Interview

Interview: Vinai Venkatesham

I'd like to start by just saying a huge thank you to Raul.

He's been such a huge part of this football club over the last few years. I've been lucky to be a colleague of his and also a friend of his and I have a huge amount of respect for him. We've been working side by side for the last two years and one of the reasons I'm so optimistic about the future is the fantastic work that Raul has done, really being a driving force in putting together the team of people that we have across our football operations that are going to help drive this club forward.

It's been an honour and a privilege to work for Arsenal Football Club for more than 10 years and I love this club. Like many people that work at this football club, I spend pretty much every waking minute thinking about how we can improve and how we can achieve our goals and how we can achieve our objectives going forward. I know this role comes with a huge responsibility and I'm fully aware of the weight of responsibility and I'm also hugely grateful. I'm grateful to Stan Kroenke, Josh Kroenke and the rest of the Arsenal board for their trust in me. But I'm also very clear about what our fans expect and what our fans demand. And I know at the moment we're falling short of our expectations and there's a huge amount of work ahead to get this football club back to where it needs to be.
 
We are fortunate to be followed all around the world by hundreds of millions of passionate fans and we have an extraordinary history of success. Our fans expect and our fans demand that this football club wins trophies and is at the top of the game both here in England, but also in Europe. So what fuels me is delivering on the expectations and delivering in regard to what our fans demand of us.
 
We started last season full of expectations, we looked forward and we looked upwards and unfortunately it's not worked out in the way that we wanted it to. We obviously changed coach in the middle of the season, which obviously was not part of the plan, and then we've had the coronavirus hit us and hit everybody this spring. But despite all of the challenges this season has thrown at us, our squad and our players and our football staff kept fighting and they kept fighting all the way to the end. We saw on August 1 at Wembley, us winning our 14th - a record 14th - FA Cup, which was a sign of progress. I think we can look forward with some real optimism. I think, in Mikel Arteta, we have an absolutely fantastic, dynamic head coach. He forms a formidable team with Edu Gaspar, who is our technical director. And if we look at our academy, I think we're in really, really strong hands with Per Mertesacker and we have some of the most exciting young talent in the league.
 
Now we did of course not achieve our expectations last season and we need to do better and we need to improve. But I think we're absolutely on a positive trajectory and we're on the right path. The message really is: we need to improve. We're really focused on where we need to improve and there's lots of things that we need to do.
 
You would have seen a couple of weeks ago that this also involves making some difficult decisions. We had to make a difficult decision about proposing redundancies. That decision is about making sure that we have the right structure and the right size of organisation going forward, into a very, very different world that we're going to face post-coronavirus and making sure we can be as strong as possible on the other side. So there's going to be some tough decisions.
 
We have, in Edu and Mikel, two individuals who are responsible for our technical plan. Of course, [that is] overseen by me and the board, but those two are the experts and they have a very, very clear plan about how they want to rebalance our squad in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. We're starting to work on that immediately in this transfer window.
 
There's other things that we need to do better as well. I think we can do better a job of communicating with our fans. We're not going to be able to give them a running commentary of everything that we're doing, nor are we always going to correct or be able to correct some of the misinformation there is about the club. But we need to be clear about what we're doing and what our plan is and we can get better at that.
 
There's of course lots of other areas that we're going to be addressing, but it's all about the same thing: trying to make this organisation as efficient as we possibly can and as high-performing as we possibly can. Because if we can do that, we give ourselves the best ability to deliver on our objectives.
 
We are impatient. So we know we're not where we want to be and we are impatient, because we want to get to where we want to be, as quickly as we possibly can.

I think the key message for our fans is that we all want exactly the same thing. We all want Arsenal Football Club to be back where it belongs, competing for and winning the biggest trophies in the game. That's what fuels us, that's what our focus is and we ultimately want to do that so our fans all across the world are proud of their football club for what we do and what we can achieve and what we win, but also for how we do it. Doing it in accordance with the values, the history and the tradition of this great football club.
 
In terms of the board, we work very, very closely. So we're in regular contact with the owners pretty much every single day and we're all here to achieve the same thing and that's to push this football club forward and to get this club back where to where it needs to be.
 
We've been active in the market and we saw recently that we brought in Willian from Chelsea, a signing that Edu and Mikel are really, really excited about and I'm sure our fans are excited about as well. And we'll continue to work hard this transfer window. I think it's going to be a challenging transfer window post-coronavirus, it's going to be unusual and it's going to be challenging, but we'll continue to work hard to deliver on our objectives to strengthen the squad and Edu and Mikel have a really clear plan around how they'd like to do that.
 
Our objectives are to be back competing for and winning the biggest trophies in the game and if you're Arsenal Football Club and if you're in the Premier League, there's two trophies that really matter and that's the Premier League trophy and the Champions League trophy. That has to be the objectives of a football club like Arsenal. It's not going to be easy, it's not going to be straightforward, there's a whole load of competition but that has to be the objective for this football club.
 
I've been at this football club for 10 years, but I feel just as hungry as I did on the first day. I remember the first day that I walked into Highbury House - which is our office - and I thought 'wow, I'm part of this amazing football club' and I still feel that 10 years on. I feel just as hungry and just as driven to push this football club forward. And we have a huge responsibility here.
 
This football club has been here for [nearly] 135 years, we have got hundreds of millions of fans all across the world that are driven for this club to succeed, they want this football club to succeed and it's in their hearts and it's part of their passion. And that's the responsibility, to deliver on those expectations. That's what this is all about.

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