Two Years On continues today on as we bring you an exclusive Q&A with Club chairman Peter Hill-Wood. Read on for his thoughts on the big transfers of the summer, Arsène Wenger and his policies, the changing face of football and his hopes for the future. 

We are two years on from the move to Emirates Stadium, is the club settled there now or after 93 years at Highbury is that process going to take a little longer?

No I think we are fully settled and we have had very few problems. We had a few in the first year but we worked very hard to put those right. There have been very few problems recently. I think the stadium has worked brilliantly. The nostalgic person misses Highbury but one realises that what we have built is a magnificent stadium for the future.

If Year One was about adaptation and Year Two about consolidation what is Year Three about?

Making sure we win all the games we play there and bring some silverware to the stadium.

Are you used to Emirates Stadium yet? Can you still remember Highbury?

If I shut my eyes I could walk my way around the ground at Highbury. That is not so easy to do at Emirates Stadium, I get lost [laughs].

Have we seen the benefits of the move yet?

The financial side is very important. Emirates Stadium gives us the platform to maintain a very positive cash flow and enable us to do what everybody wants to happen. It has been a great success and will stand us in great stead for the future.

Twelve months ago, the word crisis was being attached to Arsenal: relatively new stadium, Thierry Henry just gone, Arsène Wenger yet to sign new contract. Are we in a better place now?

Yes I think that everything is very stable. I ridiculed the idea of crisis last summer because I did not feel we were in one. The subject has not been raised recently and quite rightly because we don’t have the sort of problems that people could construe as a crisis. We are in good shape and I am looking forward to the new season.

Were you ever worried last summer that Arsène Wenger would not sign?

I said publicly that I was confident. He likes to take his time and I respected that. It is a big decision. He told me that he would like to sign again but he wanted to work out everything before he put his pen to paper. He is one of these people who, once they have put their pen to paper, he sticks to it.

On the pitch, it was a season of real potential and excitement but we perhaps fell away at crucial moments?

We had a poor spell at the latter end of the season. We continued to play good football but we drew games that we really should have won. There were one or two games against the top sides where we did not win but we were very close to winning. For example we were seconds away from winning the Champions League tie at Anfield. Although we did not win anything it was a very good season. Most other clubs would have been happy to have ended where we did but it was disappointing because we had set our standards so high.

Of course, we closed the gap on Man Utd and Chelsea. It had been over 20 points, now it is four. Therefore are we moving in the right direction?

Yes and four points is only a game and half when you think about it. It is not a lot. We were up there and I think we will be challenging again next season.

Arsenal are a good young team playing attacking football, but there has been no trophy for a few years. What is the board’s take on this?

I am a patient man and so are my colleagues. As long as we are doing what we think is the right thing on the playing field then I feel we are relaxed about it. But at the same time we are not complacent. We would like to win trophies as much as the players and the fans. But there can be only one winner of the Premier League and the Champions League and it was not us this year. But hopefully it will be next season.

Stan Kroenke now owns half of Arsenal broadband as well as a stake in the Club. Has the relationship between him and the board developed in the past year?

We have had a number of meetings with him. As you know we have a relationship with Colorado Rapids which we have had for some time and it is developing. We have had occasion to talk to his people and him. He is a 50 per cent owner of our broadband company. That is another way to expand and his people have some interesting ideas about how to do that. We have got to know him over the past year and we feel they are people that we could do business with.

Arsenal is in your blood. Your father was chairman before you. Arsenal are famous for the continuity in the boardroom. There have not been big changes yet in the running of the club. Does that concern you or excite you?

I think that we have changed enormously since I have been director. But we change in a considered way and don’t rush at these things. Knee-jerk reactions are not our type of thing. We like to plan ahead and I don’t think changing for the sake of it is our way of doing things at all.

One change has been made - Keith Edelman left. Danny Fiszman spoke about possibly appointing a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive. How is that search going?

We are actually looking purely for a Chief Executive. We have a very competent financial section and I have great confidence in their ability and the last thing we are looking for is a new CFO. We have a perfectly good set-up there. As far as the Chief Executive role is concerned, interviews have taken place with the nomination committee - which doesn’t include me, but I do know who we are talking to. We have some very interesting applicants and I hope in the next month or so we will be able to make a decision.

Could you announce it before start of the season?

It could be, but I wouldn’t stake my life on it. We want to make an appointment as soon as we can and we are moving fast but whether it is in the next month, I would hope so but not guarantee it.

Of course it is still summer at the moment. That means transfers. There has been lots of talk but not much movement at the moment — not just at Arsenal but at all clubs — and it seems players have a lot more power.

Well they do and maybe people need to be waking up to the realities of the world and that the days of easy money have come to a pretty sudden end. There is an awful lot of talk about big transfers and major demands of players but you will find throughout the UK and Europe that money is not quite as easy to obtain as it used to be. So I think a lot of these stories emanating from agents may not actually come to fruition. There is a lot of talk and not a lot of action.

Does that scenario disappoint you at all?

Well it disappoints me because a lot of people don’t seem to realise that in the long run you must run a football club on a sensible commercial basis. A lot of the figures bandied around at the moment don’t make commercial sense to us. That is what disappoints me, that people are prepared to do what can be construed as very silly things.

Arsène does not spend too much money.  Is success a little bit more sweet when you build a side that way?

I think it is. Yes it certainly is. Buying a whole lot of stars and hoping to mould them together is one way of doing it, but it is not Arsène’s way. He prefers to build long-term as best he can and develop young players in the way he wants them to play and I am personally very much in favour of that.

What do you think of the two players he has signed so far, Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey?

I don’t know a great deal but it doesn’t terribly matter what I think. The man who matters is Arsène Wenger and he has very high hopes for both of them. They are pretty young and Arsène believes they can be pretty fine players. Nasri is a bit more advanced than Ramsey, who is 17. Samir has played at the top level and is an established player already. They are two very exciting prospects and they will strengthen the squad in a big way.
Do you accept that these days it costs a lot to get the best players?

It certainly does cost a lot. There are enough people about who are prepared to bid big money but you find that a lot of the big signings have not actually happened yet. Maybe they will in the next couple of weeks.

Is there any news on Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor?

No, nothing new. But it is a long-running saga in both cases.

Turning to trophies, is the Champions League the 'Holy Grail' for Arsenal?

We have never won it so I would very much like to win it. We got pretty close a couple of years ago and I would very much like to win it. But I'd like to win the Premier League as well because that's the tougher one. They are both tough but the European one is a cup competition. But there are a number of other teams around the Continent who are hell-bent on making sure we don't win. It's tough but we've got all the makings of a trophy-winning team next year.

Where does the FA Cup fit into all that?

Well unfortunately it's not the great competition that it used to be. Times move on, it is part of change, and you have to accept that.
Finally what do you want from next season?

I want us to continue to play the very exciting football we played last year. And hopefully we can win more games than we draw because last year we drew too many. We didn't lose too many. I am certain we will be challenging for every competition we enter. I would like to win a couple of them, but that's a wish and a hope, not a confirmation that it is what we are going to do. However I'm very hopeful that we will.  



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15 Jul 2008