Ivan Gazidis is off to Milan after taking his sweet time to make up his mind, but what has he actually achieved in his 10 years at Arsenal?
Over on the Milan Reddit, their fans think Gooners are upset at losing Gazidis to them, but that isn’t anywhere close to the truth. Most Arsenal fans couldn’t give a stuff about Gazidis, who has largely underwhelmed for 90% of his time at the club.
As last season wound to a close and Arsene Wenger was finally forced to call time on his role as manager at Arsenal, it seemed as if Gazidis was about to step up and show us why he had been trying to wrestle power away from the Frenchman for the best part of a decade.
In truth, when Gazidis leaves and Stan Kroenke replaces him with Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham (Head of Football and Managing Director respectively) we will look back at the South African’s time at the club and wonder what on earth we paid him millions for every year.
He will mostly be remembered for the club’s ‘audacious stunt’ in 2013 that delivered a new kit. Gazidis, however, was integral to the club landing Mesut Ozil even though folklore will tell you it was all down to Wenger and his established relationship with the player. Gazidis had been meeting with Real Madrid that summer to try and sign Angel di Maria. Madrid wouldn’t sell him so Gazidis returned home only to receive a shock call about Mesut Ozil’s availability.
“He is a contemplator, a deep thinker, who will calmly consider each decision from every conceivable angle,” the Guardian’s David Hynter wrote of Gazidis and we saw this clearly as he took his time to make up his mind about the Milan move. He’s been deliberating for seven weeks, and Arsenal just let him.
It was this thoroughness and caution, however, that resulted in the club opting for Unai Emery instead of Mikel Arteta who would have been a massive risk.
So what else has he done in his time at the club?
Well, Arsenal have negotiated a new deal with Emirates for shirt and stadium sponsorship, landed a sleeve sponsor and improved their commercial department under his watch, but many will question why we are still so far behind the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City when it comes to commercial revenue. When Gazidis arrived at the club Arsenal were some £51m behind United’s revenue. That figure now stands at £154m as of the 16-17 figures released.
Arsenal are also expected to move from Puma to Adidas, but the Puma deal, large as it was at the time it was signed, was quickly outdone by United and Chelsea. Their kits have also been largely disappointing.
Gazidis was also integral to Arsenal landing Andrei Arshavin, as Jon Smith detailed in his excellent book, ‘The Deal: Inside the World of a Super-Agent‘. It was Gazidis who ultimately allowed the £15m deal to go through, even though the agent agreed to pay £1.2m more than Arsenal wanted, hoping the club would pay him back.
It must also be remembered that Gazidis was the man at the helm as Arsenal slipped out of the top four for the first time in two decades despite promising us that after the stadium move we would be competing with the likes of Bayern Munich. He still received a £919k bonus despite this failure.
“No club has a perfect record every year under this scrutiny but Arsenal has probably been, of the big clubs certainly, the most consistently over-performing team over time,” Gazidis said at the 2017 AGM, giving a clear view of how he regards his time at the club.
“That is, despite the criticism we get and the emotion here in the room, and despite some very loud subjective narratives and a great deal of inaccurate information … in fact, on an objective basis, we perform very well and have over a long period of time.”
There are no doubt plenty of things that Gazidis has done behind the scenes that we are not aware of or that I’ve forgotten. But the truth is, no matter what he has done, the impression is he hasn’t done much and that’s what will live on long after he’s gone.