Archive for June 8th, 2013

Over to you, Arsene

1,794 comments June 8th, 2013

Ivan Gazidis takes a lot of stick from Arsenal fans. Our perceived lack of ambition is generally pinned on the multi-accented CEO, who is free of the emotional complications most reasonable fans still feel with regards to Arsene Wenger.

The refrain was heard frequently at the Emirates last year: “Ivan Gazidis, what do you do?”

In the light of this week’s extensive Q&A, I’d like to pose a response: what more can he do?

Gazidis’ primary duty has been to put the club on a secure financial footing. With the new commercial deals signed and settled, he has done that. It is not Gazidis’ responsibility to decide how that money is spent. It is Arsene’s.

Gazidis has been explicit. There are funds available. Big funds. Here are a few choice excerpts from Thursday’s mission statement:

“Could we spend £25m on a player and pay him £200k p/week? Of course we could do that. We could do more than that. We have a certain amount which we’ve held in reserve. We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.

The key to this summer is going to be making the right decisions without damaging the great team unity and spirit which we have – adding to that appropriately and I think we have the right person to do that in Arsene. I think he will make the right decisions and I think we will go into this next season with a lot of excitement around the team.

So certainly we will take a step forward this summer, how bigger step will depend on how well we are able to execute over the next month or two.”

It’s bold stuff. As a fan, it’s impossible not to be excited by Gazidis’ words. The financial landscape has shifted, and Arsenal have been raised aloft to join the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Dreams become plausible. Before yesterday I would have dismissed the link to £20m Gonzalo Higuain as ‘pie in the sky’ stuff. Now, it’s tempting to believe we might just pull it off.

If there’s a nagging concern, it’s that Arsene may not be able to shake the shackles of a decade of prudence. Talk remains cheap. Arsenal are using the rhetoric of a super-club. Now they need to act like one, too.

A significant part of yesterday’s news was Gazidis’ allusion to a new contract for Arsene. Personally, I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to hand him a new deal. The final day euphoria has masked an otherwise disappointing season. The club’s trajectory is worrying. I’d have waited to see how Arsene fared this summer and in the first part of next season before broaching the subject a new contract.

Some will argue it’s vital to have a manager tied to a long-term deal to win over new signings. That’s nonsense. Robin van Persie joined Manchester United with no guarantees over Alex Ferguson’s future. Similarly, the players who come and go at Chelsea care little about the short-term tenancy agreements of the Stamford Bridge dugout.

In modern football, few players are a disciple to any one managerial messiah. Money and medals matter far more.

Perhaps Gazidis feels it’s important to present a united front. I can understand that, with a couple of caveats.

The first is that this contract must be breakable. Conventionally, a three year deal for Arsene means exactly that: three years. In his Arsenal career to date, it’s been explicitly clear he’d never be sacked and similarly that Wenger himself would never walk away from a contract.

With that in mind, if our downward trajectory continues, his signature could swiftly become a sentence. If Gazidis and Wenger agree a new medium-term contract, it must be on the understanding that it may have to be suddenly cut short if things don’t improve.

The second stipulation is that Gazidis and Wenger have already had a discussion about transfer targets in which the manager has show willingness to break a habit and actually spend what is available to him.

Gazidis has done his job. Player recruitment is Wenger’s bag.

Over to you, Arsene.

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