Arsenal's Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, has granted a wide-ranging interview to the Club's official website in which he reflects on the 2011/12 campaign and discusses plans for the summer and next season.
Scroll down the page to read the transcript or click the image above to watch our FREE video.
on the 2011/12 season…
It was a challenging season, we went through a lot of transition in the team with nine new players coming in. We really lost the creative hub of the team for different reasons, with Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere so that was a challenge for us going into the season.
I think we were under intense pressure at times during the season but I felt that the team and the fans came together at critical times. We have ended the season in third place with guaranteed qualification for next season's Champions League and that allows us to plan with certainty going into next year.
But none of this is cause for popping champagne corks at Arsenal. We want to win things. So while it is a creditable performance it is not achieving our ambition. What we have to work out this summer is how we can take the Club on and take a step forward. That is what we are working hard on at the moment.
on his personal high point…
I think for me the run of games that we had in February and March, particularly here at Emirates Stadium. I felt that under pressure at difficult times, our fans, players, team and club really came together. I felt at times like our new stadium really began to feel like our home.
There was a tremendous unity that pulled us through those times and developed momentum which ultimately ended up carrying us across the line to the Champions League places, which earlier in the season we had been written off from. That to me was the highlight, the atmosphere at those games and the way our fans pushed us forward and came together.
on the supporters…
Our away fans are magnificent, we have the best away support in the league. Everywhere we go we know we have their backing and that really does make a difference. To have it come together here in a similar kind of way at Emirates Stadium [is great]. It has happened in the past but I think the way it has happened week after week, you felt that this place was becoming a really difficult place for opposition teams to come. Even when we were down a goal with two minutes to go, you always felt like we could get there and our fans had that belief. That is something I would love for us to carry forward into next year.
on the Club's football ambitions for 2012/13…
We want to win major competitions, we want to win the Premier League. We want to compete to win the Champions League and that is our ambition. That is what we are planning for during the course of the summer and everything we do is geared towards that, it is very simple.
on developments this summer…
I think the good thing about this summer is that there is more certainty in terms of our Champions League position. We have acted early to get the critical signing of Lukas Podolski. Our fans will be able to see him compete at the Euros and see what a very good player he is. The great thing about Lukas is that not only can he contribute goals, but he can also play in different positions so you get tremendous versatility and Arsenal class. He is technically a top-class player and that was a good early addition for us.
I think the way that the window will pan out is with some activity before the Euros, particularly with respect to the European players who are playing, the quieter period while the Euros are actually taking place and then a period of activity afterwards.
We always try and conduct our activity as early as we can, everybody wants to do that. But I would say an even bigger overriding priority is to make sure that we get the right pieces in place. We have a good squad which is very solid across all areas, we have developed a very solid British core of young players and this is the youngest squad in the Premier League. They are developing year on year.
Some of the players we have brought in, for example Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny at the back, are developing in the Premier League and I think this is a year for them to really step forward and show what they can do with some experience under their belts.
Then we have some experienced players who bring know-how into the team, players like Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos - those types of players who come in and add something a little bit different. The key for us is not the volume of signings we might make but that the signings we make add something to the squad. That is something Arsène thinks extremely carefully about and for all of the pressure he is placed under, he tends to make good decisions.
on Robin van Persie…
Robin sat down with us at the end of the season and we had a good discussion. What we agreed at that meeting was that we would keep all the discussions we had over the summer to ourselves and make announcements when it is the right time. We have to respect the fact we have agreed to keep that among ourselves. Robin is clearly focused on the Euros at the moment and we wish him well, and at the right time we will make the right announcements. But at the moment we are not saying anything.
on Pat Rice…
Pat has been with the Club for 44 years, and although he is retiring as our assistant manager, that association is not going to end. First of all he will be here as a fan but also I think we will find the right role for Pat within the Club so we can continue to draw on his expertise as a player and as a coach.
Through all those years Pat Rice embodied Arsenal values, embodied Arsenal Football Club. It is a significant challenge for us to take what Pat has contributed and continue in that tradition. From everybody at the Club, and you can feel the affection that Pat has among everyone here, we thank him for everything and look forward to his contributions.
At the same time, we are bringing in Steve Bould and Neil Banfield. These are two people who have been with the Club and know the way it works, who understand the traditions and the values of the Club, and who will bring their own ideas to the table. Neither of them are wall flowers, so we have two new active participants in the first team set-up. Arsène is very excited about the contributions they will bring. So am I and I think so is every Arsenal fan. They are very progressive, very forward-looking and they understand Arsenal values; the way we play the game and what we represent.
on a new chapter…
I do think it is an opening of a new chapter, yes. Obviously we will miss Pat - there is too much to talk about in terms of the elements he brought to the table - but I think this is an opportunity to have some new ideas and fresh thinking. I think that will be healthy and I know that both Steve and Neil will bring new ideas and new thoughts to the table.
on commercial operations…
One of the things we have to do as a club is become less reliant on our matchday revenue. As a big club we are very reliant on the revenues we generate in the stadium, more so than any other big club. That has really been the impetus and catalyst for what we do globally and how we develop ourselves around the world. We take advantage of the fact we have fans all around the world and we can connect with them.
