Ivan Gazidis reckons Arsenal have put success before money, but have they really?

The club’s chief executive faced a number of questions at the annual general meeting on Thursday.

One question asked him about Arsenal’s transfer business and the current contract situations of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. With typical corporate poise, he claimed that the decision to keep those two at the club was evidence that the club weren’t prioritising money.

“You don’t always have a choice of where you sell a player, nor do you have control of whether a player extends with you or what demands his agent makes,” Gazidis said, as reported by Sky Sports.

“From the outside, none of this information is going to be in the public domain. That leads to pressure and criticism.

“Those on the outside don’t know the dynamics, don’t know the demands being made, don’t know the constraints.

“Probably the most vocal criticism we have ever had at an AGM was after we had transferred Robin van Persie (to Manchester United) in the last year of his contract.

“That was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make and we were told then we were financially motivated and not focused on football. This summer, with stronger underlying financials, we have taken a different tack.

“The decision on Alexis and Mesut Ozil are certainly not decisions that fit the narrative that we put money first. We have taken that approach to give the club the best possible chance to compete for trophies this season.”

On the surface, it’s a perfectly reasonable point and one difficult to argue against. Arsenal could have straight-up sold Ozil and Alexis for cash and then gone on to only reinvest a fraction of that amount in replacements. They could have not signed anybody at all and opted for the internal solution. As prone as we are to distrusting anything our board says, we should acknowledge that not cashing in our two best players meant we prioritised sporting reasons over financial ones.

However, poke a little deeper and it’s not as clear cut.

Gazidis makes out that keeping Alexis was the plan all along, but the end of the transfer window suggests otherwise. Arsenal were willing to sell Alexis for £60m to Manchester City on deadline day, so long as they could sign Monaco’s Thomas Lemar. This would have been the happy compromise for the club. They would have gotten money for a player who wanted to leave, plus a talented young replacement who could play straight away.

It should be noted that had Arsenal successfully signed Thomas Lemar that evening, they would have parted with £92m. You’d have a tough time trying to convince people the club was motivated purely by money if they spent that amount of just a single player, in the same summer they already spent £52m on Alexandre Lacazette.

And while the club did seem willing to sell Alexis, the decision to keep him when it would have been so easy to let him go indicated they knew they couldn’t justify the sale without a replacement. The strength of Arsenal’s squad was the priority here.

The problem that Gazidis and the club have, though, is that they don’t go far enough.

The perception that they’re too tight with the club’s finances and too reluctant to spend big will persist so long as investment remains limited to just one or two players a summer.

Arsenal needed more than Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette. When there are glaring holes in the squad, but players aren’t arriving to fill them, it’s difficult to claim that sporting success is your aim.

Likewise, when the club misses out on targets because they wouldn’t pay the asking price, it’s hard to argue that money isn’t as important as success is.

The transfer business, as it always seem to be, felt incomplete for no adequate reason.

Previous articleOnly Manchester City better at playing with 10 men than Arsenal
Next articleIvan Gazidis: Fake news, alternative facts and treating the fans like morons
News and feature writer with a BA in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of East London. Long-time Arsenal fan also following Sevilla and local side Southend United. You can find me on Twitter @jeinchy29 talking about Arsenal and the issues affecting the English game,