Over the weekend, the excellent Swiss Ramble analysed the true shape of Arsenal’s finances and it left a massive question – what the hell did Ivan Gazidis do while he was at the club for so long?
AC Milan fans were delighted when they snagged Ivan Gazidis. While most Arsenal fans couldn’t understand why he’d departed so soon after finally getting rid of Arsene Wenger, there was more annoyance that he’d left when he was actually needed than a sense he was truly holding the club back.
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) July 1, 2019
In fact, Gazidis trousered around £22m for presiding over this decline during his 10-year tenure at #AFC. Nice work if you can get it. Maybe he will do better at Milan. “In bocca al lupo, Ivan.” pic.twitter.com/FHZj173qCr
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) July 1, 2019
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, Gazidis left and Stan Kroenke replaced him with Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham (Head of Football and Managing Director respectively) and we are now looking back at the South African’s time at the club and wondering 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 deliberated for months, 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 did he do in his time at the club?
Well, Arsenal negotiated a new deal with Emirates for shirt and stadium sponsorship, landed a sleeve sponsor and were supposed to have improved their commercial department under his watch, but not according to those figures above.
Many will rightly 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 stood at £154m as of the 16-17 figures released and it hasn’t got any better.
Arsenal have also moved 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 were also 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 those failures.
“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 did 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 didn’t do much and the figures show he was actually doing pretty badly and that’s what will live on long after we’ve all moved on.