So you are seeing the Club go on international tours for the first time. That is a tremendous step forward and has been welcomed by our international fan base. Our partners are also welcoming that development. We are developing our commercial revenues and our commercial partnerships well ahead of our five-year plan. They are going very well and we are seeing renewal of major partnerships like Citroën.
We are seeing new partners come in like Indesit or Betsson and most recently we have just announced Malta Guinness in Africa. So there are tremendous developments on the commercial front and that is important for the Club that we have partners who can help us to connect with fans all around the world, develop our commercial revenue streams and take some of the pressure off locally-generated revenues here in London. We are well on track in that.
on commercial activities to fund on-field activities…
The reason we are doing all of this is to invest in what we have on the football side. We don't take money out of the Club, all of it is reinvested and as we develop our commercial revenues all of that money goes back in onto the pitch and enables us to compete at higher levels. Arsenal Football Club has developed from one which certainly had a wonderful tradition and history, but we have an ambition to be one of the best clubs in the world. That is not an easy ambition to fulfil, particularly in a way that asserts your independence. We are not relying on anybody to do that for us, we are doing it on our own two feet and that is challenging.
But when you look at the steps this club has taken throughout its history, they have always been forward-looking. Where we are aiming to be is at the very top table of clubs in the world. That is a journey in which we are still on because we are not where we want to be yet. But we are making progress. The stadium is one tremendous representation of that and a major step forward. But the next major step forward is going to be driven by people in the Club and our ability to grow our commercial revenues so we can continue to compete with the very best clubs in the world for the best talent.
on looking ahead to Asia Tour…
We had an incredible experience in Asia last year. It is difficult to convey the images of what the reality was. We had thousands and thousands of fans wherever we went, really passionate fans who love this club and know more about it than people right here in Islington. It was the most amazing experience for everybody associated with the Club; the players, backroom staff and all of us in the front office who had the fortune to be on that tour. I think it also brought all of us together, so it was a wonderful experience.
We are going back to play games in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing - Beijing on the opening of the London Olympics by the way, so there is an interesting tie-in there - and then in Hong Kong. So this year's tour is going to be even bigger and better than last year's. We could not be more excited about going back out there and having the chance to reconnect with those fans and also having the kind of experiences we had which really pulled the team together in pre-season last year. I am sure it will have the same effect this year.
This year because we don't have an Emirates Cup tournament, we took advantage of that free weekend to go to Nigeria, which is a place where Arsenal has a tremendous following. We have really experienced that on the visits we have made out there this year. Of course we have Kanu too, who is a legend in Nigeria and has strong Arsenal connections. From the outset it was very clear we would get a fantastic reception in Nigeria. This is not something I see us doing every year going forward - a long weekend break - but this year we had the opportunity.
In future years we will go back to the Emirates Cup format right back here in Islington. We will be celebrating 100 years in Islington [in 2013] and it is important that we don't lose that focus. We talk a lot about the global brand because it is is very important. We have spoken about the development of our commercial revenues and connecting with our fans around the world. All modern football clubs have to do that if they want to be successful. But the roots of this club are very much here in Islington.
We have a new stadium which we were so proud to deliver in our own ancestral home and these are very important things for us. In future years we will be coming back to the Emirates Cup format where our fans will be able to see the new team unveiled in their home environment.
on working closely with Stan Kroenke…
Stan Kroenke has been on the board for a number of years and has been working very closely, especially in the last year since he assumed majority ownership, with Arsène Wenger and with me. We have had his full support in everything we have wanted to do with the football club. We have had tremendous input from him along the way - bearing in mind he owns sports teams across all kinds of different sports and has years and years of experience.
He is not just a successful businessman in his own right, but he is also a very experienced and knowledgable sports owner. That has been a fantastic asset for us to have on the board and now as a majority owner. He could not have been more supportive and his ambition is very simple - he wants this football club to win trophies. He has supported us every step of the way as we have tried to put the pieces in place to do that.
on Euro 2012…
I think it is going to be a very interesting Euros this year. We had the surprise selection of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. We think he is a tremendous talent and I really hope he gets the opportunity to show the world what he can do at the Euros. So that will be an interesting sub-plot to follow. We have players right across the tournament so we will be following it closely, not just to see if they get through in one piece or not, but also because I think this year's tournament is very open. I think it is quite unpredictable with the way it will go and I hope as an Englishman that England can do well.
on his message for fans...
I would like to thank the supporters. This at times has been a really challenging season. This football club was placed under terrific pressure at times and I think, for a different club, there would have been the possibility that we would begin to fall apart, panic and make decisions that would have been bad. That is not what happened.
When we had our most difficult times this football club came together. The supporters, the team, the front office staff, the back office staff - they all came together. It was that strength and that unity that managed to pull our season back on track this year. My message to our fans is that we are doing everything in our power to make sure that Arsenal can challenge for trophies next year. That is what this summer is about and that is what we are focused on for next year.
We have a good team, we have a good young core of players and we need everybody involved to have belief so that we can push forward into next year and make a run at the Premier League trophy and for the Champions League. We believe we can do that.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 5 Jun 2012