of the “players of the season” Sead Kolasinac, and are in discussions for other players.
“So we’ve already signed one of the players of the season from the Bundesliga team of the season last year, we’re very actively in discussions on a variety of different players at the moment. On the squad side, we’re not looking to add more squad depth now, we’re looking at players who can come in and compete for a starting position.”
The floor was opened up to questions. The first, predictably, was about Wenger’s two year contract.
“The first thing to say is that it wasn’t a sentimental decision, the decision was mutual. The decision was made against the ambition to win the Premier League.
“When we think about who might do that, we also consider who embodies the values of the club. Somebody who has a successful track record over a period of time. This job is a massive responsibility and we need someone who can carry the weight of that and has the experience to carry the weight of that.
“We understand there is disagreement in that amongst the fanbase, but the board has to make decisions focused on what it the right decision and not what’s the popular decision. We will all be judged on what the club is able to deliver and we are very conscious of that.”
He was then asked why there was a “lack of effort” from the players after the turn of the year.
“I’ve been in professional football now for over 20 years. I think what I have learned is that what goes into a performance can sometimes be a little deceptive in how it appears. I’m always cautious about making judgements about desire and passion. Sometimes it is down to confidence, sometimes nerves and wanting to win too much, sometimes it’s just tactical.”
Gazidis was quizzed on Stan Kroenke, and gave his analysis of the commonly held opinion that he’s only in it for the summer.
“I have to say, I don’t really understand the argument that Stan Kroenke is only in it for money.
“All Mr. Kroenke has done is support us to make us the best football club we can be. If he was only here to make money, he doesn’t take a revenue stream out of the club, the best way to raise the value of the club is success and trophies.
“Some people want an oligarch owner that puts money into the club and I understand that, because that’s the environment we are competing in, that’s an attractive solution. But nobody has ever been held back by Stan Kroenke, he has been nothing but supportive in terms of reinvesting all the money the club generates back into the football side.
“If you think it’s all about money and, by the way, he hasn’t sold his shares, so that doesn’t seem to make sense. If it’s all about money, there are far easier, more secure investments than a football club.”
Gazidis also had to endure some heckling from the fans who weren’t satisfied with his answers. Most notably, the grandson of an ex-player said that he had never seen such a period of stagnation at Arsenal, while another said such stagnation should “shake him to his very core”.
Finally, Gazidis was asked to give his closing thoughts. He said:
“There is an awful lot going on, we’re only four weeks from the end of last season. You’ll see the product of some of that work soon, some on the player front, some will be behind the scenes. All of that work is geared towards getting from 75 points to 85 and more, to win the Premier League.
“We want to generate some of the pride that I am ashamed to say many of you are not feeling. The goal is to win things and add to the history of this football club. The people that work here care about this football club, we do and we want it to be successful.”
You can read a full transcript of the session here.